Brewery in Stratford to focus on nonalcoholic beer
STRATFORD — Greenwich resident Bill Shufelt has had it with the stigma against nonalcoholic beer.
Shufelt along with his partner and head brewer John Walker will be branching into new territory in the state’s craft beer market as they will be opening Athletic Brewing Co., a brewery and tap room fully devoted to the production of craft non-alcoholic beer at 350 Long Beach Blvd.
Brewers have come a long way in replacing the bad-tasting selections of nonalcoholic beer that occupied shelves for decades, Shufelt said.
“There’s an incredible world of craft beer out there with all sorts of variety and options, but the way the world is trending with people being healthy and active, or wanting a clear head for any number of reasons, there’s really nothing out there for (people who want) social drinks that are healthy and made from high-quality ingredients.” Shufelt said.
Shufelt gave up drinking four years ago after he said alcohol was not conducive to his career or passion for health and wellness.
After a 12-year career in finance at Point72 Asset Management in Stamford, Shufelt said he began looking into the craft beer industry and noticed a lack of options for people who enjoy the experience of going out for a drink without the negative effects.
“Kind of immediately after becoming a non-drinker, I realized that there is a real lack of healthy, clean-ingredient profile options out there for people who want to be social,” Shufelt said. “I got really excited about that in my research, and everything was so self-fulfilling.”
Soon after leaving finance to pursue his newfound passion, Shufelt teamed up with Walker to bring Athletic Brewing Co. to life.
Walker has spent 16 years as a brewer in the industry, most recently working out New Mexico-based Second Street Brewery.
While the ingredients remain the same as with normal beer, the Madison resident said this new project has forced him to think differently when developing beer with an alcohol content below 0.5 percent.
“We’re working hard and trying to be somewhat methodical about designing a beer — designing a (non-alcoholic) beer — that can taste good without eliminating any of the key components,” Walker said. “We’re trying to do that, and we can satisfy a whole different market if we go sub-0.5 percent.”
The duo received plenty of support from the beginning, according to Shufelt, who said organizations like state-backed Connecticut Innovations along with the town of Stratford helped fast-track the project.
“When Bill and his team first reached out to us about coming to Stratford, we worked hard to make it happen,” said economic development supervisor Amy Knorr. “Our team of departments including zoning, buildings, health and fire marshal always work together and the result is Stratford is a very business-friendly town.”
The facility, which will be developed in a warehouse space off Lordship Boulevard, is slated to feature a 2,000-square-foot tap room and 8,000-square-foot, 20-barrel brew house.
According to Shufelt, the duo has continued experimenting with their beers as they prepare for construction to begin next week.
Athletic Brewing Co. is slated to open in the spring, launching with a golden ale and IPA selection.