Bottling Up a Recipe for Small Business Success

Cork & Brew owner Kristin Michalski has earned fast recognition in Southington with her North Main Street shop. The recipe? Letting people brew their own beer and make their own wine.

Are you a wine or beer connoisseur looking for a new, unique recipe? Look no further, the answer lies along North Main Street and the only recipe limits are your own imagination.

To those passing by, may seem like another small town boutique looking to make ends meet in a tough economy. The secret to success lies inside, however, where patrons can brew their own beer and make their own wine from scratch, using a seemingly endless number of possibilities.

It has been a ride to get things going, owner Kristin Michalski said Thursday, but since opening in September, the downtown “brewery” has seen a steadily growing number of customers and growing interest in the unique opportunities available at her store.

“I truly believe that Southington is an up-and-coming town. We are happy we ended up here,” said Michalski, a West Hartford resident. “We wanted a location that wasn’t in a heavy commercial district, next to a or big box store. Southington offers that kind of feel.”

Michalski said although the like West Hartford, they found it too expensive to do business and couldn’t find a location that was suitable for what she was looking to do. They found the perfect location when Southington officials pointed them to North Main Street, she said.

When you walk into the shop, there is nothing flashy to catch your attention. The store has a basic design, with sections for buying your own ingredients and comfortable backroom that resembles more of a kitchen than an industrial brewery.

But that’s the hometown, small business feel that Michalski envisioned when she opened the store and it has caught the attention of those in the community, including Coordinator Louis Perillo III.

Perillo often visits the town’s newest businesses, it’s part of his job after all, but when asked about the Cork & Brew, he couldn’t help but gush about the fun he’d been having.

“I’ve been back many times and I’ve brewed a couple kinds of beer now,” he said, noting he chose to brew in the store – a feature that Michalski said is one-of-a-kind in the state.

“It was a unique experience and I was surprised with how many options there were. The prices were great for what you get out of it,” Perillo said.

There’s no denying the seemingly endless number of opportunities the store provides for its customers. Michalski said customers can either purchase the equipment and ingredients to brew or make wine at home, or they can schedule a half-hour session and make them right at the store. Advance reservations must be made, but Michalski said it doesn’t take long to set up an appointment.

When it comes to selection, there are countless types of beer. Patrons start with a base selection of Western IPA, Bock, Cream Ale, Continental Pilsner, Outmeal Stout, Irish Red Ale, Blonde Lager or Wheat. From there they can choose a selection of flavors, if any, to add for a custom taste.

“A popular one we’ve seen has been Cherry Wheat,” Michalski said. “We have numerous flavor possibilities and our customers are encouraged to be creative with what they like.”

Wine selections include both white and red with classics such as Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, but there are over 30 selections to choose from.

Both beer and wine selections are made in six-gallon amounts and can be bottled using a number of custom designs and custom labels. Beer brewing costs $120 to $130 and wine is in the range of $175 to $250 depending on style and flavor. Prices vary based on bottling costs.

The store also offers non-alcoholic options too, with patrons able to make their own soda. Michalski said this has been a popular choice for local residents.

“Many parents today are looking for alternative options to the soda you’d buy in stores. We offer options with no artificial flavors, which is a popular alternative to those you might buy in the soda aisle,” she said.

In addition, patrons are invited to learn new techniques every Saturday morning with free classes offered to the public.

The store is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursdays from Noon to 7 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, click the link to see the or stop by the store at 35 N. Main St.

kristin michalski March 03, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Jason, Thanks you for the review. It was great meeting you & I hope to meet more & more Southington residents. It has been a great experience so far. Kristin Michalski Cork & Brew Owner


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