- Associated Press - Saturday, October 10, 2015

STRATFORD, Conn. (AP) - As Phil Markowski stared into a glass case filled with nearly a dozen beer bottles reflecting back at him, he pondered for a moment before speaking.

“My favorite beer?” he said, repeating the question. “It’s like picking a favorite child. I just can’t do it.”

The Meriden native is one of four founders and the creative force behind Two Roads Brewing Co. in Stratford, which is close to celebrating its three-year anniversary.

Two Roads specializes in producing one-of-a-kind craft beer for not only its brand but also 13 other craft breweries in New England and down South.

The brewery produces seven staple Two Roads beers that are available year round including a session IPA, a double IPA, and a Russian imperial stout. As brewmaster, Markowski also created more than a dozen seasonal beers and nearly 10 specials that are produced in a limited quantity.

“Good morning,” Markowski said to the chief executive officer and another co-founder of Two Roads, Brad Hittle.

“He’s a brilliant brewer,” Hittle said smiling as he took his coffee into the next office.

In 1984, Markowski, a 1979 Wilcox Technical High School graduate, bought his first home-brewing kit after hearing about it from a coworker.

Markowski studied electric engineering in college and was working at Space Electronics, which was on Randolph Avenue in Meriden at the time.

“I was completely enthralled,” he said. “I had to know more. I didn’t quite know what I was doing . but something about it really intrigued me.”

In 1989, Markowski jumped at the opportunity to put his home brewing skills to the test.

A couple was looking to open a brewery in Norwalk and he helped them create some of the beer. The brewery opened as New England Brewing Co. and he was there for six years. The name New England Brewing Co. is still being used today but not by the same business that Markowski was involved with.

“I gave up a career in mechanical engineering and never looked back,” he said.

From there he worked in New Hampshire for a year before heading down to Southampton, New York, where he helped start the Southampton Publick House. He was there for 16 years.

In the meantime he also wrote a book called “Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition.”

Throughout his career he met Hittle, Peter Doering and Clem Pellani, the trio he would later go into business with and create Two Roads.

In March 2012 the four of them purchased the former U.S. Baird building, a massive, abandoned manufacturing building on Stratford Avenue. They had a plan to create a brewery with room to expand in the future.

The idea was to start creating beer for local breweries before crafting their own brand.

In December 2012 they shipped their first beer and since then Markowski says business has been booming.

The Two Roads brand is sold in other states including Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey, and New York. The company plans to start selling in New Hampshire soon.

“We’re opening as the wave started for craft beer,” said Markowski. “Our brand is twice the volume we anticipated from a business point. We’re two years ahead of our business plan.”

As brewmaster, Markowski said he works around the clock. His job is to formulate the beers, maintain their quality, and oversee the production.

“He’s thoughtful and has tons of experience,” said John Rehm, the director of brewing operations for Two Roads.

“He’s one of the smartest individuals I ever came across in my life,” added Roger Krackow, the shift supervisor and shift brewer at Two Roads.

Markowski typically starts his day at 5:30 a.m., answering phone calls or emails with questions from staff, and working late into the night. Since brewing takes place nearly 24 hours a day, he has to be available to answer any questions that may come up when he’s not there.

“My phone is always next to my bed,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Summer is typically busy at the brewery. Markowski said the brewery can do eight batches of beer in one 24-hour period which amounts to nearly 10,000 cases of beer.

While the brewing process is mainly computerized and automated now to produce the best quality beer, Markowski said he does still get his hands dirty from time to time.

Although he works long hours spending most of his days and evenings at Two Roads, Markowski said he feels like he’s not working.

“I love what I do,” he said.


Information from: Record-Journal, https://www.record-journal.com

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