Scott Barbanel, Head Brewer and Founder of Still Hill Brewery, has always had an entrepreneurial drive. He got the passion for home brewing about seven years ago after brewing on a home kit he received as a Father’s Day gift. The combination is paying off. The brewery opened its doors in early February as the first microbrewery in Rocky Hill, CT. Barbanel told Innovation Destination Hartford about the brewery’s future plans and offered advice entrepreneurs who are starting out.
IDH: Give us some background—did you always have an entrepreneurial drive?
BARBANEL: My business back ground is Accounting, Information Technology and Human Relations. I’m currently the controller of a small manufacturer/distributor in Westfield, MA as well as working here at Still Hill Brewery.
I come from an entrepreneurial family so I guess that part has always been in place. The brewery idea came about after friends and family started to drink beer I produced at home. They put the bug in my head that I should open a brewery. I got more and more educated and brewed more and more beer. I realized I could open a brewery. I started seriously looking for a location and investors about four or five years ago.
IDH: Still Hill Brewery recently opened its doors. Tell us about the brewery’s growth and business reach.
BARBANEL: It has taken off quickly and I find myself brewing to keep up with the tap room demand. We are primarily a packaging brewery. Our goal is to produce beer to be distributed to restaurants and bars and eventually package stores. We love being in the Rocky Hill community, which has been so welcoming.
IDH: Why Connecticut?
BARBANEL: Connecticut is where my wife is from. We moved here from Massachusetts about 11 years ago. Craft beer is an emerging market here in Connecticut. Its growth has been explosive in the last few years. Along with the tremendous growth in craft beer in Connecticut, there is a strong market desire for locally crafted beers. It’s the perfect time to start a brewery in Connecticut.
IDH: Where do you see your company in the next few years? Do you plan to distribute outside of Connecticut?
BARBANEL: We’re looking to distribute throughout Connecticut over the next three years and hope to distribute regionally beyond that. It would be great if we got to the point of distributing regionally and throughout New England. That is one of our goals.
IDH: Any tips for aspiring entrepreneurs or startup business owners?
BARBANEL: Double your contingency funds and remember, you can never have just enough capital! Pad your opening date, it seems there’s always something pushing your opening back. Always remember that no one else has
the sense of urgency you do when getting all the necessary tasks accomplished, so plan accordingly. Take lots of deep breaths and keep sight of your goal. And when you get all stressed out, stop by our tap room to relax with a locally crafted beer!
Hartford artist Tao LaBossiere of The Art of Tao LaBossiere, created the mural for Still Hill Brewery, which was unveiled at a Tap Room Reception event March 13, 2016.
The Still Hill Brewery taproom is open Fridays from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 12:00 to 6:00 p.m. afternoons noon to 6. For more information, visit www.stillhillbrewery.com.