We both had a Friday off from work a few weeks ago, so we decided to use our day off wisely and pay a visit to Top Shelf in Manchester, Conn. Top Shelf has been around since 2013, but recently moved into a much larger taproom located on North Main Street. However, keep your eyes peeled for the their black and white sign at the end of their driveway – the nanobrewery is located in a building that is somewhat tucked back from the road. The taproom is right next to Soarin’ Indoors and has ample parking.
Top Shelf’s taproom has a great hangout vibe with an industrial feel (lots of metal and quite a bit of pallet wood). The majority of their space is one open room with lots of seating, a large bar, and several activities to keep their patrons happy for hours. From giant Jenga to foozeball, from darts to indoor cornhole, there is something for everyone. They even host yoga on Wednesday nights. Be sure to check out their display of craft beer bottles and cans along the I-beam and the different brewery stickers on the pole near the entrance.
Top Shelf was releasing two new beers on the Friday we stopped by – OcTOPerfest and Coffee Cakes. But since we were there, we had to try everything they had on tap. Flights of 4 go for $8, and you can add additional tastings for $2.50 each. How can you say no to that?!
We began our tasting by starting with the lowest ABV and working our way up. The first tasting was Top Shelf’s Pucker #1 (3.7% ABV), which is their sour ale. Pucker #1’s color reminded us of a cider, and we found the ale to be very refreshing with a distinct hibiscus flavor. Then we moved onto the fresh OcTOPerfest (4.5% ABV). This Marzen was crisp, malty, and slightly dry with a nice copper color. This was like fall in a glass. We followed this up with the Regal (4.8% ABV) lager. The Regal was light in color with a malty taste and smooth, clean mouthfeel. Next up was their golden stout called Mini Trick (5% ABV). When drinking this beer, your eyes deceive your tastebuds. This had a nice, golden color with a surprising stout flavor. The Mini Trick had a slight charred taste with a smooth, creamy finish. It paired nicely with our next tasting – Anytime Stout on nitro (5.2% ABV). This milk stout had a great coffee taste with lots of chocolate notes making it sweet and smooth. The stout was a good contrast to our next tasting of Mive #4 (6% ABV). This IPA is the fourth installment of the brewer’s choice. It was very citrusy with a nice bitterness at the back of your throat. Our final tasting was the Coffee Cakes (6.8% ABV) porter. It was light brown in color, which reminded us of the color of iced coffee with just a splash of milk. The porter was smooth with a nice spiciness from the cinnamon. It was a great seasonal beer without all of the usual suspects – we’re talking about you, Pumpkin! We purchased a 4-pack of Coffee Cakes, which was used to make some savory pumpkin bread.
Top Shelf offers pints of their beers for $6 as well as 64 and 32-ounce growler fills. They also sell special can releases when available and local soda from Hosmer Mountain. You can also become a member of their pints club or flights club – spots are limited. Top Shelf does not have food for purchase (aside from Deep River chips), but you are more than welcome to BYOF – they’ll even provide some menus.
She said: “Top Shelf is a great space with great beers. The friendly staff are eager and willing to not only talk about their beers, but also give you other local beer suggestions and where you can find them.”
He said: “With all of the great games and feel of the taproom, Top Shelf is a place where you can spend a lot of time drinking good beers with your friends.”
Next time you are in the Manchester area, plan to make a stop to spend a few hours at Top Shelf. With great beers and friendly staff, it’s well worth the trip!
Top Shelf Brewing Company
422 North Main Street
Manchester, CT 06042