Ben Braddock

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What’s your current position at your brewery, and how did you get started in the craft brewing industry?

Brewer at Willimantic Brewing Company in Willimantic, Conn. I worked in the insurance industry for nearly seven years and quit on the spot to pursue my dream of making craft beer for a living. My wife, Joy, took the same steps two years earlier in the culinary industry so neither of us had a job when I gave my notice. After two months of contacting breweries around the country, I got a volunteer opportunity cleaning kegs at a new production brewery five miles from my house. I landed a paying job within a month, worked my way up to the brewhouse by month three, and never turned back. Three years later I left as lead brewer to brew with David Wollner at Willimantic Brewing Company. I’ve been at Willibrew for 2.5 years and I’ve enjoyed every minute of my experience.

What’s new at Willimantic?

We are constantly pushing the boundaries with our beer at the pub. We have a little 7bbl system but produce and sell 900 to 1,000 barrels a year without bottling or distribution. We are best known for our IPAs but we brew a variety of beers using unique ingredients such as flowers, spices, fruits, and vegetables. It’s nice to have the freedom to experiment and our loyal customer base is always looking for something new. We are currently brewing a variety of saisons. I am also running a summer cask program using fruits and vegetables from local farms. I recently did a red ale with white radish, which went over well.

What’s the best part of being a part of the craft brewing community?

In my opinion, this is the best industry in the world. There are so many great people from sales to production. I get to meet new people every day and I’m always surprised by their diversity and passion for good beer. Furthermore, our customers at Willibrew are second to none. They are as loyal as they come. They enjoy great beer and love talking about it even more. I always look forward to heading out to the pub after a long day of brewing to enjoy a pint with the crowd.

What do you like to do in your time away from the brewery?

I spend my spare time running and biking. I ride with two other guys and our goal is to ride to all 169 towns in Connecticut leaving from and returning to Hartford. We backwoods camp and drink beer around the fire. It’s a minimalist weekend and a great stress reliever.

What’s your favorite food and beer pairing?

I’m not a huge dessert guy but give me a full-bodied stout with a slice of chocolate raspberry cake and I’m a happy camper. I love the roast with the sweetness of the cake and fruit.

What’s your biggest accomplishment unrelated to your job?

My wife and I are expecting out first child in December. We can’t wait to see where this road takes us next. Additionally, we’re working on a big side project, so it’ll be extremely busy and rewarding come the new year.

What’s your favorite beer that your brewery does not produce?

I love sampling wild beers. I am always amazed by the flavors and complexities of these beers. So much love goes into these beers and the outcome is always unknown. We play around a little bit with these beers at Willibrew but I would love to create a more consistent program to share with our customers.

What’s the most memorable travel destination at which you’ve had a chance to sample the local beer?

My wife and I typically plan our vacations around beer. Last April we spent a week touring breweries in Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins. We visited more than 20 breweries in the area while meeting many great people. It was especially memorable because it was our last visit with a close friend. It will go down as one of our best vacations for many reasons.

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