The new brew

(Christine Mi/YH Staff)

Bill Bezuk is the owner of the Eugene Backyard Farmer, a small urban homesteading shop in Eugene, Ore., that sells newly-hatched chicks and all the supplies for do-it-yourself backyard chicken farming. According to Scott Vignola, founder and owner of Luck & Levity, Bezuk is also the “patron saint” of the new brew shop, located at 118 Court St. Luck & Levity held its official opening on the evening of Fri., Nov. 2. When I sat down with Vignola amid the debris from the opening event—a barrage of peanut shells, popcorn kernels, and emptied cups of amber-tinted ale from Branford’s Thimble Island Brewing Company—he explained his quasi-religious view of Bezuk, whom he met while working as a small business consultant in Eugene. “Bill once said to me, ‘Chickens may be really popular right now…but I’m always on the lookout for what the next chicken is.’” With only six craft breweries, all of which are fairly new, Connecticut has traditionally been more of a wine state. Homebrewing seems to Vignola to be the next logical “chicken.”

The shop boasts everything one could need to start and grow a home brewery: 36 different varieties of hops, malts that range from “warm caramel” to “toasted bread” flavors, chocolate-maple porter beer-making kits, wort chillers, sterilizers, and countless books with titles like The Book of Beer Pong and The Book of Beer Awesomeness. Jeff Shaw, a Yale postdoc in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry who attended Friday’s opening along with two of his classmates, summed up the shop’s appeal: “It’s like if you enjoy cooking,” he said, “but it’s beer, so it’s better.”

For now, Luck & Levity’s large, split-level, glass-fronted space feels a bit like a pop-up warehouse assembled out of IKEA boxes, largely empty with the exception of industrial, wooden wall-shelving, a wooden ramp, and two oversized couches. But Vignola has big plans. “My long term goal is that there are twice as many couches as there are now, the wifi is twice as fast, and there’s a space here where people can have parties or classes or workshops,” he said. And the clincher? Vignola gestures to the empty wall just opposite us: “A brew space. An industrial kitchen with burners and all.”

Ultimately, perhaps the beauty of a space as large and empty as that of Luck & Levity is that there is plenty of space for even more chickens. “If everybody in the store came in and only wanted cheese, this would be a cheese-making store,” he told me, referring to the mass of disenfranchised fermenters that have entered his shop since the soft opening, asking about alternative fermenting options to pickling, canning, and preserving. “Somebody asked me for miso. I was like, ‘Miso? Alright, yeah, I’ll see what I can find out.’ If you’re going to serve the community needs, that means it might be things you don’t expect.”

What really drives Vignola, though, is a penchant for social coordination. “Throughout history, the fermenting of things has always brought people together,” Vignola said. “You read a lot about how communities are breaking down and people aren’t social the way they used to be. Rather than be alarmist, I thought, why not focus on the positive and try to create new communities.”
I thanked Vignola and moved towards the door. As I left his shop, he yelled after me, “Come back any time to hang out. We have wifi!” ­

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