A Window To The World

Saturday, December 8th, 2018
Photography by Phil Cassella

You usually see the “three-tier system”, created after Prohibition, described as “Brewer, Distributor, Retailer”. However, that first tier also includes Importers, which is how foreign producers get their beer into the country. Importers face many of the same logistical challenges that Distributors do, but exacerbated by geography and border customs.

B. United International is a fairly young distributor, having been founded in 1994. They focus on both long-established classics as well as innovative, new offerings, but above all is freshness. So much so, in fact, that they bought special refrigerated tanks to transport beer & cider directly from breweries before it is even packaged!

Recently, some of our team took a road trip to Oxford, CT to meet their team and tour their facilities. In addition to the warehouse and barrel rooms that you may expect, they also have a small brewhouse, tasting room, packaging lines, coffee roaster, and greenhouses! We started off sampling some fun offerings in their portfolio, such as:

  • 1996 Vapeur Cochon - A 22 year-old vintage of a spiced saison. Easily one of our overall favorites of the day.
  • Schlenkerla Helles-Märzen - This beer is a blend of the "non-smoked" Schlenkerla Helles "aufkraeusened" with classic Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen. Look for cans coming soon through the Tanker Truck program (see below!)
  • Bayrischer Bahnhof Berliner With Oats - A classic Berliner Weisse brewed with oats for added body.
  • Birrificio Baladin Birra Nazionale - Made with 100% Italian ingredients, this beer helped to establish some of the first hop farms in the Mediterranean!
  • Kiuchi Brewery Anbai Ale - Anbai literally means "salty plum", but can also be translated to "just right". Anbai Ale, at its base, is a higher ABV version of Hitachino White Ale, infused with locally-grown green sour plum (ume) and finished with a pinch of Japanese sea salt (moshio).

After that, we took a break for lunch and then got a tour of the facilities and grounds. One of the most impressive things was their refrigerated tanks. They have two huge ones, each with four compartments, with 3500 liters in each section, as well as some smaller 1000-liter ones. These allow B. United to import beers and ciders that they normally would not be able to. Some of the producers can’t package enough to fill a large order, or sometimes the cost of all of the bottles or kegs necessary is cost prohibitive. With these tanks, they can take the liquid directly from the source, ship it to the US in one easy container, and then can or keg it themselves back in Connecticut. 

Of course, the majority of their product arrives packaged, which is where their immense warehouse comes into play. As part of their focus on sustainability, they built it into the side of a hill, and the insulation from the earth allows them to rely solely on passive cooling! It was also great to see some of the vintage beers and sakes that they have saved.

There is also an experimental side to B. United. For starters, they are working on a coffee project, where they allow the beans to ferment along with some fruit, wood, and/or beer. They also house a brewery called Ordinem Ecentrici Coctores, or OEC. Focusing on wild and spontaneous fermentation, they age a lot of their beer in some of the wooden barrels that they get during the importing process, and sometimes add fruits that they grow in their own greenhouses.

The beer being produced under the OEC brand is some of the most experimental and thought provoking liquid that we’ve ever experienced. Halo, a 3.2% blend of Table Beer and their house kombucha was an incredibly refreshing, yet complex offering. We also got to sample Artista Zynergia: Eros, a wild blend consisting of a variety of OEC barrels as well as beer from Belgium’s Alvinne. Bracingly tart, the blend was conditioned on peaches and quince.

We cannot recommend visiting the folks at B.United and OEC enough. A trip to Connecticut can result in experiencing a very wide world of beer and other miscellaneous fermented beverages.

Patrick Howe

Coming from a large corporate retail background, Patrick loves the personal interactions and direct influence that comes with a smaller company. He was a customer first, before joining the ranks at the flagship store in Belmont, and now works as the Technology Manager for the franchise company. When not dealing with e-mail, e-commerce, or other e-mergencies, he's usually spending time with his family. Patrick will try any beer once; twice if it's dark or English.

The beer he can't stop thinking about:
Fuller's London Pride