City native finds craft brewing success down South

Published on Tuesday, 19 December 2017 22:42
Written by Angie DeRosa


NEW BRITAIN - You can take the boy out of New Britain, but you can’t take New Britain out of the boy.

Brian “Spike” Buckowski was born and raised in New Britain, living on Biruta Street as he attended Israel Putnam Elementary School, then Washington Junior High School and finally New Britain High School.

In 2002, Buckowski and his business partner, John Cochran, founded Terrapin Beer Co. in Athens, Ga.

Four years later MillerCoors announced its majority state in Terrapin and today, the brewery is one of the largest in the south - recently opening a “brew lab” inside the Atlanta Braves’ new stadium, SunTrust Park.

Buckowski is returning to his hometown for the holidays, and while doing so will collaborate with Alvarium Beer Co.

While he’s successful in his career today, brewing wasn’t something Buckowski originally planned on going into.

After graduating from high school in 1985, Buckowski went to Southern Connecticut State University and majored in corporate video communication. Once he finished college, he was offered a job in Florida working in the audio and video duplication field.

As a New England native, he grew tired of the Florida weather and relocated to a sister company in Atlanta in 1992.

That same year, he was talking on the phone to his former roommate from college who was living on the West Coast.

“He was like, ‘Hey Spike, have you ever tried home brewing?’ I said ‘No, I have no idea what you’re talking about,’ ” Buckowski said.

The following year he picked up home brewing as a hobby and soon after began winning awards for his craft.

“I really fell in love with the art of brewing so I took that passion - and I didn’t really feel like wearing a suit and tie anymore - and took a leave of absence from my job,” Buckowski said.

In 1996 he attended the American Brewers Guild’s Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering program in Woodland, Calif., and then once he returned to Atlanta he got his first job working at a local brewery.

“In 1997, there were three breweries in Atlanta, and there might have been two or three brew pubs. Now there’s upwards of 60 combined,” Buckowski said.

He added that he and his business partner took a chance ikn starting the beer company. At the time, especially in the South, people were not drinking craft beer like they are today.

“When we started our brewery, we got off the ground with credit cards,” Buckowski said.

When they first started in 2002, they were contract brewing, which meant they would use other brewing facilities to make their beer. Buckowski said it took them five years to get investors to help them purchase equipment and open their facility in Athens in 2007.

“In the beginning we didn’t know what to expect, we hit a lot of road blocks. But once we built the facility in Georgia things took off. People can to visit and take home beer,” he said.

Looking back over the last 15 years, Buckowski said the craft beer scene is completely different.

“It’s interesting today people can start up right off the ground. We love how we did it and we appreciate it. We’re not bitter, it was a humble beginning,” he said.

Currently, the most northerly place to purchase a can of Terrapin is Pennsylvania. Buckowski said they have plans to expand, but for now they’re in no rush.

“We don’t want to over extend ourself. Slow and steady is the way to go. When breweries expand too quickly, the message gets lost,” he said.

The message of Terrapin is create experiences while also sharing that experience with their beer.

As a lover of music and outdoors, Buckowski wants his beer to be seen as a social drink.

For now, Terrapin Beer will be available for sampling at the collaboration party at Alvarium Beer Company on Thursday, Dec. 21, from noon to 10 p.m. while supplies last.

Taste the collaboration of the two beer companies - a smoked schwarzbier - and get the chance to meet Buckowski.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Business, New Britain on Tuesday, 19 December 2017 22:42. Updated: Tuesday, 19 December 2017 22:44.