'Wildly successful' during pandemic, Ridgefield brewery set for both indoor, outdoor expansion

Photo of Shayla Colon
Nod Hill Brewery is building an event space in the brewery and adding a biergarten and pollinator pathway to its outside meadow. Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Ridgefield, Conn.
Nod Hill Brewery is building an event space in the brewery and adding a biergarten and pollinator pathway to its outside meadow. Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Ridgefield, Conn.H John Voorhees III/Hearst Connecticut Media

The Nod Hill Brewery is constructing an indoor event space and outdoor Biergarten this spring after getting approval from the town.

Nod Hill — located at 137 Ethan Allen Highway in Ridgefield — was looking to further its mission toward sustainability, and after COVID-19 restrictions forced operations outside in 2020, founder Robert Kaye said its demand heightened.

“It was so wildly successful and the people really enjoyed it that we said maybe we should look to do this on a more permanent basis,” Kaye said.

Kaye had already been approved to build an indoor dining space in 2019 but the pandemic halted his progress. In the 2020 aftermath, he decided to tack on an outdoor Biergarten to the spring construction plans. The brewery will break ground in early spring and Kaye expects both projects to be completed in June, however, the opening date depends on where the state stands with COVID.

Nod Hill Brewery is building an event space in the brewery and adding a biergarten and pollinator pathway to its outside meadow. Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Ridgefield, Conn.
Nod Hill Brewery is building an event space in the brewery and adding a biergarten and pollinator pathway to its outside meadow. Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Ridgefield, Conn.H John Voorhees III/Hearst Connecticut Media
Nod Hill Brewery is building an event space in the brewery and adding a biergarten and pollinator pathway to its outside meadow. Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Ridgefield, Conn.
Nod Hill Brewery is building an event space in the brewery and adding a biergarten and pollinator pathway to its outside meadow. Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Ridgefield, Conn.H John Voorhees III/Hearst Connecticut Media

The Biergarten will be seasonally staged in a meadow on the property taking up approximately 7,100 square feet, 4,200 of which are designated for seating and the rest for lawn games such as cornhole, Jenga and a ladder toss between the spring and fall. Kaye plans on situating a beer trailer, portable food trucks and porta-potties around the seating in the center.

The table umbrellas and string lights running through the field will all be solar-powered by the brewery building. Kaye also plans on occasionally hosting live music for patrons and supplying ambiance music on other days. Music will cease at 10 p.m. and lights have to be powered down by then as well per the town’s noise ordinance, Planning and Zoning Director Richard Baldelli said.

The Planning and Zoning Commission flagged one concern during the application process that could have made or broken Kaye’s expansion.

“The commission’s main concern is that there will be zero stack-up of cars onto Route 7. Cars have to get off of Route 7, there can be no patrons or persons on Route 7,” Baldelli said.

Nod Hill Brewery is building an event space in the brewery and adding a biergarten and pollinator pathway to its outside meadow. Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Ridgefield, Conn. Covered balcony space.
Nod Hill Brewery is building an event space in the brewery and adding a biergarten and pollinator pathway to its outside meadow. Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Ridgefield, Conn. Covered balcony space.H John Voorhees III/Hearst Connecticut Media

Nod Hill is situated along Route 7 where on-street parking is not possible, leaving its options limited to the 86 spaces the brewery’s site provides and accommodating approximately 160 patrons, Baldelli said.

Kaye was able to procure an additional 75 parking spaces off-site, which resolved the commission’s concern and boosted Nod Hill’s capacity to about 318 people, although capacity varies between weekdays and weekends.

In addition to the weekday factor, the Planning and Zoning Commission requires the brewery have a parking attendant on the premises whenever capacity hits or surpasses 100 people, regardless of the day of the week.

When looking at the property’s meadow, Kaye noticed the field was well overgrown and thought just carving out a space for the Biergarten would leave it looking “unfinished.”

“We’re a very sustainable brewery and we realized this could be a great opportunity to put together a pollinator pathway through here,” Kaye said.

A pollinator pathway is an eco-friendly environment designed to protect and support native species often connected through corridors in the town. Nod Hill will transform roughly 19,000 square feet, including the property’s wetlands, into a pathway.

Nod Hill is collaborating with the Woodcock Nature Center and other local organizations to map out a blueprint for the project, which will be ready by the spring of 2026.

Woodcock Nature Center President Jana Hogan said it takes time to convert a meadow because they can’t control how plants will grow and adapt. Part of the pathway plan entails removing invasive species and reintroducing native species that will create a natural habitat to support the surrounding ecosystem.

“The invasive species will take over the native plants and they have no beneficial properties for the environment,” she said.

Hogan hopes the area will be a “beautiful environment” where people can read informative signs and learn about Ridgefield’s native ecosystems.

“The idea is to create more of an educational center with it so people can learn about native plants and so on. I think the two kind of marry themselves together very nicely,” Kaye said.