Christmas on the East Coast Day 2: A Beer in a Department Store in Hartford

After a wonderful day in Mystic, Connecticut we headed back to our hotel in Manchester, a small town just outside Hartford.

The best part of the hotel we are staying at? There’s an ARCADE in the lobby!  (*nerd alert*). Oh yeah, you read that right. This hotel’s got an arcade. Cowabunga dudes!

I jumped in my DeLorean (I wish) and zipped back to 1986 where you could usually find me at the arcade with my friends. (For those under 30 reading this: yep, we 80s’ kids actually played video games in a store that was filled to the brim with them. Crazy, I know!).

Ah, the good ol’ days. When I was quite the Pac Man freak champion. And also Bump n’ Jump, a car racing game that nobody (even those in my generation)  seems to remember. I’m starting to think it was just a figment of my childhood imagination, but man I sure remember wasting  spending way too many hours playing that game. I miss the 80’s….*sigh*


There aren’t too many hotels where you can stumble into the lobby in the morning to play Pac Man while sipping your first coffee of the day (well, not while you’re playing…that would be tricky). Wakka Wakka Wakka 


So, I played a quick game, or 10, of Pacman before Cowboy and I decided to head downtown.  It was only 9pm so the night was still young (we’re both night owls, clearly). But poor Cowboy almost fell asleep in the lobby waiting for me to get my Pacman fix.


The good news is that the arcade is open 24 hours a day, so we can play Pacman later. Then I can relive my youth by playing video games ’til 5:00 in the morning. Hmmnn….maybe that’s not such a great idea after all. What time is checkout again?  😀

We were finally on the road and heading to Hartford, about a 10 minute drive from the hotel. Since Cowboy works at a brew pub and enjoys craft beers, we always like to check out breweries whilst travelling. And I knew just the place!

I’ve been to Hartford once before a few years ago while passing through on a road trip with friends. We’d stopped for dinner in downtown Hartford at City Steam Brew Pub.  The best part about this place? It’s housed in a century-old department store!  So Cowboy and I could enjoy a pint while walking around shopping for the latest fashions!  Cool…

Just kidding! It’s no longer a department store. But it DOES offer tasty brews in a historic department store setting. Since I’m not a big shopper anyway, this was more up my alley  (yep,  I am female…. just one with very little fashion sense).

After we parked, we  stood across the street checking out ‘The Chenney Building’ (its original name). It was built in 1875 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places of the U.S. This building is considered to be a good example of Romanesque architecture.

It sure has that look, I thought. I really liked the arches above the windows and  the details in the brickwork on the exterior of the building. Just spectacular!


If you were shopping here in the late 1880’s, you’d be in the largest department store in Connecticut! It really is huge (think Macys, or one of the other famous NY City department stores) and there are several floors with 7 sets of staircases (though not 7 floors).

And it has insanely high ceilings which gives it a very open feel. Almost like you’re having dinner in a historic European Church (but not really, since you’re drinking beer in here. Sacrilege!).

The owners kept all the original brass fittings and mill work from the original store, which really adds to the ambience in here,  giving it that historic feel.


They’ve got a beautiful Christmas tree set up in the middle of the pub which is very festive to sit beside while sipping a brewskie. 

While sitting in the pub, you almost feel like you’re waiting for your friends to try on clothes in the dressing room while sipping on your pint.

Now there’s a good business idea! A department store that offers beer for the guys while they wait for their girlfriends & wives to shop. I’d be surprised if this didn’t exist yet, actually. It would be the only department store you wouldn’t have to drag your man to on a Saturday afternoon  (HA HA!).


As you can see there are quite a few staircases scattered throughout the pub, which made me very nervous (for the owners). I’ve worked in several bars over the years and have seen my fair share of bar ‘accidents’. At least this place isn’t a dance club or sports bar where, in my *working* experience anyway, there tends to be more alcohol-related accidents.


By now you might be wondering why it’s called City Steam Brewery?!

They actually use steam to make their beer. Yep, when the owners were building the pub, they got the Hartford Steam Company to figure out a way to run steam pipes right into the brew pub so the brewers can use the steam for the brewing process. Now that’s a unique (and efficient) way to make your beer.

Every so often they show this process off to customers by blowing their antique steam whistles. Not such a great idea for jumpy people like myself, mind you, but still fun to see (er, hear). I must have jumped (at least) 20 feet into the air whenever they did it. Good times!

They’ve got a much bigger variety of brews on the menu than when I was here a few years ago. In fact, they seem to have a much bigger draught menu than many of the brew pubs I’ve been too. Their flagship beers is an Amber ale called: ‘The Naughty Nurse’. Now that sounds like trouble waiting to happen.

Speaking of trouble…


Some of the other creative, fun names we got to choose from were: “White Wedding”, “Creamsicle Rye”, “George Jones”, “Gretchen in the Kitchen” and “Careless Love”, with this last one being my favourite (an amber with a wine & vanilla flavour, you really can’t NOT try that combo. Mnnnnn!). With such fun, catchy names, it tough to choose just one.

Cowboy had a few different brews and liked them all.


The service was a bit slow, and our server didn’t look to happy to be working at all. He was probably hoping to get cut early which I noticed is quite common with this new generation of servers. But he did have a big wedding group which seemed to be stressing him out. When he finally came back, we ordered some food as we were getting hungry.

I was super delighted to see they have a gluten-free Mac n’ Cheese on the menu!  I can usually get away with sneaking in the odd brewskie without my digestive system acting up on me, but I usually try to stay away from gluten-filled foods.

It was delicious and they were quite generous with the cheese…Mnnn! It was nice to have something I haven’t been able to order in a restaurant in a long time. The perfect comfort food, even if it’s not quite Paleo (haha!)


Cowboy ordered the pea soup as an appetizer. It was the best pea soup I’ve ever tried (yep, I stole a bit). I don’t usually eat legumes anymore since going Paleo, which is a big change from when I ate them all the time as a vegetarian. When I adopted the Paleo diet, I cut out legumes and suddenly my heartburn and indigestion problems went away (yep, surprised me too). So I rarely eat them these days, and don’t miss them all that much.

But this soup was GOOD!! It wasn’t the usual thick pasty sludge you get at most restaurants. It was broth-based soup with loads of veggies (easier for me to steal spoonfuls around the peas haha!) . It didn’t look like pea soup, but it tasted like it. Very strange….but deliciously so!


 It was just their daily soup, so hopefully I’m not getting all you ‘Pea Soup Lovers’ excited for no reason (sorry!). If you’re going to be in Hartford and thinking about stopping here, all the food seems to be pretty good (my meal during my 1st visit here was good too). So I doubt you’ll be disappointed no matter what you order off the menu . At the very least, their beers are absolutely delicious!

After we finished our pints, we took a walk around to check out more of the building. Although the top floors were closed for the evening, a manager came over and graciously offered to take us upstairs to show us around. He even turned on the lights and told us a bit more of the history of the building. I thought that was really nice of him. We thanked him for the tour and he told us that he was leaving soon to go to a different restaurant. Good for him, however big loss for City Steam, I say!

Before we headed back downstairs, he offered to take our photo and let us take a few pictures.  




Will you be heading to Hartford and hoping to check this place out? You may want to look it up online first as the pub might be changing its name.

We recently heard that there was a lawsuit filed against City Steam Brewery  earlier this year from a California brewery (Anchor Brewing Co.) and one of their beers is called  “Anchor Steam Beer”. They’ve asked a Connecticut judge to order City Steam, which has been brewing their beers here since 1997, to stop using the name as it’s too similar to their own.

Hopefully they won’t have to change their name, but it IS a possibility. If I learn more, I’ll post an update here. But a simple google search will probably let you know if they were able to keep the name, or what they’ve changed it to (so you can find it on your phone or GPS).

After a wonderful dinner, Cowboy and I headed back to the hotel so I could get my Pacman on (and maybe some Space Invaders too).


Cowboy got to play some pinball, which he was slightly obsessed with when he was a teenager.  We were both very happy campers, so we decided we were moving into this hotel permanently.


Stayed tuned…we’re off to Rhode Island next!


4 thoughts on “Christmas on the East Coast Day 2: A Beer in a Department Store in Hartford

  1. Pingback: A Holiday Road trip to Rhode Island | The Roadtrip Cowgirl

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  3. Pingback: Gaming, Steampunk & Craft Beers…a Geek-filled Weekend in New England | The Roadtrip Cowgirl

  4. Pingback: Gaming, Steampunk and Geeks: My first Sci-fi Convention | The Roadtrip Cowgirl

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