The Talcott Mountain Collective, a new beer and food venue in Simsbury whose all-glass, east-facing façade offers a terrific view of the Heublein Tower, sells Connecticut-brewed beers and is a rotating stop for local food trucks. But the owners don’t think of it as a restaurant.
“It’s an experience venue,” says Tyler Ronald, who runs the Collective with his dad Wallace Ronald. “We don’t make the beer. We don’t cook the food. You come here to have an experience.”
The “experience” includes sitting with friends over beer, wine, whiskey and food, enjoying a fire and playing games like Trivial Pursuit, chess, checkers, cards, Uno and Battleship. A shelf of books sits in one corner. On select nights people can bring old vinyl albums to play on the turntable.
Guests can watch sports on TV, but “we won’t show the news. We want this place to be an escape from reality,” Tyler Ronald says.
The Collective, which opened in late December in the former clubhouse of a long-closed golf course, is the vision of Wallace Ronald, who has been a partner in Hartford-area eateries for more than a half-century.
Wallace Ronald says when he signed a 10-year lease for the six-acre property, a brewery was never in the equation.
“Connecticut now has about 150 breweries. I don’t think we need another brewery,” he says. But bringing together a sampling of the best of Connecticut breweries and food trucks whose owners have a passion for making food, “clicked with me, made sense to me.”
Repurposing old buildings is a common theme in his career. In the ‘70s, he helped turn a shuttered Hartford bank into the restaurant Last National Bank. In the ‘80s, he turned an old grist mill in Simsbury into Hop Brook restaurant, which is where Millwright’s is now located. Also in the ‘80s, he turned an old Hartford department store into Brown Thomson, and in the ‘90s converted it into a brew pub, City Steam.
Wallace Ronald is assisted in the Collective by his son, Tyler, and Abner Rosano, who is the general manager but in reality, he says, nobody’s job at the Collective conforms to one title.
“There are no positions. Sometimes you bartend. Sometimes you cook. Sometimes you clean tables,” Rosano says. Or, as Wallace Ronald says, “It’s a whole team effort.”
That spirit of togetherness extends to their mission for the Collective. “We are both for and of the community,” Tyler Ronald says.
Local brews to be found in the 20 revolving taps include concoctions from Alvarium in New Britain, Back East and Thomas Hooker in Bloomfield, City Steam in Hartford, Counter Weight in Hamden, Coles Road in Berlin, Legitimus in New Hartford, Little Red Barn in Winsted, New Park in West Hartford, Tribus in Milford and a variety of national and German beers.
The Collective’s small kitchen makes simple pub grub like pizza, nachos, quesadillas, pretzels and brats. But the real food attraction is the trucks that park during peak hours. Recent visitors were Frankie’s Food Truck, which sells sandwiches, and I Know a Guy, which sells paninis, salads, chowder and chili. Wallace Ronald says he is in talks with chicken, taco and pizza trucks and a Polish food truck.
The capacity in the 4,700-square-foot clubhouse is 165 people, who can sit at the hand-made wooden tables or at the 57-foot bar. Lanterns made from expired kegs hang from the ceiling.
Canton artist Pia Sjölin created a mural on one wall, and local photographer Nick Ambrosino has five photos of the Farmington Valley hanging near the bar. Tyler Ronald says work by other artists, artisans and craftspeople will find their way into the Collective.
“We’re not racing to the décor. We’ll see what feels right at the right time,” Tyler Ronald says. “We want it to evolve into a ski lodge kind of feel.”
Outdoors there are four fire pits and chairs, which can be used when the weather is cold. When the weather gets warmer, Wallace Ronald says, outdoor capacity is “infinite.”
“We’d like to put up a tent to have outdoor activities and music events, bocce, cornhole, a bar, a stage,” he says.
Tower Ridge Disc Golf is adjacent to the Collective and shares a parking lot. There are snowshoe and cross-country paths to wander.
Talcott Mountain Collective, at 140 Nod Road in the Weatogue section of Simsbury, is open Wednesday to Friday 3 to 10 p.m., Saturday noon to 11 p.m. and Sunday noon to 8 p.m. Check website for what food trucks will be there. talcottcollective.com.
Susan Dunne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.