WEST HARTFORD — On a weekday morning at WeHa Brewing and Roasting Company, the spacious interior provides a setting you might expect at any modern coffeehouse, with customers enjoying their caffeinated beverages while working away on their laptops.
But come 4 p.m., the coffee goes away, and the beer taps at the other end of the room start to flow.
That’s exactly what co-founder and head roaster Cody McCormack envisioned when he dreamt of opening a combination brewery and coffee shop. It finally became a reality with the business’ grand opening on Oct. 9 at 141 Shield St. in West Hartford.
McCormack, who lives in West Hartford, started his roasting company out of his home in February of 2020.
“I was selling online,” McCormack said. “About 90 percent of our sales were in West Hartford. Over the past year and a half we built a following. It was good to get my feet wet and really dial in my blends and really get my experience with roasting.”
McCormack’s interest in coffee spiked while living in Boston.
“I’ve always been into the coffee culture as a consumer,” McCormack sid. “Some of the best roasters in the country in my opinion are in Boston. I really got into it as a hobby there. I took a trip to Minnesota...and learned how to roast and did some coffee shop management classes. The last two years I’ve been roasting and learning by doing.”
His phillosophy, he said, is to let the flavors of the coffee beans take center stage.
“I’m more of a modern roaster,” he said. “That really means taking things light and showcasing the origins. There are Columbians that are sweeter and there are Ethiopians that are more fruity and everything in between. I don’t like to take anything too dark and essentially burn off the flavor of the bean. We want to showcase the flavors and the countries that they came from.”
To handle the beer side of things, McCormack brought on an experienced brewer in Will Gorry, a Windsor Locks resident who has been brewing commercially for about 10 years now.
“We will do all the popular and predominant styles, like New England IPAs...but my forte and what I like to brew the most are traditional German and English styles,” Gorry said.
Gorry and McCormack are looking to showcase a variety of beers on their taplist, without going too far in one direction that would lead to one style of beer dominating their offerings. Their selection currently includes New England IPAs like the Mo & Lo, which is named after both of their dogs, a kölsch and a farmhouse ale.
“We haven’t just focused on one style or another,” McCormack said. “Since we’re on a smaller system we really wanted to create an approachable menu. We have easy drinking beers, we have hoppier beers and we’ll have darker beers. The way we brew, it’s about being well-rounded. We don’t want to just do coffee beers or New England IPAs.”
They’ll soon be marrying the two concepts, with their first coffee stout landing on taps in a few weeks. They’ll also be experimenting by putting coffee into beers that beer drinkers might not traditionally expect to see.
Gorry said he was pleased when he heard positive feedback during their grand opening. Now, he said, they can build on that.
“It’s a new brew system and there’s a lot of learning curves with that,” Gorry said. “You’re not sure how everything is going to turn out. You have hopes. The first preliminary beers were received very well. Now we’re dialing in the process to make it better.”
WeHa Brewing and Roasting’s coffee bar is open every day of the week from 7 a.m. to at least 3 p.m., with later hours for coffee on the weekend. They’ll be pouring beer on Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m., on Friday from 3 to 10 p.m., on Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.
“We wanted to create this gathering space where people can really come any time of day,” McCormack said. “This morning there were four or five people working on their laptops and just hanging out, so it’s really that place where you can get some work done and have a good cup of coffee. Later that night you can come back and have a beer and hang out again.”