Jonathan Patrei is a full-time physical education teacher in Rocky Hill. His love of cooking and passion for trying new crafts encouraged him to learn to brew beer. Here, he talks to MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about how one thing led to another, and he now co-owns Hartford-based Phantom Brewing Company.

NAN PRICE: You opened in April 2020. How did you push through with the pandemic, which was looming as you were planning to open?

JONATHAN PATREI: In January and February 2020, we started hearing the rumblings about the pandemic and we were just mid-construction. We were ready when we were ready, and we were closely watching the state. We had a little launch party in early March, right before everything shut down. When the pandemic hit and shut everything down for a while, it gave us more time to tune up the space and finish a few odds and ends.

As far as our opening went, it was unbelievable. Watching the regulations, breweries were allowed to operate with to-go sales and they never really shut down like the restaurants did. For this type of industry, it was conducive to that. We couldn’t let people in the tap taproom, but we could sell beer. People flooded the brewers’ websites and everything started to turn to online ordering. A lot of brewers scrambled to put that together, but we already had it set up.

NAN: You’ve been open more than a year now.

JON: We’ve come a long way in that short time. We’re doing a little bit of distribution now. For about six months, we just had the growlers and the 32-ounce cans, and then we started having a mobile canner come in to get four packs available.

In May, we opened for outdoor and then in June we became open indoors but with restrictions. We’ve been operating like that ever since.

NAN: What’s next?

JON: Phantom Brewing loves being part of the beer community in Connecticut. We love being on the scene and contributing as much as we can. We joined the Hartford Chamber of Commerce and we hope to be involved in more community-based Hartford initiatives and part of events and programs that happen in the city of Hartford. We’re also excited about the growth that’s supposed to happen in the city in the next few years.

We love our taproom in this space and we have the homebrew shop here, too. But we’re always looking to expand and do new things and move more product. So, we’re actively looking for a second taproom.

NAN: Would you stay in Hartford?

JON: We’ll keep our current space here in Hartford as a production facility. Adding another bar or taproom to our business somewhere in the region would help us grow.

Parkville Market serves our beer on tap, so we’re available locally. We’ve had talks with urban development and some other companies that are working to develop Hartford. We’re touring some spaces and trying to find the right niche where we want to do something and there are opportunities to grow. Right now, we’re just trying to stay the course and keep on chugging along so we can keep the lights on and keep our business afloat.

Read the entire interview at Innovation Destination Hartford