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Fairfield Business Partners Cook Up New Distillery in Bridgeport

Robert Schulten and Neil Doocy of Asylum Distillery Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
Asylum Distillery Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — After years of buying and selling commodities and making General Electric plants work better around the globe, Robert Schulten is embarking on a second career “giving back.”

And just what is he giving back? Gin, vodka and whiskeys. Maybe a little moonshine.

Welcome to Asylum Distillery in Bridgeport, a new venture tucked away on the eponymous East Side street best known as the path to the city transfer station, a cemetery and a Little League field.

For two years now, Schulten and his business partner, Neil Doocy, both of Fairfield, have been getting all the necessary federal, state and local approvals to open the site, something they hope to do in the first quarter of 2016.

“Distilleries are where brew pubs were two decades ago,” said Doocy. “It’s an interesting and unique product.”

The pair plans to use mostly Connecticut-grown and -sourced grains and flavors to make distinctive spirits on the premises. Future plans call for a sampling room and tours, as the public knows little about how such things are made, Schulten said.

Explaining the many steps that go into alcohol production — turning starches into sugars and then adding them to fermentation tanks and stripping and rectification columns — Schulten said recent changes to Connecticut law will allow them to bring people to the site to demystify the process.

“It’s fun because there’s a lot of creativity involved,” he said. “It’s like cooking. If you heat it a little bit you get one flavor profile. Heat it a lot and you get another.”

Schulten and Doocy hope to flavor their wares with Connecticut-created maple syrup and local and seasonal fruits. They hope to be eco-friendly and are planning to use spent grains for cattle feed at a Shelton farm, as compost in Fairfield and in dog treats that will be for sale at the distillery.

According to their website, Asylum is the only legal distillery in Fairfield County since 1919.

Schulten said he’s happy to support Bridgeport’s economy.

“There is so much potential here,” he said.

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