Connecticut towns welcome cancer fundraiser on a Pour Tour

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The Connecticut Pour Tour is coming to Stonington and North Stonington on Saturday.

It’s part of a yearlong plan by Todd Ruggere, a Massachusetts man who is on his way to drinking a beer in each of Connecticut’s 169 towns. While he drinks, he’s also raising money for the pediatric unit of the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven Hosptal.

First he plans to have lunch at Mystic Pizza II in North Stonington. No fanfare there, he said, just some pizza and a beer. He welcomes the public to join him, and he’ll accept any donations for Smilow that are offered.

At 2 p.m., he’ll be at Beer’d Brewing in Stonington Borough’s Velvet Mill. The craft brewer will be hosting Tulips for Treatment, with a goal of raising $500. From noon to 6 p.m. that day, Beer’d will sell 13-ounce tulip glasses with one drink ticket for $7. Half of each sale will go to Smilow. The tulip glasses, according to Beer’d co-owner and operations manager Precious Putnam, are ideal for drinking double IPA and Belgian pale ales.

He’s following that up with a trip to Handlebar Cafe at 4 p.m. Elizabeth Mitchell-Cipriano, owner of the Pawcatuck bar, said she hasn’t yet planned the fundraiser for that day, but she expects that she’ll be doing something big.

This is the second Pour Tour Ruggere has run. He started last year in his home state of Massachusetts, where he drank a beer in each of 351 cities and towns and raised about $40,000 for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. He started more out of curiosity than the desire to start a crusade. He looked at a map of Massachusetts one day, and realized there were a lot of towns he had never heard of.

“How have I lived here all my life and I’ve never heard of them?” he recalled thinking at the time.

So he decided to visit them all, and have a beer there. And why not raise money for cancer while he’s doing it?

Ruggere may have started out as a lone guy with a designated driver and a pint glass, but by the time he was done with his home state he had all kinds of publicity.

“When I finished Massachusetts, the response was crazy,” he said. He had sponsorship offers from breweries around New England who wanted him to come to their state and continue. He chose Connecticut, he explained, due to its proximity to his home, and Two Roads Brewing Co. of Stratford as his sponsor.

While he was on his Massachusetts Pour Tour, Ruggere had to contact the bars and plan the fundraisers, he said. But this year notoriety has taken over.

“At this point, all the bars contacted me,” he said.

Many are planning their own fundraisers, such as offering a percentage of the till during his visit, holding a raffle, or just passing the hat.

“Each bar does something different,” he said.

Ten towns in Connecticut have no place for him to drink, and in those, residents have invited him into their homes for a beer and a donation.

He started the Connecticut Pour Tour in January at Two Roads Brewing, and expects to finish in nine or 10 months. During that time, he’ll be restricting himself to drinking only Connecticut beers. By early March, he already had 34 towns crossed off his list, and had raised about $14,000 for cancer research.

Although he didn’t discount the idea of a future Rhode Island Pour Tour, Ruggere said, drinking a beer in each of Rhode Island’s 39 towns would be over pretty quickly. “It obviously wouldn’t take that long,” he said.

He wouldn’t divulge his plans, but he said he has something big in mind for 2015. In the meantime, the public is invited to meet him at Mystic Pizza II, Beer’d Brewing, or the Handlebar Cafe on Saturday and drink a beer with the Pour Tour guy.

lrovetti@thewesterlysun.com