When you think of Rhode Island’s South County region, you most likely think of summertime trips to the beach, clam cakes & chowder from one of the local clam shacks or maybe the fishing and lobster boats pulling into and out of the harbor on a daily basis. But in addition to all those things, you should definitely add local microbrewery to the list. Make your way down to Wakefield, more specifically the old Palisades Mill building, where tucked away down a small flight of stairs you will find the home of Whaler’s Brewing Company. Founded in 2014, this newer brewery run by Andy Tran, Wes Staschke and Josh Dunlap is a place that welcomes visitors to come kick back, relax and have a good time, all while enjoying a diverse and well-crafted selection of top notch beers.
Before I had the chance to sit down with the three creative minds behind Whalers, I had found my way here with friends more than a few times during the summer months, after a day at the beach or just to hang out and enjoy some really good beers. After talking to Andy, Wes and Josh it was evident that there is a lot of passion, creativity and hard work that goes into their beers, along with a strong sense of pride representing their roots and commitment to establishing their brewery here in RI. As Andy told me, “a large majority of the brewery is personally funded. It means something to us knowing we did this with funds out of our own pockets… right down to the pocket lint.” As some people may or may not know, the group utilized a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the opening of the brewery and, as Josh mentioned, “even if the Kickstarter we initially set up didn’t work out, we had to try and were still going to go forward regardless.” (Interesting note: there were 3 previous RI brewery Kickstarter projects that failed to meet their goal… Whalers not only was the first to meet theirs, they also exceeded expectations.)
When it comes to being in RI and having the brewery established here, all three of the guys are excited about the present and optimistic about the future. As Josh simply put it, “This is a great place to brew beer, period!” And the hope is that with some changes and amendments to current beer laws in RI there will be more room for growth and potential, especially when it comes to taproom sales. As it currently stands, growler fills are available at the brewery, keg distribution has been making its way throughout the state to various bars and, most recently, two of the Whalers beers have been bottled and can be purchased at various liquor stores in RI. “East Coast IPA has gotten some great traction, while the Hazelnut Stout has really gotten a great response as well,” said Wes. “The goal is to add to the current offerings along with the release of an American pale ale sometime in the Spring.” Andy also confirmed that, “our focus is on the RI market first and foremost.” With all of them mentioning that potential growth and distribution into nearby Connecticut and Massachusetts is something they would ultimately like to accomplish one day in the future as well.
The three man team behind the brewery is hard working trio. Andy is the “man behind the scenes,” being a jack of all trades and handling anything from administrative duties to helping build the Whalers brand, all while bringing engineering experience and know-how to the table. With Josh and Wes being the head brew masters, it makes Whalers unique in the sense that they have two different perspectives when it comes to brewing, which gives them the opportunity to provide visitors to the brewery the ability to sample and drink a variety of beers that anyone can enjoy. “I’m more into wheat and saison style beers and Josh is more into complex and big beers,” said Wes. “We ultimately want to try to brew something for everyone.” Josh added, “the main goal is to keep it fun.” The ability to have fun and brew a variety of beers presents the opportunity to experiment and expand upon their current offerings. One of which is a new series being added under the Whalers brand, Stone & Steel. This series will be limited (brewery released) bomber bottles that will vary from barrel aged to sour styles, with three initial new varieties already in the works. It sounds like a great new addition that certainly broadens the brewery’s portfolio and lineup as well as giving fans of Whalers something exciting to look forward to.
Even though the South County region might be viewed at times as a seasonal RI destination area, Whalers is a place worth visiting year round. While currently in an expansion/renovation stage, the brewery is the type of place where they welcome you to come grab a flight of beer, maybe shoot some pool or play a couple games of corn hole, and enjoy yourself in a laid back setting amongst friends. “Beer should be for everyone,” a statement that couldn’t be truer or more evident when you have a chance to spend some time at the brewery, drink the beers, and learn what Whalers is all about. On that note I’d like to thank Andy, Wes and Josh for their time and insight, and more specifically for their beers and contribution to the RI craft beer community. On behalf of Prost Providence, I raise my glass and Prost Whalers Brewing!
(Be sure to check out their website (http://www.whalersbrewing.com) for more information about the beers, the brewery and what’s going on, as well as their Twitter (@WhalersBrewing) and Instagram (@whalersbrewing) for more info and updates)