Grey Sail Brewing of RI – Creating Big Waves in the Local Craft Beer Scene

As most people reading this post are well aware, Rhode Island has the official nickname of The Ocean State. It is appropriately given this name due to its small size (1214 square miles) relative to the total amount of shoreline the state boasts, which is roughly 400 miles. Towns like Narragansett, Westerly, Charlestown and Newport are all well known for their beaches, beautiful views and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Each one is different in its own right and the town of Westerly is no exception; home to many popular destinations for tourists and locals alike such as Watch Hill, Misquamicut State Beach, as well as the historic Ocean House. It is also gaining notoriety for another local establishment – their very own microbrewery known as Grey Sail Brewing of Rhode Island. For a brewery tucked away in this small, southwestern shoreline town, they have been producing craft beers well known throughout the state while also gaining some regional buzz for themselves.

Grey Sail is owned and operated by husband/wife duo Jen and Alan Brinton who came to RI in 2000 and, on their 10th wedding anniversary in 2009, decided to “go for it” and open their own microbrewery. As Jen put it, “I wasn’t into beer… that was all Alan. He would homebrew and is a chemical engineer, so it is like second nature to him. Dating back to 1998 he already had ideas for some type of brewpub or microbrewery.” While taking care of their children (finding out Jen was also expecting as they were working on opening the brewery) and both having full time jobs already, they were able to find a home for Grey Sail in Westerly. The building they found has known many industries, starting out as a macaroni factory and then later evolving into the US Post Office parcel service building. When heavy rain and floods came in 2010 the building was submerged in water and the town wasn’t sure what would happen to it but in 2011 Jen and Alan purchased it, giving a different type of business the chance to thrive within the historic property. “We love the location and the town. We have grown with the space and have done it on our own (with a little help and funding from close friends and family). Ultimately we want to keep this a small, family business… something one day we can hopefully pass down to our children.” If one thing is for certain, not only does a sense of family and pride exist within Grey Sail, they are also passionate about the community and producing quality craft beers for all to appreciate.

A closer look at the lineup of Grey Sail beers shows a well-balanced selection of styles for both novices and enthusiasts to choose from. As Jen explains, “There is the Flagship (a cream ale), a beer that Alan wanted as a gateway into craft beer. Flying Jenny (an extra pale ale) is one that Alan and Josh Letourneau (head brewmaster) came up with. And Leaning Chimney (a smoked porter) is one that came from Josh because he felt like there were not many of that particular style out there.” Jen went on to say, “It felt like most breweries come out the gate with an IPA because it is a style that will most likely sell. We asked ourselves, can we succeed without one? We went our first 3 years establishing ourselves without having one.” Eventually they did launch an IPA, in two different varieties. Pour Judgement can be found in cans (which originally was brewed as a draft beer for the bar Pour Judgement in Newport), along with the highly sought after and well recognized imperial IPA, Captain’s Daughter. For a year round beer, Captain’s Daughter almost seems to have its own cult following and  tends to sell out the moment it hits store shelves. Rounding out the lineup in cans is Great Ketch (an imperial India Pale Lager) and the soon to be released Black Mast (an American stout), their newest addition. There are also seasonal releases like Hazy Day (a summer Belgian Wit) and Autumn Winds (an Oktoberfest style ale) that fans should keep an eye out for. With so many different styles and offerings being produced, Grey Sail has worked hard establishing a name for themselves in the RI craft beer community.

While Grey Sail takes pride in producing quality craft beers they also strive to put family first all while supporting their community as a whole. As an owner of a local microbrewery, a Member of the Board of Directors for the Westerly Chamber of Commerce as well as the RI Brewers Guild, and a nominee for the Westerly Land Trust Board of Directors, Jen has her plate full but says that “I’m still a full time mom. Alan and I said when we first started that our family (more specifically our kids) will always be a priority.” That same value of putting family first also carries over into their extended brewery family which Jen attributes as one of the two biggest reasons why they are successful. “Everyone that works on our staff has approached us to work here, we have never posted any jobs. We want to embrace that sense of family with our staff, and we are ultimately successful because of the people.” The other component of their success and what has helped put them in their current position are their distributors, McLaughlin and Moran. “When we were first starting off we wondered, who will sell our beer? They came on board day one and we have been working with them ever since.” Even with the company doing as well as it is, they still take time to support the community and give back as much as they can. Jen explained, “We try to never say no to a charity. We enjoy helping to contribute to others in and around the community.” One event they started at the brewery that helps raise awareness and promote local non-profit organizations is called Cheers for Charity. On a Friday night, after brewery hours, a group can come in and host their own fundraising event, with 100% of the profits raised going towards their charitable cause. While beer itself might be the driving force behind Grey Sail, it is the positive approach internally and externally that most certainly attributes to their overall success.

From being an owner of Grey Sail, to her involvement with the RI Brewers Guild, Jen is invested in seeing not only her own brewery succeed but also craft beer as a whole continue to grow and do well in the state. “The Brewers Guild is working hard to promote RI and the quality beers being produced here. The brewers can benefit as we grow and it leads to opportunities to create more jobs and expand the culture of craft beer here as well.” Along with a growing industry throughout the state, Grey Sail itself is also currently experiencing an exciting growth period. They recently purchased the house next to the brewery which is in the process of becoming their new tasting room area: a historic, fun, quirky and relaxing space for visitors to come enjoy samples of their beers, while their the old tasting room will eventually be used primarily as a space to get growlers filled. The brewery building also has plans in the works to expand onto the property on the opposite side which will double their brewing capacity. “We worked with the town on securing both new property spaces and our goal is to tie all three spaces together,” said Jen. Grey Sail has been brewing up quite the scene down in their small coastal town of Westerly. From the quality selection of beers, to additional brewery space providing more room for visitors to come enjoy said collection, it seems like there is no slowing down this RI microbrewery. As they embrace the community, support local and promote a family oriented company environment, Grey Sail continues to shed a positive light on brewing craft beer here in Rhode Island. I’d like to close out this post with a very big thank you to Jen Brinton for her time, personal perspective and thoughtful contributions. And a special thanks to Cara Lieffers (Director of Sales) & Thomas Rivera (IT Manager & Marketing Assistant) for all of their help, positive insight and brewery knowledge. On behalf of Prost Providence, I raise my glass and Prost Grey Sail Brewing!

 

 

(Go over and visit the Grey Sail website (www.greysailbrewing.com) for details about their beer lineup, the brewery/crew and Cheers for Charity. You can also find them on Twitter (@GreySail) and Instagram (@greysail) to see what’s available on draft in the tasting room and other brewery related info).

Revival Brewing: Respect for the Past & Embracing Rhode Island’s Brewing Future

Over the years, the state of Rhode Island has slowly started to establish quite a reputation for itself. From a thriving culinary scene, to a recognized arts and cultural environment, to being a well-publicized tourist destination, the smallest state in the US has slowly been gaining national attention. When you take a look at the history of RI, one industry that dates itself back to the 1600’s and, in recent years, has also seen significant growth in popularity is the production and sale of locally produced beer. One name that has been associated with brewing craft beer in this state for many years and has established a reputation of his own is Sean Larkin. Known for his former brewing days at Trinity Brewhouse, being the consultant/brewmaster for Narragansett beer, as well as his own brand out of Cranston, RI – Revival Brewing Company. The beers being brewed with the Revival name are not only well thought out and passionately crafted but they also tend to pay homage to the unique things that make Rhode Island the interesting place that it is.

Sean first got his start brewing beer at Trinity Brewhouse when there wasn’t the lively and present craft beer scene that there is today in our state. During his time with Trinity he worked on brewing a variety of different beers and perfecting his craft while also putting the wheels in motion for the eventual introduction of his own band, Revival. As he reflected back, Sean said, “I’m always mindful and respectful of the past. I’m not brewing the same beers from 20 years ago. I have a lot more respect for hops and not just for overpowering things. I also like to use 4 or 5 different malts, to hit on different points and still be complex.” Over the years, besides bringing Revival to life, he was also brought on as consultant/brewmaster at Narragansett and has been responsible not only for brewing their beers but also for helping to bring the brand back to its former prominence. Being involved with both brands might lead some to believe that the two are one in the same or brewed the same way, but that would be an inaccurate assumption. “So much thought goes into the recipes for both Revival and Narragansett. I want to be able to and can show a difference between the two so they are distinct and different identities.” And while Narragansett might have a historic past around here, Revival has been establishing its own roots and, as Sean states, “We want to incorporate RI into the brand in a way people will notice.”

One glance at the current lineup of beers being produced and a local Rhode Islander will most likely notice the historic and stately tie-ins – Burnsider Pale Ale, Mercy Brown Imperial Ale, Rocky Point Red Ale and White Electric Coffee Stout just to name a few. Not only does Sean want Revival to celebrate all aspects of RI, he also explains that, “We try to put perspective on not being an overly masculine brand. It’s really about telling different stories and being everybody’s beer.” Even the little details mean something, such as the case of the Juliett Russian Imperial Stout which is named after the infamous submarine-turned-museum that now sits at the bottom of the Providence Harbor. “The Juliett has a lot of my heart and soul in it. The original look with the story didn’t translate at first. But now with the new look of the Russian nesting dolls on the label, it helps to tell the story better.” When sitting down and listening to Sean, you get a sense of how much thought goes into not only the Revival brand but the beers themselves. From the ingredients, like hops and malts, all the way down to the unique design of each beer label or tap handle. It all stems from passion, hard work, dedication and love for his craft of producing a variety of really great beers that locals and visitors alike will truly appreciate and enjoy.

As previously mentioned, when he was first starting off there weren’t many others brewing in RI. “It’s nice to finally have other people brewing beer in the state that know what the (brewers) life is like. There are a whole host of new, younger brewers which is amazing and I’m psyched for them because I remember those days when I was first starting off.” And, in the grand scheme of things, having great quality breweries benefits not only the state as a whole but ultimately we as craft beer drinkers. As Sean went on to say, “It’s always important to celebrate the brewing past here and into the future as well. It’s still early in the game for brewing in RI.” Even when there were opportunities to go elsewhere, being here in this state and working towards establishing, cultivating and ultimately helping the craft beer scene and community grow was something that was important to Sean. When you look at other states and the growth of craft beer across the country as a whole, it’s true that RI might be playing catch up. Positive steps towards updating laws allowing breweries to sell more beer and have better bar room sales are important. But it is also the brewers themselves, like Sean, and their respective brands, such as Revival, that are continuing to advocate for change and help craft beer continue to grow and thrive in this state.

Even though Revival was established and came on the scene in 2011, it wasn’t until recently, in November 2015, that they introduced visitors to their “new” home in Cranston, RI. Sean was brought on to oversee and brew beers for the new Brutopia brewpub and when presented with this opportunity, Revival was also able to find a home. “Brutopia ended up being an awesome space. The owner was receptive and we embraced this as our home.” While the brewpub/restaurant functions upstairs with both Brutopia and Revival branded beers available on draft, downstairs you will find the Revival tasting room. It is a space that makes you feel like you are hanging out in a friends basement, fully equipped with a record player, corn hole, a hockey net, pinball machine and of course really great beers on draft to sample. Along with the usual lineup available, you never know what other barrel aged, sour or unique offering you might find on draft during a visit. One thing you will always get is the sense of pride that goes into each beer and the way the Revival brand pays homage to the stories that have shaped our state’s history. “I’m proud of this small, messed up state of ours. I want to see RI grow and my mission here isn’t done. I’m sure as hell not going anywhere.” And whether you are drinking a Revival beer or not, Sean sums it up this way, “The best beer in the world is the one in your hand that you are enjoying.” A statement like that couldn’t be truer and one that any resonates with any beer drinker. With that closing note I’d like to thank Sean for his past and current contributions to craft beer here in RI and also for the time, words of wisdom and insight he was able to provide for this post. On behalf of Prost Providence, I raise my glass and Prost Revival Brewing!

 

 

(You can check out the Revival website (www.revivalbrewing.com) for info about the beers, where to find their brews and Revival gear. They are also active on Twitter (@seansrevival and @revivalbrewing), as well as Instagram (@revivalbrewing and @revivalbrewingco) providing additional content and insight.)

What Cheer Tavern: A Small Bar with a Big Local Personality

What happens when you combine an unpretentious, welcoming atmosphere with a well thought out beer and bourbon selection paired with an eclectic menu? You get a Providence neighborhood bar known as What Cheer Tavern. Opened in 2012, by husband and wife owner/operator duo Dave Crockenberg and Zoe Brown, the bar prides itself on having a local focus (both on the beers and the food), trying to source as much as they can from around Rhode Island as possible – something Dave said was “missing in the current market.” The couple found that “Neighborhood bars were a thing of the past, we wanted to bring that concept back. Also no bars or places around here were pairing interesting bar food with their beers.” This is something that What Cheer certainly seems to enjoy and has gained quite the reputation for.

When it comes to the beer at What Cheer, Dave made it pretty clear, “I just really enjoy drinking beer,” which carries over into what they like to offer their patrons. “We normally have 10 to 12 draft lines going and we don’t want anything sitting more than a week; we want to keep it fresh.” As part of supporting and focusing on local products, brands like Proclamation, Revival, Grey Sail, and Foolproof (just to name a few) are some of the options you might find on draft or in the cooler when you stop in for a drink. “Our selection is dictated by what our customers like,” Dave explained. Along with the brews, What Cheer Tavern offers up a great food menu, just not what you’ve most likely come to know as typical pub food – something that is done on purpose. Zoe (the brains of the operation as Dave put it) runs the kitchen and said, “I like to be creative with the menu. I didn’t want to serve your traditional mozzarella sticks or any stuff like that.” And when you take a look at the menu it is obvious that they offer some creative and unique options to choose from.

Snacks like Mofo fries (a combination of cheddar, sriracha, cotija, cilantro, crispy garlic, & sambal atop a pile of fries) and bacon chipotle wings (covered in a spicy sauce with crumbled bacon mixed in) find their place on the menu alongside fan favorites such as Hipster 2.0 tacos (slow roasted pork belly, gochujang and kimchi) and Mexicali Ramen (noodles, chicken, avocado, cabbage, jalapeno, onion and cilantro). As you can imagine, this innovative fusion style menu certainly isn’t your standard bar fare and you never know what intriguing, delicious new item might make its way onto the menu next, giving customers something else to look forward to.

What Cheer definitely isn’t the biggest bar in the city, but what it might lack in size it makes up for in personality and a solid combination of food and drink options. “I really enjoy the small size of the bar and recognizing customers and knowing them by name. This is such a small, homey place,“ Zoe said. And from a couple who had never owned a bar before, What Cheer is that neighborhood bar with a funky and fun twist. Where else can you find everything from Paul Simon to AC/DC playing in the background as you savor a local beer and fill your stomach with delicious grub? For added entertainment value, you can follow their action on Twitter (@whatcheertavern) and Facebook page, each displaying the colorful, unforgiving and amusing side of what the bar has become known for as well. When you put it all together, Dave and Zoe have created a place that not only helps support and showcase the local beer scene but also brought back the concept of bringing people together at the local bar for good times, good food and really good brews. I want to thank Dave and Zoe for taking time to provide me with their perspective and information about the bar. On behalf of Prost Providence, I raise my glass and Prost What Cheer Tavern!