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.)