For being the smallest state in the US, Rhode Island has a very long and storied political past. Many prominent figures and infamous events make up the state’s roller coaster of a landscape, from the positive to the straight up negative, to the unique “situations” and pretty much everything imaginable in-between. It all started with our state’s own founding father, Roger Williams, who was originally banished from Plymouth, Massachusetts’ colony because of his extreme views on freedom of speech and religion. And with a founder who was vocal enough to be kicked out of a “radical” state like Massachusetts, our state was of course the first of thirteen colonies to renounce our allegiance to the King. With an impactful start to its freedom, it was seen as the rebellious child in an otherwise united family. The last to sign the Constitution, rallying for a Bill of Rights only then to become heavily involved in slave trade, the only state that didn’t ratify the 18th Amendment (prohibition), etc. You can start to see how the state became slightly contradictory when it came to early politics and it has only continued to follow this pattern, gaining a reputation for being one of the most politically corrupt states in the country (be sure to Google: Buddy Cianci, Edward DiPrete, or 38 Studios for more current examples). And so it is only fitting that one of RI’s newest breweries is rightfully/playfully named to allude to this intriguing aspect in the state’s history. Located in Pawtucket, the brewery is known as Crooked Current and they have been building a reputation on creative and quality beers, not just their catchy brewery name.
Nichole Pelletier and Jay Lourenco are the owners and creative minds behind Crooked Current. The brewery itself opened its doors for business in October of 2014, making it one of the youngest microbreweries in the state. “One day we were talking over dinner and I asked Nichole, ‘what do you want to do?’ and she said, ‘make beer’,” Jay explained. “Nichole is a great cook and she had gotten great feedback and reviews not only for her food but also for her homebrews.” As Nichole added, “I’m really good at cooking chili and my recipe always included putting a beer in it. It was an ah-ha moment… why not brew the beer to actually use in the chili!” From the homebrew stages, Jay and Nichole decided to go forward with their plan to open a brewery and coincidentally found a home for Crooked Current in the original space where Bucket Brewery first got its start. Not only did they take over Bucket’s former home in Lorraine Mills, through some fortune and luck they also ended up with the same equipment they used, all within what is quite possibly the smallest brewery space in the smallest state resulting in their launch as one of the newest additions to the RI craft beer community.
In recent months, the brewery has transitioned to a larger location within Lorraine Mills. “It was a no brainer to move to this new space and anything is possible for the future. We aren’t necessarily looking to expand right now, but if the opportunity presents itself…” said Jay. Their current space allows for more visitors now and is very welcoming for people to come by and sample their latest brews. Open, bright, and with more wall space for their witty, local political comics, fans will find themselves staying longer with larger groups.
When it comes to the beers at Crooked Current, Nichole is the creative mind behind the concepts and recipes. As she explained, “I’m a lifelong student and constantly making improvements and looking to learn. Sometimes actual ingredients or culinary experiences will inspire or present a challenge to create a beer.” And unlike most other breweries out there, Crooked Current doesn’t find themselves with one distinct flagship beer. “If we had to have a “flagship beer” our oatmeal raisin stout seems to stick around based on customer reaction and it’s what people seem to think of as our flagship,” said Jay. Instead of finding a mainstay, their lineup of beers being offered is a selection that seems to rotate on a frequent basis. Since they first opened their doors they have brewed a variety of beers that pay homage to our interesting political climate such as their Immorality Pale Ale, Kickback American Wheat, Plunderdome Pumpkin Maple Ale, Extortion Eggnog Milk Stout and Hawaiian Robust Porter, just to name a few. As Jay mentioned, “Our presence is here within these four walls and is dictated by our system. It’s about keeping people up to speed (via social media) and its rapid movement with our beers.” Nichole added that, “We are building a portfolio of styles. It’s nice to try different releases based on outcry and anticipation. Demand grows by word of mouth, which we thrive on, and another year of people hearing about it and wanting it. Honestly, it’s a nice model right now with this approach and this size system.”
Being one of the smallest and most recent breweries to come to RI might seem like a challenge for Nichole and Jay but they seem to be holding their own and doing well making a name for themselves amongst the state’s other breweries. “Most industries are cutthroat… we are super happy to be close with one another. It really is a cool feeling and I can’t describe another industry like this,” said Jay. “Being in Pawtucket has met and exceeded our expectations and there is great comradery here. Obviously the word is still getting around not only about Crooked Current but about craft beer in RI as well.” For Nichole, she has a unique perspective to add, being the only female head brewer in the state. As she explained, “When new people show up they direct questions towards Jay about the beer. And when they find out I brew it, it definitely surprises people. I especially like seeing the excitement in women’s eyes when they find out, it really makes me feel great!” Crooked Current might not fit the typical mold when it comes to brewing due to their size and the interesting flavor profiles but it is this approach that has helped them gain attention and make their mark on our local craft beer community.
Just as with any brewery, it is hard to predict what the future holds for Crooked Current. They are still embracing the change that came with the move to their new space in Lorraine Mills. As for the beers, fans and guests at the brewery can expect more great, sometimes unexpected, brews to look forward to. Jay went on to explain, “Count on more styles to continue to come. Nichole keeps me on my toes and enjoys being spontaneous and customers will have a fun time with what she brews up.” And as Nichole added, “It’s incentive for customers to return on a constant basis and chase what’s new, that’s our focus. Other breweries have flagships, but there will always be a wildcard. It’s just another great reason to come to Pawtucket.” With that being said, I would like to say thank you to both Nichole and Jay for opening their doors and sitting down to discuss their continued growth and the exciting changes happening at their brewery. On behalf of Prost Providence, I raise my glass and Prost Crooked Current!
(Check out Crooked Current’s website (www.crookedcurrentbrewing.com) for more information about the brewery and different beers they might be brewing. You can also find them on Twitter (@Crooked_Current) and on Facebook for even more content and updates about what is being released.)