As it has been well documented in previous blog posts, Rhode Island is home to many popular and historic cities and towns. There is the capital city of Providence, the former industrial hotbed that is Pawtucket, as well as touristy seaside destinations like Westerly and Newport. But if you make your way up towards the northeast corner of the state, you will come across another historic (yet slightly less traveled) city of Woonsocket. Officially incorporated in 1888, the city has historic ties dating back to the 17th century when it was inhabited by both the Wampanoag and Narragansett Indian tribes before the land was purchased by Roger Williams in 1661. It served as a popular location for textile mills during the Industrial Revolution due to its proximity to the Blackstone River. Now, in the present day, Woonsocket is home to the corporate headquarters of CVS Health, one of the largest retail/healthcare companies in the United States. With a lofty heritage, locals as well as tourists now also find themselves making trips to this area to visit its very own microbrewery, Ravenous Brewing Company. This fairly young brewery has been producing some small batch, popular brews that have certainly help put their small corner of the state on the map.
Dorian Rave is the founder and head brewer at Ravenous and, as he explained to me, has “always loved things that are craft related, from wood working to wine-making, I’ve always had an interest. A friend of mine had an uncle who made wine and I would enjoy watching the process.” But, as Dorian admitted, he was always more of a beer drinker and so he decided to get a kit to start brewing at home. As time went on and he began getting more and more compliments from friends, the wheels started turning. “When I started looking for a place to brew, I wanted a place that fit and also financially made sense.” Ravenous ended up making a home for itself in Woonsocket and was officially established in October of 2012. While they had found a space, the way they utilize it is constantly evolving. Dorian said, “Every day is a game of Tetris working in our space but we still feel like we have enough room.” Even though it might not be the biggest or most traditional brewery, there is a great local feel and a commitment to providing high quality beers which is evident with each batch being brewed.
When it comes to their beer selection and offerings to visitors, Dorian says, “We go against the trends when brewing. We try not to be too extreme one way or another.” One of the first beers released by Ravenous was their Coffee Milk Stout, which has definitely become a fan favorite and has seemed to develop its own cult following. While locals might not be surprised by the popularity of this beer (considering our official state drink is coffee milk), Dorian actually told me, “We wanted to shy away from having a staple beer, but people love the coffee milk stout.” Don’t think though that this means when it comes to their brews that they are a one trick pony. Blackstone Pale Ale is another popular beer you can find almost year round at the brewery. There is also Bienvenu, a red ale, whose name is a tribute to their hometown of Woonsocket and its deep French roots. Their fall release is usually Black Harvest, which is a unique take on autumn beers because, “we didn’t want to brew to do another pumpkin beer” and so instead they offer a stout brewed with sweet potatoes. There are also special releases to look forward to, such as the Dormum Corvino, their twist on an American Wild Ale. Don’t think that’s all – with some bourbon barrels in house, you never know what limited and specialty brews might be aging as well. This is only a glimpse into the possible options you might find when you visit Ravenous, a place where creativity and quality give guests something to look forward to when they come check out what’s on tap at the brewery.
Being part of the RI craft beer community for close to four years now, Dorian has an honest and positive outlook on how things are going. “We are very tight knit but also competitive. We all push each other and there is no lack of willingness to help, people are all a phone call away. Breweries here in RI are definitely making some great beers.” Having the support of your peers is something that can make the job rewarding but even more so is the support received from the fans. “The public has done a great job spreading craft beer awareness around here. For us it’s all about sharing an experience here at the brewery. 99% of the people that come in here have craft beer in common with the person next to them.” At the end of the day, the labor of love for brewing translates to great beers that invite people in the door and keep them coming back. “We really want to open a person’s mind to new things, that’s the key.”
Ravenous is also different from most other traditional microbreweries in the sense that both Dorian and Chris Combs (brewer/brewery manager) are only onsite to brew part time, which one day might turn into a full time gig. Even with that being the case, you can feel their sense of positivity and optimism not only in the present but also for the future. “There is always a constant push,” Dorian says. “But we are taking our time. We never want our quality to suffer. Home is always first, making the best beers we can for RI to enjoy. We hope one day to expand partially into Massachusetts and Connecticut. It’s going to be a slow push; we definitely want to grow organically.” He also added, “The possibilities for growth are there, especially with the new laws. They make more sense and definitely helps our business. It brings awareness to RI beers and helps us keep spreading the word.” As it has been mentioned, Ravenous might not look like or operate the same as most typical breweries, but that uniqueness helps make them a destination worth visiting when it comes to local craft beer. There is an obvious appreciation and sense of pride when it comes to the city they call home and they welcome you to come enjoy that with them one tasting or pint at a time. I want to thank Dorian for taking time out of his schedule to sit down with me and sharing his knowledge, insights and passion about brewing and the local community. On behalf of Prost Providence, I raise my glass and Prost Ravenous Brewing!
(Check out the Ravenous website (www.ravenousbrew.com) for details about them, latest news and releases, as well as brewery tasting hours. You can also find them on Twitter (@RavenousBrewCo) and Instagram (@ravenousbrew) for various content and updates)