RI Girls Pint Out – Bringing Together Women & Beer One Pint at a Time

As the craft beer scene continues its growth across the nation, more and more people are finding ways to learn about different brews by interacting with other like-minded individuals, all while enjoying a product that is made in their local area. There are festivals, homebrew clubs, and a variety of groups who host events that help bring enthusiasts together. Over the years all of these avenues have seen their fair share of growth right here in Rhode Island. One such organization with a national presence, known as RI Girls Pint Out, established its own chapter right here in Little Rhody in 2013. The group’s purpose is to “build a community of women who love craft beer” (per their website). I had the opportunity to sit down with Meredith and Keri, our state’s chapter founders and organizers, to find out more about just what this local division is all about.

Both Meredith and Keri come from different backgrounds but share a love for beer and for their chapter’s involvement in the craft scene here in RI. As Meredith explained, “I had been following the Pint Out Boston chapter for a while. I’ve been in RI for 9 ½ years and with craft beer starting to grow I wanted to start up a local chapter here.” So in 2013, RI Girls Pint Out was founded. “I felt it was a way to support RI brewing and was also a great way to get women out and involved as well.” It was a year after that, at What Cheer Tavern, where Meredith and Keri actually met and since then have been working to spread the word and promoting the local chapter through various events and gatherings across the state.

It seems like the chapter itself is coming along at a perfect time in conjunction with our state’s craft beer scene. “Craft beer has grown exponentially here in the state. It’s a great scene that is really nice, collaborative and supportive. I’m excited to see RI on the map,” said Meredith. And while the group itself wants to promote women getting out to grab a brew or two with them, they don’t necessarily restrict others from coming out to join them either. I actually became familiar with the group at an event that I attended last year which took place at Stock Culinary Goods. It was at this event I first met Meredith and Keri and got a sense of how friendly, enthusiast and passionate they were about promoting craft beer through this local chapter.  “We aim for one event per season and mix in some casual monthly meetups. It’s low commitment and we get some great turnouts… and sometimes it also ends up being just the two of us.” As Keri added, “It is a great way to meet people and see their passion about beer.” From casual bottle swap events, to more formal get-togethers, RI Girls Pint Out are excited about bringing people, more specifically women, together to enjoy locally crafted beers.

So what might the future hold for RI Girls Pint Out? As Meredith puts it, “Interest in the group has grown as craft beer here in RI continues to grow. We love and continue to support local and having women come together is great. And who knows? Maybe one day in the near future we would love to do a collaborative beer with one of the breweries here.” The group continues to stay active by coming up with new ideas for their own events or locations for meet ups while also attending other local happenings and beer-centric gatherings. “We like to volunteer at fests and other events, it helps us spread the word and bring attention to our organization,” said Keri. You can tell that both Meredith and Keri embrace the local craft beer scene and are passionate about their local chapter as it continues to grow over time. And it is on that note I would like to thank the dynamic duo that is Meredith and Keri for their time, perspectives and the great conversation about all things craft beer. On behalf of Prost Providence, I raise my glass and Prost RI Girls Pint Out!

 

 

(To find out what RI Girls Pint Out are up to, be sure to go like their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/RIGPO).  You can also follow them on Twitter (@RIGirlsPintOut) and Instagram (@rigirlspintout) for updates and to follow their craft beer journey)

Newport Storm – Set Sail for Craft Beers in the City by the Sea

The City of Newport, also known as the City by the Sea, has a long and storied history. Newport has been a lively city as far back as the 1700s when rum was being produced and sold as part of the “triangle trade.” Later on during the famous Gilded Age at the turn of the 20th century, the city served as a playground for America’s wealthiest and most infamous families for six summer weeks each year. Families such as the Vanderbilts and Astors could be found vacationing in larger than life homes, residences that now serve as an integral part of the city’s tourism industry, such as The Breakers and The Elms.

Fast forward to present day and you have the Newport we all know – home to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, host to the America’s Cup boat race, location of the oldest operating bar in the country, White Horse Tavern, and a list that seems to go on and on. As if the history wasn’t enough, the city is also where you can find Rhode Island’s longest operating bottling brewery that goes by the name of Costal Extreme Brewing Company, better known as Newport Storm. The local microbrewery has been a key contributor to the state’s craft beer industry since its introduction in the 1990s.

Derek Luke is the head brewmaster and co-founder of Newport Storm. Derek got into home brewing during his college years at Colby-Sawyer College. Over time and after many discussions, he and his three friends (Brent Ryan, Mark Sinclair and Will Rafferty) teamed up to open a brewery. As Derek explained, “I had been to Newport before to go surfing with a friend, I’m not originally from RI. When looking for a location we said that Maine already had too many places and we didn’t want to go into Massachusetts or Connecticut. At the time RI didn’t have an operating bottling brewery, so we thought it was a good location and also would be a way to help the state out.” So a day after graduating from college, Derek moved down to Newport and it began. Three weeks had been spent writing the business plan, personal funds were used, and along with securing a small business loan, they ended up getting a great deal on equipment and never looked back. “A stroke of luck also helped us out in the beginning,” Derek remarked. “I ended up meeting brewing consultant John Mallett, who helped us bring all our equipment up and get everything together and in place. During the process he would ask, who is good at this and who’s good at that? We had to get hands on with all different aspects of the business. Honestly, we are successful because we had to learn the hard way.” From those days in the very beginning up through present days’ success, Newport Storm has been supplying craft beer drinkers in RI a variety of different brews to choose from.

When they first came on the scene Hurricane Amber Ale was established as the flagship beer of Newport Storm. “Early on the amber ale was too dark and too bitter for 99% of the people. A subset seemed to like our beer, with others there was disapproval.” And while it might not have seemed like a hit at first, the amber ale is actually their best selling beer. Along with their flagship there are other beers that make up their core lineup such as RI Blueberry (made with fresh pressed local blueberries) and India Point Ale (their year-round IPA). There are also seasonal offerings produced over the course of the year like their Spring Irish Red, the Summer Hefeweizen, an Oktoberfest in the fall, and a Winter Porter. Early on, the brewery also liked to push the extremes when it came to craft beers by introducing a line called their Cyclone Series. These brews were named in the same fashion as hurricanes, from A to Z, and were more intense than their normal variety. This line has since been retired, but the brewery now produces similar limited release unique/extreme beers throughout the course of the year. To round it all out, Newport Storm ends each year with their Annual Release. This is a limited batch beer that comes out in larger format bottles and is normally a diverse, intriguing and complex offering. “We have made almost 100 different styles of beer over the years. I’m excited to learn and not afraid to fail when it comes to experimenting with beer. We always want to continue to evolve,” said Derek. And with that in mind, the brewery and its team members meet twice a year to brainstorm and conjure up new ideas. “We talk as a group about what type of beers we might want to make that year. I love the feedback and ideas from the company as a whole.” So while the Amber Ale has stood the test of time, the diversity and company creativity speaks to the reputation Newport Storm has established over the years.

Craft beer in the state has slowing been growing over time and Newport Storm has had a hand in that since the earlier stages. “After 16 years in, I still really like brew days, it’s easy now. The hard part is maintenance and engineering.” Derek has a passion for brewing and also a perspective on the local scene. “We aren’t like other states, people haven’t necessarily bought RI beer, but we are poised to grow…it’s an exciting time for the state.” As a member of the RI Brewers Guild, he believes the group is collectively getting a voice. “We want to even the playing field with what other states are doing. A major goal is to unify to bring more tourists to RI. It is only going to get better from here.” Another way the brewery helps to promote the local community, and, more specifically the city of Newport, is through their sponsorship of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. 2016 marked the fifth year Newport Storm has been the official beer sponsor of the parade. You can find them with their own float in full participation, helping to celebrate one of the most popular parades not only in the city, but throughout the state as well. Derek and the crew at the brewery are committed to their craft but they also continue to embrace RI and help shine a light on the local beer scene.

While you might find yourself down in Newport grabbing a lobster roll and cup of chowder, or maybe spending your time on a tour of the historic mansions, a trip to Newport Storm should also be on your agenda. The tasting room is casual and inviting with 4 to 5 different beers on draft to sample, and if you’re feeling adventurous, you can head upstairs to their observation deck overlooking the brewery itself where all the daily action takes place and a timeline of its history is on display. It is the visitors and supporters of Newport Storm that Derek admits make the business well worth it, “it’s really cool and unique that people will take time out of their day to show up at our business… it’s something not many other occupations get to experience or enjoy.”

Besides tours and tastings, keep an eye out for another recurring event at the brewery – the ever popular Fridays @ 6. It’s a concept that originated early on as another way for Derek and the team to connect with and give back to their avid fans and supporters on their home turf. Simply follow them on Facebook and be one of the first 50 fans each Friday at noon to sign up via their post and you will be treated to a two hour long tasting. Just be at Newport Storm by 6pm and you get to hang out with the brewery’s staff for a couple of hours while enjoying the freshest beers they have to offer on tap.

It’s truly amazing to hear the story of a brewery that started as an idea in a college dorm room, as well as all of the trial and error that went along with it coming to life, that eventually grew into one of the biggest brands in the smallest state. This idea, now well known as Newport Storm, has established a name and following that allows them to continue to experiment, grow and, ultimately, contribute to RI’s craft beer scene. And with that I would like to thank Derek Luke for taking the time to provide me with all of the great information, history and knowledge you’ve just read. On behalf of Prost Providence, I raise my glass and Prost Newport Storm!

 

 

(Head over to the Newport Storm website (www.newportstorm.com) to find out about current beers, different events and other brewery related info. Don’t forget to not only like them on Facebook (Newport Storm Beer) so you too can attend a Friday’s @ 6 session but to also follow them on Twitter (@NewportStorm) as well as Instagram (@newportstorm) for more content and information.)

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!

Foolproof Brewing: Life Experiences + Beer = A Foolproof Combo

The historic relevance of the city of Pawtucket in Rhode Island’s state history dates itself back to the 18th century when it made a name for itself nationwide as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. Most famously known for Slater Mill, America’s first water powered cotton spinning mill, the city played an integral part in one of our nation’s most well-known time periods. Fast forward to present day where Pawtucket is now gaining attention for a completely different industry: craft beer. One of the breweries making a name for itself and helping to build up the beer scene in the city, as well as throughout the state, is the Foolproof Brewing Company. Founder and President Nick Garrison oversees day to day operations of the brewery which likes to pair beer with life experiences, two things that seem to go hand in hand with one another. From their core lineup to exciting new additions and a continuously growing operation, Foolproof has been working to establish a name for themselves in RI and beyond.

I actually remember walking through the brewery doors on the first Saturday they opened for a tour and tasting, only knowing a limited amount about Foolproof and their beers. Now, as I sit down to chat with Nick, I come to find out that the gift of his first home brewing kit years earlier in December 2007, was what started his hobby and quickly turned it into a passion. As he jokingly told me, “two plastic buckets changed my life.” After plenty of homebrewed batches (including all the beer for his own wedding), countless hours spent studying not only the art of brewing but also the business side of running such an operation, and finally finding a home in Pawtucket, Foolproof opened its doors for business in 2012. With so much going on from day one up to the present, Nick finds it important to take time and reflect back, “Even when you are bogged down with the day to day stuff, it’s interesting to stop and think back about the past. We are currently in our third expansion and have recently increased the size of our tasting room. Where we are at now is just scratching the surface.” With increases in production to meet the growing demand for their beers, it proves that craft beer drinkers are hooked on what is being brewed in, ironically enough, a Pawtucket industrial park.

When it comes to the brewery, Nick says “Our core brands drive us (the two main sellers are Barstool and Backyahd), but experimental stuff is fun to brew too. It’s all about striking a balance, we brew what we are passionate about.” Foolproof currently has a very diverse lineup of beers to choose from and range from Barstool (their American golden ale), to their newest release, Queen of the Yahd (a raspberry IPA). “We look at what we want to brew and then look at tying it into the experience while also trying to play off the brand itself.” This approach has led to the introduction and positive reception of such beers as Peanut Butter Raincloud (a unique adaption of their Raincloud porter) or King of the Yahd (an imperial version of their Backyahd IPA). The brewery has also worked on mixing in some seasonal releases as well. One of those is the Augtoberfest, a festbier annually released each fall in conjunction with an Oktoberfest inspired event held at the brewery. The other is Shuckolate, a chocolate oyster stout released around Valentine’s Day. This was Foolproof’s first collaboration beer, partnering with locals Walrus & Carpenter Oysters and Garrison Confections, to incorporate two natural aphrodisiacs into one craft brew. It is a fun and unique approach to producing their diverse lineup that plays into an array of experiences, emotions, and ultimately the enjoyment of the beers themselves.

For Nick, there is a good feeling about the current status of Foolproof. “We are happy about our large distribution footprint but also enjoy exclusive brewery releases and events as well. For me, the exciting thing is to visit new places and see our beers for sale while also enjoying the reception of our newer offerings (such as the Peanut Butter Raincloud).” The brewery is happy to call Pawtucket home and there is plenty of room for change and growth when it comes to craft beer in Rhode Island. As Nick explained, “Carrying local beer on draft or in cans and bottles is important and is part of a cultural change to support local. It’s frustrating going out and not seeing RI beers on draft but with a thriving local culinary and food scene, new and upcoming restaurateurs are seeing the value in craft and, specifically, local beers.” The addition of more local events such as brewfests and tastings continue to enhance awareness and draw attention to what is going on and being offered right here in our state, including brands like Foolproof.

As it is with many local craft breweries, Foolproof aspires to one day become not only a nationally but also internationally distributed and recognized brewery. At the same time, they continue to embrace and promote their current operation and bring new awareness to the brewery. The focus is to center not only on tours and tastings, but also the events and experiences around their beers such as Barrel Reserve night, haunted brewery tours around Halloween, their Augtoberfest celebration and, most recently, the Shuckolate Soiree just to name a few. The Pawtucket based brewery definitely has a lot going on, with the hopes of attracting more new faces and regulars alike to come by, enjoy some beer, and see for themselves what new and exciting things Foolproof currently has to offer. With that having been said, I’d like to thank Nick not only for the brewery’s offerings to the craft beer scene here in RI but also for his time and contributions to this post. On behalf of Prost Providence, I raise my glass and Prost Foolproof Brewing!

 

 

(Check out Foolproof’s website (www.foolproofbrewing.com) for details about their beers, tour & tasting times, as well as upcoming events. You can also find them on Twitter (@FoolproofBrew) and Instagram (@foolproofbrew) for even more content and updates.)

Whaler’s Brewing: A Good Time Being Brewed in South County

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)

RI Brewfest – Four Years Young & Stronger Than Ever

Back when I was first getting my feet wet in those early college days of exploring craft beer, I remember attending my first ever major sampling/tasting event…The Great International Beer Festival (held at the Providence Convention Center). At the time, this was the major craft beer event in the little state of Rhode Island. As the years have passed, new festivals have been popping up across the state, offering craft beer enthusiasts and novices alike the opportunity to sample the ever growing selection of local craft brews as well as recognized national brands. One such local festival, in only its fourth year I might add, has made a name for itself and seems to only get bigger and better each year and is known as the RI Winter Brewfest.

The festival itself, held at the Pawtucket Armory, brings together all of the state’s breweries, as well as a solid mix of microbreweries from the East Coast to the West Coast. With two sessions being offered (each being sold out year after year), it is easy to see how popular this event has become, with the obvious focal point being the wide array and amazing variety of different beers to sample and enjoy. From a more local perspective, what I really love about the RI Brewfest is that it gives attendees the chance to meet the brewers behind the brands. It is an opportunity to interact with the people responsible for that fresh pint at the local bar, that 4 pack or 6 pack you grab at the liquor store, or that growler you go get filled up for the weekend or get together with family and friends. It brings an even greater sense of appreciation for beers being brewed right here in our state.

Of course such a great day of sampling and discussing beer would not be possible if not for such a creative, passionate, hard working group of people. Matthew Gray, President of Gray Matter Marketing, and the team behind the RI Brewfest do a fantastic job of not only promoting the festival but also setting it up and organizing it in such a way that attendees are able to make the most out of their afternoon or evening full of craft beer enjoyment. Also, add on to the fact that the festival actually pays the breweries for the beers they supply and with each ticket sold, a portion of the proceeds is donated to the Rhode Island Brewers Guild…another win-win situation, especially for the RI craft beer scene. It is a festival like this that really brings together a community of beer enthusiasts while also doing a great job of showcasing and supporting local  breweries and providing a diverse selection of other brands for everyone’s overall enjoyment. RI Brewfest might still be in its “early years” as a festival but that doesn’t seem to be slowing it down from gaining more and more interest each year. Be sure to check out their website: www.ribrewfest.com for information about the festival, and interviews with some of the local brewers and also follow them on Twitter (@RIBrewFest) for even more content, insight and updates.

Thank you and cheers to RI Brewfest for another successful and enjoyable festival. I’m already looking forward to the next one. On behalf of Prost Providence, I raise my glass and Prost RI Brewfest!

 

The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

Sam Adams Cream Stout… just over eight years ago, my junior year of college, this was the first craft beer I ever tried. Up until that point my early college days consisted of drinking your everyday, run of the mill cheap and affordable mass produced brews (I won’t go into specifics but you get the idea). That cream stout was so unique and different from anything I had ever had before and really made me wonder, what had I been missing out on and what other, different options were out there for me to try?

Around that same time was an interesting and exciting time for me as a native Rhode Islander finding out that a local beer, Narragansett, was being reintroduced to the scene. It was cool to see a beer with such a storied history from our little state making a comeback… and if you ask any family members or friends from college, I was usually the one at a party, get together or out at the bar with a tallboy or pint of ‘gansett in my hand, supporting and enjoying the re-released local brew.

This really was the perfect storm of events that not only sparked my interest in craft beer but more so intrigued me on a much more local level. Since my college days years ago, it has been so interesting and amazing to watch the growth and transformation of the craft beer scene here in Rhode Island. There are old faces and new ones, established institutions and new comers to the scene, all providing Rhode Islanders (and New Englanders alike) with so many different beer options that didn’t exist even a handful of years ago. And this is what brings me full circle, back to my introductory post and the purpose of this whole blog… providing a personal perspective on the people, places and experiences behind the beers and culture this area has come to embrace.

Raise a glass and let us Prost Providence!

An Impromptu Introduction

Welcome…grab your favorite beer, take a moment and allow me to introduce myself and this blog of mine called Prost Providence.

I’ll start off by prefacing that I’m not a professional blogger / writer, I’m no savvy home brewer (at least not yet), I don’t have my master cicerone certification, nor do I have an impressive craft beer collection aging in my basement…even though one day I would love to accomplish one or more of any of these things. But instead, here is who I am and what this blog is all about…

First and foremost I was born and raised here in Little Rhody. I live in Providence and work a solid 9 to 5 job, but where one of my true passion lies is being able to enjoy, experience and discuss craft beers, more specifically those brewed right here in the great state of Rhode Island. To me, Foolproof Brewery puts it best, “beer is not just an alcoholic beverage but an experience that should be thoroughly savored and enjoyed.” And honestly that is the basis about what this blog is all about. My objective is not only to talk about different local beers, but I also want to bring a personal perspective in regards to local brewers, breweries, brewpubs/ bars / pubs, places to purchase craft beers (and the minds behind them) and various different experiences and events related to the craft brew scene around here…and who knows, maybe even some other places throughout New England.

So that brings us the name of this blog, Prost Providence. When translated, Prost means to toast, say cheers or raise a glass (more specifically beer) to someone or something…and in the case of this blog I am raising a glass of beer and saying cheers and giving a toast not only to Providence, but the local beer scene here in Rhode Island as a whole. I want to bring a new perspective, a new voice, discussing and highlighting the great things going on in our state when it comes to local made beers and the experiences and people associated with them along the way.

Prost Providence!