Of New England’s six states, Rhode Island might be the most looked over when it comes to beer.
There is Newport Storm’s Hurricane Amber Ale, of course, and Narragansett Beer, whose tallboys of lager have become a staple in many Massachusetts bars. But like so many other states, Rhode Island’s craft beer scene is shifting and expanding, new breweries are opening and more are on the way.
I first wanted to investigate Rhode Island’s breweries after hearing about the upcoming Rhode Island Brew Fest, which takes place at the Pawtucket Armory on Saturday February 2 and is presented by Narragansett Beer. More than 30 breweries will be pouring their beer; 10 of them are from Rhode Island.
One of those is Foolproof Brewing Company [@FoolproofBrew. foolproofbrewing.com] in Pawtucket. They brewed their first batch on December 7th and shipped it right before New Year’s, founder Nick Garrison tells me. The year-round lineup, which will be packaged in 12-ounce brightly colored cans, consists of three beers: Barstool, an American Golden Ale, Raincloud, a Robust Porter, and Backyahd, an IPA. They also plan on doing seasonal, higher alcohol releases like Reverie, a Russian Imperial Stout that will be packaged in bombers. Damase Olsson, formerly of New Hampshire’s Pennichuck Brewing Company, will be heading up Foolproof as brewmaster.
“Not long after I moved, I saw a relative lack of breweries in state and saw a huge opportunity because Rhode Islanders love beer as much as anyone else does.”
Foolproof can produce just under 3,000 barrels per year on their system, but are already looking at new tanks because of the demand they’ve seen, Garrison says. They also offer tours on Fridays and Saturdays, where $10 gets you a glass, a tour of the brewery, and samples of beer. (Because of how Rhode Island production breweries are licensed, they cannot fill growlers on site, but can give away beer as part of a paid tour.)
Up in Woonsocket, in northern Rhode Island, Ravenous Brewing Company [@RavenousBrewCo. ravenousbrew.com] is keeping Ocean Staters hydrated with Coffee Milk Stout and Belgian Rye P.A. Founded by Dorian Rave, Ravenous came to the market in October and is draft only for the time being. To add to the relative chaos of opening a brewery, Rave has been a Rhode Island police offer for 13 years and says juggling both jobs can be a bit demanding.
“Luckily, I’ve never been in a middle of a brew session and gotten a call,” says Rave.
His most popular beer has been the Coffee Milk Stout, brewed with Pawtucket-based New Harvest coffee. It’s especially fitting, Rave says, as the Rhode Island state legislature designated coffee milk as the official state drink in 1993.
As for the state of Rhode Island’s beer culture, Rave says: “I think the RI craft beer scene is greatly improved and I think it’s yet to see its best day.”
More established breweries, like Newport Storm, are experiencing growth too. In the first year it opened, in 1999, Newport Storm produced 450 barrels of beer a year, says Taylor Butzbach, public relations and events manager for the brewery. Now they’re producing 4,000 barrels at their brewery in Newport, where they moved two years ago. They also receive about 10 to 12,000 visitors a year for tour and in their tap room, which is open six days a week.
“We’re all tyring to work together and represent Rhode Island beer and Rhode Island craft beer,” says Butzbach.
“It’s all about building the craft beer community in Rhode Island.”
This is just a snapshot of Rhode Island’s new beery offerings. Trinity Brewhouse provides Providence with fresh beer and eats, and it would remiss not to mention the popular Revival Brewing. Grey Sail Brewing opened late 2011 in Westerly and Bucket Brewery also recently opened in Pawtucket.
As if Massachusetts wasn’t spoiled with enough quality local beer, even more is available just a short drive or train ride away.
RHODE ISLAND BREW FEST
THE PAWTUCKET ARMORY
172 EXCHANGE ST.