During a few recent conversations at the Rhode Island Brew Fest and with some beer store folks, talk turned to underappreciated beers. Which inspired us to dig into the Bottles & Cans archive for these words, which ran in the May 30, 2014 issue of the late/lamented/left-a-void Providence Phoenix [the intro and a few replies were slightly tweaked].
We’ve asked our ever-evolving panel of local beer savants to share their taken-for-granted/readily available/often veteran selections. The next time you’re whelmed by the tantalizing new offerings/seasonals/one-offs that are maxing out shelves and coolers, you should mix-a-six [or more] and revisit [or finally try] these time-tested brews.
SAM GLYNN, OWNER/OPERATOR, CHOMP KITCHEN AND DRINKS
The first that comes to mind is Long Trail Ale. Sometimes you just want a solid ale that isn’t trying to be anything it’s not supposed to be. Perfectly balanced. One of my go-to beers any time of the year.
Harpoon IPA is one of those beers that gets lost in the shuffle with all the new IPAs and DIPAs coming out. Great hop/malt balance, floral, and has a refreshing aftertaste that doesn’t ruin your palate. It seems today everyone is trying to “out-hop” one another; sometimes you just want a IPA that is true to the style. Harpoon hits the nail on the head. It’s also one of the most approachable IPAs at 42 IBUs.
SEAN ROBINSON, CRAFT BEER MANAGER, C&C DISTRIBUTING
1] Smuttynose Finestkind IPA: A beautifully balanced IPA that really hits the spot for hopheads. Maybe not the most aromatic or complicated IPAs, but this beer really delivers a great balance of citrus flavors and hop bitterness.
2] North Coast Brother Thelonious: For me this is the quintessential Belgian Strong Dark Abbey Ale, full of flavor and one of the best interpretations of the style.
3] Victory Prima Pils: I can remember trying this for the first time around seven years ago thinking I wasn’t going to like it. I am traditionally not a German Pils kind of guy. The earthy hop notes are phenomenal on this beer, and with a low ABV and malt bill, this beer is dangerously drinkable. This is still one of my go-to beers for the warm weather months.
I think in this day and age consumers are so drawn to the new releases and new breweries in the market that a number of breweries get overlooked [by myself included]. I always look forward to the Stone Enjoy Bys, Founders KBS, etc. releases of the world, but I still tend to go back to old favorites more often nowadays. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is a prime example.
DIANE ASCENCAO, OWNER, MADEIRA LIQUORS, PROVIDENCE
Smuttynose Finestkind IPA: It has a great citrusy hop flavor, made with a mixture of Simcoe, Centennial, and Santiam. We love the whole Smuttynose line. The guys on the package remind me of the Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler spokesmen from the 1980s. Don’t make that reference to anyone born after 1975, they have no idea what you’re talking about!
Rogue Dead Guy Ale: It’s made in the style of German Maibock. Perfect beer, pairs with anything. It’s not just for Halloween.
Mayflower IPA: A big hoppy beer with a smooth, bitter finish. It’s one of my favorite IPAs.
Our go-to beer when out and don’t see anything we like is NEWCASTLE BROWN ALE.
ALAN BRINTON, OWNER, GREY SAIL BREWING OF RHODE ISLAND
Harpoon Summer Beer is the quintessential summer beer — a crisp Kolsch. It seems like summer beers have been overtaken by the shandy craze, but I love a beer that is true to style and doesn’t require lemons to make it thirst-quenching. I remember drinking Harpoon Summer since it was first introduced [many years ago] and I still have it in my fridge today.
BILL NANGLE, OWNER, THE RHODE ISLAND BREW BUS
Stone, Founders, and Dogfish Head seem to have new beers out every week and I feel their roots in the beer world — Stone IPA, Founders Porter, and Dogfish 60 Minute IPA — get overlooked.
Local stuff: Grey Sail Flying Jenny, Foolproof Raincloud [one of the best year-round porters anywhere, in my opinion], Newport Storm IPA [great IPA, never disappoints].
MARK HELLENDRUNG, PRESIDENT & CEO, NARRAGANSETT BEER
I’m a lager beer drinker to the core, although I do appreciate all the great big craft beers that are coming out. Prior to launching our Bohemian Pils, I drank a lot of different European-style lagers and Pilsner Urquell really struck me as a great beer. It’s the original pilsner, and it’s really a quality, sessionable lager. Our Bohemian Pils is a hoppier style within the pils family, more of a craft style, but the Pilsner Urquell is a great beer that probably misses a lot of people’s radar because of all of the other choices out there.
NICK GARRISON, PRESIDENT & FOUNDER, FOOLPROOF BREWING COMPANY
I think as a whole, Rhode Island beers are underappreciated. The Ocean State is in the midst of a very exciting craft beer renaissance — there are so many fabulous beers available that are produced right here in Rhode Island. Unfortunately, it seems that there are still many accounts that would rather serve an out-of-state craft beer, an import, or a domestic lager rather than consider an offering from a Rhode Island craft brewery. Of course, there are many bars that do see the value in marketing locally produced beer, but I think there’s much room for growth and improvement in giving Rhode Island beer the attention and respect it deserves.
I’ve always been impressed by Sierra Nevada’s beers…not just their popular mainstays, but many of their lesser-known products. For a brewery that has grown to such a large size, the quality and consistency they’ve maintained over the years is quite impressive.
CHUCK BORKOSKI, VICE-PRESIDENT/GENERAL MANAGER, ELEVATED SPIRITS
Red Hook Longhammer IPA: Originally called Red Hook IPA, this liquid has been around since 1984. Thirty years old and still drinking great! It now comes in a funky 12-ounce bottle like none other in the market. It is a dry-hopped IPA with a nice blend of bitterness, piney elements, and citrus flavor. At 44 IBUs, you know you are drinking an IPA but you are not paralyzed by its bitterness; at 6.2% ABV, it isn’t over the top but it will deliver you a reasonable amount of what you may be looking for in a beer.