Cheers to 375 years of Rhode Island beer history

RIBeerIn the introduction to Rhode Island Beer: Ocean State History on Tap, Ashleigh Bennett and Kristie Martin invite you to “join us in cracking your favorite Rhody beer and learn more about what is and always has been brewing in the Ocean State.” You’ll need to line up a few brews to absorb all of the bygone lore and recent stories that they share from our little corner of the beer world.

Ashleigh and Kristie, who you know from the Two Girls, One Beer blog, spent many hours of 2014 digging through archives and breweriana collections and talking with the folks who are spearheading our current beer renaissance. The tale spans 375 years — from the Baulston Brewery, which opened in Providence in 1639, to the Tilted Barn Brewery, the state’s first farm brewery [formerly Ocean State Hops], which poured its first beers in Exeter a few days before Thanksgiving 2014. The opening chapter covers “The Ocean State Originals,” with rich and fascinating vignettes and bits of trivia about fleeting and legendary operations, from John Bligh’s short-lived Narragansett Brewery [“no relation to the Narragansett Brewery we’ve all come to know“] to the mighty James Hanley Brewing Co.; from What Cheer Brewery to Pawtucket’s first beer-maker, the Hand Brewing Company; from the Narragansett Brewery we’ve all come to know to Eagle Brewing Company.

“Party Foul,” the chapter on Prohibition, has some juicy bits about Rhode Island’s resistance to the movement [RI and Connecticut were the only two states that didn’t ratify the 18th Amendment] and its embrace of alcohol’s alternate routes: rumrunning, speakeasies, home brewing [“soon every grocery was selling malt extracts for ‘baking purposes’ ”], and other underground pursuits [“Woonsocket was known as the city of ‘mills and stills’ ”]. The post-Prohibition entry centers on the rise and fall of  ’Gansett, from its glory years when “it accounted for 65 percent of all beer sold in New England” to its long, sad decline after it was sold to the Falstaff Brewing Co. in 1965.

Entries on two craft short-lived small beer makers — Hope Brewing [1988] and Emerald Isle Brew Works [early ’90s], which specialized in cask-conditioned ales — set the table for the chapters on the 11 craft brewers and five brewpubs [from Union Station, which opened in 1993, to Brutopia, which debuted in 2014] which have fueled Rhode Island’s contribution the craft beer revolution. It’s a handy snapshot of Beer 401, with backstories [lotsa homebrewing, natch] and anecdotes and notes on the breweries’ pride and joy — the beer. Some notable quotes:

“It’s not just about fun and games and making beer. It’s about how we’re going to start a business and support ourselves.” — Brent Ryan of Coastal Extreme/Newport Storm

“Bringing people right into the process is fun.” — Nate Broomfield of Bucket Brewery

“Brewing itself is so romanticized. You’re just mopping the whole time. And getting sweaty. It was so much more relaxing when I was a homebrewer.” –Dave Witham of Proclamation Ale Company

Rhode Island Beer: Ocean State History on Tap wraps up with lists of the state’s “best beer bars” and bottle shops, a look at the local brewing community, “Cooking with Rhody Beer,” and beer terms; the 160 pages are stuffed with photos and kicks off with a foreword by Lord of the Brews, Sean Larkin.

The book is available at the Two Girls, One Beer shop, and the Official Release Party is at What Cheer Tavern in Providence tonight [3.31] from 7-10 pm [you can get signed books for $20, plus 18×12” prints of the Rhode Island Brewery Map by Sara Lyons, $12]. Ocean State brews will be well represented, of course, with offerings from Ravenous, Revival, Proclamation, Grey Sail, and Foolproof — and for the first time evah, Crooked Current Brewery will be available on tap. What Cheer will have the honor of pouring the very first glass of  CC’s Oatmeal Raisin Stout [outside of its Pawtucket HQ]. Which means more Ocean State beer history is being made today! We’ll drink to that!

If you can’t make it tonight, the girls will be at Bucket Brewery on April 11, Barrington Books on April 26, and Grapes & Grains and Norey’s on May 9 [click here for details].


And this just in from the Brewers Association:


The Favorite Rhode Island Beer Bar Bracket’s Championship Game

On March 18, the jump ball went up and the Favorite Rhode Island Beer Bar Bracket was underway, with 15 “teams” [and a “play-in game”/write-in option] vying for support from beer enthusiasts:


The Elite 8 was posted on March 23:


And the Final Four tipped off on Thursday:


Now, after 5439 votes, it’s last call — there are two teams standing. It’s a Warwick vs. Wakefield throwdown:

The beer drinkers have spoken, and the Mews Tavern 69ers or the Track 84 Porters will be cutting down the nets [click the links to check out their current beer menus]. Voting runs through Wednesday, and Rhode Island’s Favorite Beer Bar will be announced on Thursday. Spread the word and support your team now!


And this [literally] just in as we were about to hit publish: Here’s the official press release from Jack’s Abby:

Jack’s Abby Brewing Continues to Grow Distribution, Expands to the Ocean State
Massachusetts-based Brewery to work with Atlantic Imports in new statewide territory 
 FRAMINGHAM, MA:  Jack’s Abby Brewing today announces plans to extend distribution of its world class lagers to Rhode Island. The brewery is expanding to the Ocean State with its oldest partner and sole distributor in Massachusetts, Atlantic Importing, who is opening its own venture in the state — the Atlantic Importing Company of Rhode Island. This is the latest in a quick succession of new territories for Jack’s Abby following the launch of Eastern Pennsylvania at the end of March, as well as Connecticut this past June.
“Our fans in Rhode Island have requested our beer for a while now, and we’re happy to deliver,” said Sam Hendler, Co-Owner, Sales. “We couldn’t be more excited to get our lagers into the state in time for the spring and summer seasons.”
The Atlantic Importing Company of Rhode Island will distribute both draft and package for all of Jack’s Abby’s year-round offerings (Hoponius Union, Mass Rising, Leisure Time, Jabby Brau and Smoke & Dagger), as well as seasonal and specialty brews including Sunny Ridge Pilsner. The first delivery day is scheduled for Tuesday, April 21st.

Read all about it: 25 must-try beers; cool beer labels; make your own Stone Levitation Ale; and vote in the FRIBBB Final Four!

beer_labelsThe Favorite Rhode Island Beer Bar Bracket battle is in the home stretch: voting for the Final Four runs through Sunday, and the “teams” in the Championship Game will be announced on Monday. Scroll down to pick your faves, then scroll back to dig into these beer reads:

Beer Bucket List: 25 Beers You Must Try, @ Cool Material [“We’re not going to say these are the 25 best beers in the world. That’s something very, very subjective. We will say that these are 25 beers that are seriously worth trying at some point in your life, however.” You can find eight or nine of them at most better beer stores right now. Go get ’em!]

Craft Beer Book Is Celebrating the Best Art From Breweries Around the World, by Katherine Brooks @ The Huffington Post [Cool Beer Labels “highlight(s) the glorious packaging, typography and illustration that has come to accompany some of Small Beer’s best offerings.”]

End of an Era: Stone Ruination IPA, by Brandon Hernández @ Stone Brewing [“The brew we and our fans are enamored with today probably won’t be what we are salivating over and clamoring for 10 years ago. That’s part of the allure of craft beer. The next pint, snifter, goblet or tasting glass full of enthralling hop-and-grain nectar is always right around the corner.”]

Exclusive: Stone Beer Shares Recipe for Discontinued Levitation Ale, by Jim Vorel @ Paste [“Paste has premiered plenty of music over the years—we’ll happily drink to adding ‘beer recipes’ to the list.”]

Foreign markets thirsty for America’s craft beer, by Chris Morris @ Fortune [“Craft beer export volume was up by 35.7% in 2014 for a total of $99.7 million, according to the Brewers Association.”]

And here’s the winner in USA Today’s Ultimate Craft Brewery Bracket

Jack’s Abby coming to Rhode Island in late April

We're finally going to turn green!!!
We’re finally going to turn green!!!

On Monday, the Beervana Fest Facebook page declared: “First official table signed up for this years beervana; Jack’s Abby!!!!!!!!!!!!” Which means we finally had an unofficial answer to the question that has been asked for the last few years — “When will Jack’s Abby be in Rhode Island?” We repeated that query in a December 17 post, the day after it was announced that the Framingham, MA brewery helmed by the Hendler brothers [Jack, Eric, and Sam] would be moving from its current 12,000-square-foot site to a 67,000-square-foot space. In 2014, they brewed 14,000 barrels [barrel = 31 gallons]; they’ll make about 20K this year, will aim for 50K when they cut the ribbon at the new place, and could eventually produce a whopping 125,000 barrels. They’ll also start canning their world-class lagers and will open a restaurant at their sprawling facility, which they hope to open by year’s end.

On 12.17 Sam told us, “At this point we have preliminary plans [nothing is finalized] to come to Rhode Island in 2015. For sure, though, we will be in Rhode Island in 2016.” [They are currently available in MA, VT, CT, PA, and NY.]

JacksAbbyHoponiusUnionBut now we can report “for sure” that Jack’s Abby will debut in Rhode Island in late April and will be distributed by Atlantic Importing, a Framingham, MA-based company that has opened an outpost in this market. Reps have been visiting retailers and bars, so you can look forward to stocking up on and sipping their extraordinary year-round brews — Hoponius Union [India pale lager], Smoke & Dagger [black lager], Jabby Brau [a session brew], Mass Rising [double IPL], and Leisure Time [wheat lager with spice] — and their seasonal offerings.

We reached out to Jack’s Abby and Atlantic Importing for an “official” release but haven’t heard from them. So we’ll tweak the statement that Sam made when the brewery announced its expansion to Connecticut in May 2014: “We are excited to hop over the border and have our beers available throughout the state of [Rhode Island]. We believe that the beer drinkers of [Rhode Island] will respond to our unique craft lagers.”

We know Rhode Islanders will drink to that! And with the arrival of Jack’s Abby and Alpine and the return of Ballast Point and Left Hand, “2015: The Year in Beer” is off to a outstanding start! [Here’s our look back at 2014.] Cheers to mo’ better beers!

A follow-up to yesterday’s Untappd item: check their homepage. Our work is done there!

For updates and post alerts, PLEASE follow Bottles & Cans at Twitter [@BottlesCansRI] and Facebook and/or SIGN UP for e-mail alerts at the top of this page. Tell your friends!!!

The Favorite Rhode Island Beer Bar Bracket: The Final Four; plus, Foolproof and Proclamation Ale on the 101 Best US Beers list

Our version of March Madness, the Favorite Rhode Island Beer Bar Bracket, started last week with the Sweet 16 [here’s the original bracket], featuring eight “teams” from Providence/Warwick and eight other brew havens from all over the state. On Monday, the Elite 8 got underway:


And now [drum roll]: the Final Four, featuring one David and three Goliaths:


The Final Four will run through Sunday [3.29]; the two finalists will do battle in the Championship Game from Monday [3.30] till Wednesday [4.1]. Rhode Island’s Favorite Beer Bar will be announced on Thursday, April 2. [And here’s even more Madness: USA Today’s Ultimate Craft Beer Bracket, which is also down to its Final Four.]


The "101 Best Beers" image from Men's Journal [photo by Michael Pirrocco]
The “101 Best Beers” image from Men’s Journal [photo by Michael Pirrocco]
Media notes: On Wednesday, Men’s Journal posted its annual list of “The 101 Best Beers In America.” Their intro: “There’s never been a better time to be a beer drinker. There’s also never been a more confusing time. Over the past five years, the number of craft breweries has more than doubled, to nearly 3,500, cranking out countless new ales, lagers, porters, and stouts in all 50 states. The question, of course: Which ones should you drink?” They chose two beers from every state [and one from DC]; the Rhode Island standouts in “the ultimate American beer tour” are from Foolproof Brewing Company and Proclamation Ale Company. MJ cited Foolproof’s La Ferme Urbaine, a farmhouse saison: “This eight-percent farmhouse ale tastes like it was just air-dropped from Belgium, but it’s actually from a two-year old brewery in Pawtucket. The brewers at Foolproof  use a complex grain bill with barley, wheat, rye, oats, and spelt. And while we can’t tell you what exactly the spelt flavor is, it works. A bright spice from the yeast and rich malt flavor are set off by biting herbal hops in this fantastic saison.” And Proclamation’s Keraterra, an American wild ale, garnered this praise: “Rhode Island’s Proclamation Ale Co. opened in January, 2014 promising, ‘big beer from a small state.’ Its golden Keraterra delivers flavor in spades. The beer is brewed with the tropical and citrusy Amarillo and Citra hops, and fermented with wild Brettanomyces yeast in Pinot Noir barrels. The tropical hop notes harmonize with the funky flavors expressed by the yeast and the Pinot Noir barrels add a vinous oaky complexity. In what could be a mess of overpowering flavors, Proclamation reigns in each element to complement one another, instead of drowning each other out.” The local brews are rubbing shoulders on the list with the likes of Ballast Point’s Sculpin, Founders’ KBS, 3 Floyds’ Zombie Dust and, of course, The Alchemist’s Heady Topper. It’s a well-deserved honor, and comes on the heels of Foolproof and Proclamation’s buzz-generating stint at the invitation-only Extreme Beer Fest. Huzzah!

Two days earlier, Boston magazine unveiled its list of the “21 Top Breweries In New England,” with the Providence-based-but-Rochester, NY-brewed Narragansett as the lone RI rep at #21 [Hill Farmstead in VT is #1]. But the monthly’s beer-ranking bona fides are a bit suspect: In 2014, they compiled “The 50 New England Breweries to Visit This Summer” [Foolproof made the list] — which didn’t include any beermakers in Connecticut, which set off an off-with-his-head! outcry, and was amended six weeks later with “Traversing the Booming Connecticut Craft Beer Trail” [two CT brewers are on the new list: New England Brewing Co. at #7 and Two Roads at #12].

But we know very well, after years of compiling The Bests and parsing other projects at the late, lamented Providence Phoenix, that list-making exercises [and ballots and the Favorite Rhode Island Beer Bracket] are subjective and imperfect and just for fun. And when it comes to beer, everyone’s palette…um, pallet…er, palate is different.

Untapped-Logo-fixed Which leads to this throwing-bricks-in-a-glass-house item: The Bottles & Cans desk is not a typo- or oops-free zone. We have stubbornly and incorrectly inserted a hyphen into Julians [we just fixed ’em, though they’re still on the brackets] and have stumbled on a fact or three [and fixed ’em ASAP]. [And at the late, lamented Providence Phoenix we had a few classic groaners, most notably printing SURVIVOR without the first V — in 136-point type. On the cover.]

With that in mind, we share this item: On Wednesday, in the midst of a clickathon through the beer sites, we hit, the brew-tracking/sharing/discovering/badge-awarding hub. One of the main text blocks on the homepage, under the heading “Drink New Beers, Unlock Badges,” declared, “Expand your palette…” [How long had it been wrong? Have people been too busy drinkng and tappng to call attention to the gaffe?] So, as one is duty-bound to do in 2015, we tweeted:

@untappd should unlock a Dictionary Badge: its homepage encourages you to “Expand your palette” #it’spalate #drinksociallyspellcorrectly

This morning we checked to see if the word had been fixed — and to gauge the impact of the mighty B&C franchise. Well, kinda-almost. As of 11:42 am, it reads, “Expand your palete…” We hope the third try’s the charm — and are curious to see the name of the badge that the Untapprs will unlock for us…

And FYI: On Wednesday at Doherty’s Irish Pub, the Founders CBS was tapped at 7 pm, and was allll gone 34 minutes later. Get ready for the next Founders frenzy: KBS [Kentucky Breakfast Stout] will be released on April 1.

Last chance to vote in the Elite 8; plus, Derivative bottles and the Off-Centered Film Fest

Today’s the last chance to vote in the Favorite Rhode Island Beer Bar Bracket; the polls will close tonight around 10 pm. Two of the “games” are tightly contested, so your pick could be a buzzer-beater. The Final Four will be announced on Thursday and run through Sunday [3.29]. The two finalists will face off from Monday [3.30] till Thursday [4.2]. Rhode Island’s Favorite Beer Bar will cut down the nets and raise a triumphant glass on Friday, April 3.

OK, here are a couple of quick notes before we hop in the limo and head to Doherty’s Irish Pub to be first in line for the Founders’ CBS release party

Deriv A heads up from Dave at Proclamation Ale Co.: “Friday, March 27th 5-8 pm = bottle release night for Derivative! Come down to the brewery and grab some in bottles! (and just saying, this batch that got bottled is the best batch ever… )” If you can’t get to West Kingston, you’ll be able to snag bombers of the divine Galaxy-hopped pale ale at select beer stores in the next day or three.

Are you a beer-loving aspiring filmmaker? Then you should enter a short [three-minute-or-less] cinematic masterpiece in the 8th Annual Off-Centered Film Fest, presented by Dogfish Head and the Alamo [TX] Drafthouse Cinema. The theme: “Yacht Rockin’.” Combine water and weirdness and whatever else you can conjure to bring the concept to entertaining life. The sponsors promise the winner “a boatload of goodies, not to mention glory.” Head to the website to see last year’s winners and glom the guidelines [films must be submitted by March 31].

For updates and post alerts, PLEASE follow Bottles & Cans at Twitter [@BottlesCansRI] and Facebook and/or SIGN UP for e-mail alerts at the top of this page. Tell your friends!!!

Get in line for Founders’ CBS and Brian Oakley and Mike Iannazzi’s Dark Art

Remember: The Favorite Rhode Island Beer Bar Bracket voting closes on Wednesday! While you muse on your Final Four picks, here are two rare brews to line up for:

dark_rt Every year, Sierra Nevada presents Beer Camp, “the ultimate brewing experience.” Participants get special tours of the brewhouse, cellars, hop rooms, bottling line, and hop yard — and collaborate with SN’s “mad beer scientists” to produce unique and one-time brews [some of them get national distribution in the limited edition Beer Camp 12-packs]. Last summer, Brian Oakley of Julians and Mike Iannazzi of Nikki’s Liquors made the trek to Beer Camp and conjured a beer called Dark Art. Brian says it’s a “strong black ale dry hopped with an experimental hop related to Simcoe [and] dosed with almonds from the local almond farm right near the brewery.” The duo “haven’t even tasted it yet,” and you can share the first taste with them tonight at Julians. The keg will tapped at 6:30 pm. And if you want to enter to win a trip to the 2015 Beer Camps [in Chico, CA June 17-19 and Mills River, NC July 29-31], go to Sierra Beer Camp for all the details.

CBS Ready to chase a whale? Founders Brewing Co.’s Canadian Breakfast Stout [CBS], an imperial ale [10.6% ABV] made with chocolate and coffee and aged in maple syrup bourbon barrels, is making its first appearance since 2011 [draft only]. It’s at the top of the Rare Beer Charts [and has a 100 ranking on the beer sites]. The first batch to ever be tapped in Rhode Island [Founders entered our market in 2012] will start pouring at Doherty’s Irish Pub in Pawtucket on Wednesday [3.25] at 6 pm [the poster says the event runs through 9, but the CBS will likely disappear looooong before then]. They may want to borrow a take-a-number machine from a nearby bakery or deli to cut down on jostling and lend some order to the stout-spearing. And if you miss out tomorrow, plan waaay ahead: CBS will be at Doherty’s Ale House on October 15, aka Beervana Eve.