On Wednesday, state reps Stephen Casey and Michael Morin hosted members of the Rhode Island Brewers Association “to bring awareness to the successful microbreweries we have in the state.” [Click here to ID some of the folks in the photo.] Nate Broomfield of Bucket Brewery told us: “[Rep. Casey] talked about how the beer market is shrinking, but craft sales are increasing by double-digit percentages, which is ‘how small business should work,’ and he made the point that ‘we need to support these guys.’ The rep from Wakefield then took a minute to welcome Whaler’s personally [from her district] and note to the rest of the House that the jobs we create are manufacturing jobs. The implication is that RI should be very happy to have manufacturing growth. Aside from that, no specific legislation was discussed, nor did any of the brewers address the house in session. We did speak individually or in small groups afterward, but didn’t get into much in the way of specifics.” Nick Garrison of Foolproof added: “It was a very special experience and great for the brewing community to get that kind of visibility before our legislators.” Here’s hoping the legislators will be addressing some [or all!] of the “raising the beer bar in Rhode Island” topics that we addressed in this post. We’ll be doing a follow-up piece soon. There’s work to do!
And speaking of local beer, here’s what’s on tap this weekend:
• On Saturday [1-4 pm], Tilted Barn Brewery will debut a new brew [whose name will be revealed when you get to the farm]: an American Wheat ale made with spruce tips from TBB’s Christmas trees. They’ll also be pouring Raffi [oatmeal stout] and the Chosen One [double IPA].
• Dave at Proclamation Ale has a “double release goodness” of “mega-tart sour juice for all your faceholes”: bombers of Harper I Apricot [blonde sour fermented in oak barrels] and Keraterra “with a different brett strain, fermented in red wine barrels, and dry hopped with Galaxy and Mosaic hops.” Plus: Derivative: Galaxy in bombers on Friday [5-8 pm] and growlers/bottles on Saturday [1-5 pm] and a wee bit of The Stalk [double IPA].
• Tonight [6.12, 5-8 pm] is Beer Hall Night at Foolproof. It’s a teaser for the brewery’s Augtoberfest, which will take place on 8.1. Admission is $15, which includes a half-liter stein, three beer samples, a snack from the Noble Knots food truck, and a chance to win tix to the big beer bash. And they’re open on Saturday from 1-5 for tastings, growler fills, and tours [$10, three samples].
•Grey Sail has a new entry in its Chalkboard Series — a Farmhouse Ale made with Belgian yeast, spelt malt, and Sterling, Styrian Aurora, and Hallertauer hops — plus the regular lineup: Flagship, Flying Jenny, Hazy Day, Captain’s Daughter, Avenue N, and Pour Judgement. Head to Westerly today from 4-7 pm [note: Wednesday and Thursday from 4-7 has been added to the summer schedule], plus Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 pm. And ICYMI: here’s the link to our “Get To Know Your Brewer” profile of Grey Sail’s Josh Letourneau.
• What’s at Whaler’s? Check this 14-second video! [Spoiler alert: it’s Belgian Tripel, Plum Pale Ale, Saison, Hazelnut Stout, and the two beers mentioned in the next sentence.] And click here to get the details on the Whaler’s #PARTYTRAIN, which will be choo-chooing their new East Coast IPA and Ginger Wheat to better beer bars statewide through Thursday [6.18].
•Bucket Brewery has tastings today [1-7:30 pm] and Saturday [11 am-5 pm, $5] and tours on Saturday [1:30, 2:30, 3:30 pm, $13, includes pint glass]. On tap [and 32-ounce growler fillable]: 33rd Inning, Pail Ale, 13th Original Maple Stout, Sabin’s Stout, and Park Loop Porter.
•Crooked Current is pouring Immorality Pale Ale, Kickback American Wheat, and the new Strawberry Blonde Ale.
• And on Saturday at Tilted Barn from 1-3 and Whaler’s from 4-7, Kristie and Ashleigh will be sellin’ and signin’ and talkin’about their book, Rhode Island Beer: Ocean State History On Tap.
And on Saturday, the America On Tap beer fest is at Roger Williams Park [2:30-6 pm]. There are more than 50 brewers [and ciderists], including Bucket, Foolproof, Grey Sail, Narragansett, and Newport Storm, and a lotta high-quality nationals [Allagash, Ballast Point, Dogfish Head, Heavy Seas, North Coast, Stone, Weyerbacher, and many more] pouring more than 100 samples. The beer list is here. Tix are $45 in advance [plus $3.25 for “fees”] and $55 day of show.
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Here’s our weekly roundup of who’s pouring what where, plus a few bonus items:
•Proclamation Ale has “super-fresh” bombers of Derivative: Galaxy, plus growlers/tastings of The Stalk [double IPA] and the “fruity funkbomb” Keraterra [Friday 5-8 pm and Saturday 1-5 pm].
• You can head south early on Saturday — Tilted Barn Brewery will have special hours this week only, from 11 am-2 pm. They’ll have Raffi [oatmeal stout], the Chosen One [double IPA], and First Harvest Mosaic [heads up: the latter “will sell out early”]. And congrats to the Tilted Barn crew, which was awarded a 2015 Local Agriculture and Seafood Act grant. TBB will “start renovating the barn to build a tour/tasting area and a much-needed hop drying space on the second floor, among other things. Work will start this summer and more details to come soon!”
•Foolproof has a fab four [Barstool, Backyahd, La Femme Urbaine, and King of the Yahd] for growler fills, plus a special cask for tastings: LFU with ginger and lemongrass.
•Crooked Current is offering Immorality Pale Ale, Kickback American Wheat, and heralds the return of the Raspberry Wheat ale.
•Grey Sail has its usual stellar lineup: Flagship, Flying Jenny, Hazy Day, Captain’s Daughter, Great Ketch, Avenue N, and Pour Judgement. And don’t forget the new Friday hours: 4-7 pm [formerly 3-6; also note that they’ve added Wednesday and Thursday from 4-7 to the summer schedule], plus Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 pm.
A recent conversation re: the cost of beer reminded us of this very informative piece, “Here’s How a Six-Pack of Craft Beer Ends Up Costing $12,” by Joe Satran at The Huffington Post, which we linked to waaaaay back on 11.1.14 in our first Saturday-beer-read-roundup. You should take the time to read this one [or at least look at the handy beer bottle chart which details how much of the cost goes to each stage of the beer-making/taxing/distributing/retailing process].
• • •
It’s National Doughnut Day! And unlike the other faux “holidays” we cite here, this one’s for real: SFGate.com says it began it began as “a patriotic remembrance of the time in World War I when Salvation Army volunteers handed out doughnuts on the front lines to soldiers. The doughnut-dishers were all women dubbed ‘doughgirls,’ and at the time, the plain cake yummies were just exotic European creations.” In 1938, the Salvation Army established the first Friday in June as National Doughnut Day. There’s a beer tie-in, of course: you can toast NDD with Rogue’s Voodoo Doughnut Lemon Chiffon Crueller Ale, the third brew inspired by Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, OR [their motto: “The magic is in the hole”]. Bottles [750ml] of the 6.9% ABV curiosity are available at Nikki’s Liquors [we just called ’em] and other better beer stores. The beer inspires rather polarized reviews, but if you’ve been tempted to give it a try, today’s the day.
And let’s dig out a bonus Dave parade entry [from 7.27.90], where he sampled all 52 of Dunkin’ Donuts’ lard rings:
Last Friday we took a looong, hard look at Rhode Island liquor laws. Yes, it’s a drag that you can only “buy” 72 ounces of beer at local breweries. But we’re going to ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive [our growler is half-full]: pick a destination [or three] this weekend and “buy” 72 ounces of beer! [And if you haven’t read our looong, hard look at Rhode Island liquor laws, please do. And talk about the topic with your local brewers. We think they may have an opinion or three…]
•Proclamation Ale Company is getting back to “normal” at their HQ in West Kingston. They’re showcasing hoppy beers this weekend [Friday 5-8 pm + Saturday 1-5 pm], sharing some test batches from the new system as they “try to get the new stuff dialed in.” On tap [for tastings and growlers]: The Stalk, a double IPA [8.6% ABV] made with “three sexy hop varieties”, and Derivative: Mosaic [6%]. You can also pick up bombers of Derivative: Galaxy [pale ale, 6%], 750s of Keraterra [6.8%, made with brett, aged in red wine barrels, dry-hopped with Citra and Amarillo = “a fruity funkbomb”], and Harper 1 Blackberry [sour beer, limit: one 500ml per person].
• Nate at Bucket Brewery sez: “This weekend will see the end of 13th Original Maple Stout [for now] and the barrel-aged Sabin’s Stout, so get ’em while they last. We have Park Loop Porter, Pawtucket Pail Ale, and 33rd Inning Rye Lager flowing as well.” You can also get the spiffy new Bucket six-packs o’ cans [33rd Inning and Pail Ale]! Tastings [$5] are today from 1-7:30 pm and on Saturday from 11 am-5 pm [tours @ 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 are $13 and include a tasting and BB pint glass].
• On Saturday [1-4 pm], Tilted Barn will have fresh batches of Raffi [oatmeal stout] and First Harvest Mosaic, plus Peeptoad Pale Ale.
• Crooked Current is pouring Immorality Pale Ale, Kickback American Wheat, and Strawberry Blonde Ale “until it lasts, at which point our Raspberry Wheat will make a cameo appearance.”
• Grey Sail has a baker’s half-dozen reasons to head to Westerly: Flagship, Flying Jenny, Hazy Day, Captain’s Daughter, Great Ketch, Avenue N, and Pour Judgement. And note the new Friday hours: 4-7 pm [formerly 3-6; also note that they’ve added Wednesday and Thursday from 4-7 to the summer schedule], plus Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 pm.
• Foolproof has its five year-round brews, plus a special cask of King of the Yahd Imperial IPA “with grapefruit juice and zest,” plus Amarillo hops.
• Whaler’s Brewing is mixing it up with Orange Wheat, Strawberry Blonde, American Strong Ale, Hazelnut Stout, Calypso IPA, and Golden Ale.
• And Revival’s White Electric Coffee Stout can be found in four-packs at a better beer store near you; six-packs of Night Swim’ah, their new seasonal Belgian wheat ale, will by side by each with it any day now
• • •
This one’s down the road a piece: Last summer, Narragansett released Town Beach, an imperial IPA [8.1%], as part of its Private Stock series. This time around, they’re dropping the ABV to 5% and putting the brew in six-packs of tallboys instead of bombers. The cans are slated to hit the packies around the third week of July.
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You can’t always get what you want
_The Rolling Stones
On October 30, 2014, two days after the launch of this enterprise, we received our first email, which included a question about growlers. In February, when we introduced the “Ask Bottles & Cans” series, five questions concerned growlers — and frustration over the 72-ounce limit was cited in most of them.
Why the 72-ounce cap? Let’s turn back the clock a bit…
On July 16, 2013, Governor Lincoln Chafee signed S 0236 Substitute A, “An Act Relating to Alcoholic Beverages — Manufacturing and Wholesale Licenses,” which allowed breweries and distilleries to “provide to visitors in conjunction with a tour and/or tasting, samples, clearly marked as samples, not to exceed 375 ml per visitor for distilled spirits and 72 ounces per visitor for malt beverages at the licensed plant by the manufacturer of the product of the licensed plant to visitors for off-premise consumption.”
Translation: Rhode Island breweries [Bucket, Foolproof, Grey Sail, Newport Storm, and Ravenous when the bill was passed, since joined by Proclamation, Whaler’s, Crooked Current, and Tilted Barn; Revival and Narragansett don’t have their own shops] could finally “sell” beer at their facilities and you could take it home [or wherever] and enjoy it. The “72 ounces per visitor” equals a six-pack, three 22-ounce bombers, a conventional 64-ounce growler, or two growlettes/howlers [or a combination of those formats]. The “sale” of the “sample” would be allowed as part of a tasting and/or tour.
It was a long-sought and hard-fought victory. The battle began around 2006 when Newport Storm — then the state’s lone brewery — started the push to legalize growler sales. The proposal was met with firm resistance from wholesalers [and their lobbyists], who touted the venerable merits of the established alcohol distribution system. After years of frustration, the fledgling breweries joined the cause and the beer-to-go “clearly marked as samples” law got the green light.
Even the smallest change is a large accomplishment. Liquor laws are a hornet’s nest, a can of worms, a confounding tangle of red tape — choose your metaphor. All 50 states have different sets of rules and regulations and restrictions — and some of those three Rs differ in a given state’s cities and towns. Many of the laws have been on the books since the repeal of Prohibition and the establishment of the three-tier system of alcohol distribution in 1933. But eight decades later, the proliferation of small brewers and consumers’ passion for supporting local beer and businesses means its time to make significant updates to the established alcohol distribution system.
• • •
Rhode Islanders’ aversion to traveling “long distances” is well-known. Local beer lovers would be much more likely to make the round trip from Warwick [80 miles] or Woonsocket [114 miles!!] to get fresh beer at Grey Sail in Westerly if they could purchase more than one growler. With beer tourism on the rise, the limit will discourage visitors to “Discover Beautiful Rhode Island,” as the signs urge drivers at the state’s borders, and encourage informed travelers to head to breweries in Massachusetts and/or Connecticut. There is no limit to the number of growlers you can purchase in the Bay State [though breweries must fill their “own” growlers, emblazoned with their branding; in RI, some brewers will only fill their own glassware; call ahead!]; in Connecticut, customers can buy 288 ounces per visit — aka, four growlers [and one quart].
The 72-ounce limit at breweries is even more irksome since there is no limit on the number of growlers that can be purchased at brewpubs [and you can buy multiple cases of wine at local vineyards]. And there is no limit on the number of pre-filled growlers [from Bucket, Berkshire Brewing, and other area companies] that can be bought at stores. That playing field needs to be leveled!
There is a lot of potential upside to lifting the restriction: it would boost sales [um, duh] which would lead to increased production — and more jobs! Win-win-win! Readers also mused that an increase in growler sales would boost the state’s sales tax, but that’s not the case. S 0236 authorized breweries to “sample” growlers — but by law they are selling the tour and/or tasting, not the beer. Because they are selling a service, there is no sales tax [though there is a tax paid for the glassware — it’s always something]. OK, add a tax fix to that ounces amendment!
• • •
Given the struggle that finally yielded the 72-ounce “compromise,” as one brewer called it, there is some resistance to fighting that battle all over again with the wholesalers and retailers — and their lobbyists. Another brewer said: “It was a [long] fight to get the 72 ounces, and a big concern that we had to overcome was that if we were allowed that much, we’d start looking for more. It is frustrating that just about any other business can manufacture and sell their product, while alcohol producers need to do business with one hand tied behind our backs.” And presently, the state’s breweries are at distinct tiers, vis-à-vis on-site vs. wholesale purchases: the more established beermakers — Newport Storm, Foolproof, Grey Sail, Bucket — have a growing foothold in the marketplace, while the nanos and micros could see significant gains with increased in-house sales.
It’s a tricky balancing act for all concerned. Six of the locals [Bucket, Foolproof, Grey Sail, Newport Storm, Proclamation, and Revival; the latter enjoys unlimited growler sales through its partnership with the Brutopia brewpub] are sold in stores — and distributed by the tier of the industry that fought the growler law. All of the breweries [except Tilted Barn, for now] are available in bars. But with the dramatic rise of craft’s share of the market, finding a way to share the increasing revenue should be mutually beneficial at all the levels of the three-tier system.
• • •
We’re sure there were some legislative struggles in our neighboring states, but we’re hoping that the old saw about a rising tide lifting all boats can be embraced by the lobbyists and that the potential for increased sales at local breweries isn’t seen as a threat to sales at liquor stores.
We reached out to some folks who know how the sausage gets made at the State House for some advice on how to start pushing for change:
• Nothing will happen before 2016 when new legislation can be submitted to the House and Senate [S 0236 Substitute A was introduced on 2.6.13, passed the Senate in April, and was signed in July], but the campaign for better beer laws needs to start in the fall.
• The crux of the matter is that beer is a business, and changing the laws will be good for the economic growth of a small but thriving local industry. Contact your lawmakers [especially those who represent the breweries’ home cities and towns] and express your support for the state’s hard-working and ambitious beermakers. [S 0236 Substitute A was introduced by Senators Louis P. DiPalma, M. Teresa Paiva Weed, Dennis L. Algiere, Erin P. Lynch, and Dominick J. Ruggerio; they can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org].
• The brewers need to do a PR campaign. The first step should be the long-overdue launch of a RI Beer Trail/Brewery Challenge/Passport project, modeled on the programs in Massachusetts and Vermont. It’s simple and fun: participants get a T-shirt [or other promotional swag] when their passport is stamped by all of the breweries and brewpubs on the Biggest Little map. It’s a simple and very interactive way to promote the profile of RI beer in-state and beyond. A subsequent campaign trumpeting the benefit of increased sales and jobs would raise awareness and support the cause.
• Local brewers need their own lobbyist to make the case that outdated laws are restricting business and potential job growth. Working the corridors of power at the State House is another playing field that needs to be leveled.
But the wheels turn slowly everywhere. Here’s a prime example: in April, after three years [and more than $1 million of lobbyist to-ing-and-fro-ing], Florida passed a bill that allowed sales of industry-standard 64-ounce growlers — changing the law that had limited sales to quart and gallon [!] containers. Governor Rick Scott’s comment should be espoused as an inspirational rallying cry for all of these proposals: “By making the sale of 64-ounce growlers legal in Florida, we are eliminating another burdensome regulation and allowing more Florida businesses to succeed. We are pleased to create a world-class business environment where all businesses, including breweries, can succeed.” Huzzah! We’ll drink to that!
• • •
Beyond growlers, another key legislative focus is on approving tap room status for breweries, like they have in [wait for it…] Massachusetts and Connecticut. S 0236 specifies that the manufacturer’s license “does not authorize the sale of beverages for consumption on premises.” In Connecticut, a Manufacturer Permit allows growler sales, while a coveted Manufacturer for Beer and Brewpub license adds pint sales in the tasting room. So we’ll need yet another law to enhance the brewery experience — and boost the aforementioned beer tourism. Win-win!
• • •
And while we’re shaking things up, let’s add another spoke to the better beer wheel and make the case for growler sales of local and national accounts at retail locations. Thirty-five or so states fill glassware at grocery and convenience stores, gas stations, and liquor stores. We recently visited a package store in upstate NY whose dozen taps were pouring the likes of Jack’s Abby’s Hoponius Union, Evil Twin’s Imperial Doughnut Break, and Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout in your choice of container — 64-, 32, or 16-ounce [a growler of BCBS was $37.99; that’s not a typo]. Consumers would love that option here, and retailers would benefit from adding the draft format — but bar owners would likely frown on the addition [though in PA and other states you can buy growlers-to-go at taverns]. [When Bottles in Providence opened they had a growler station, but it was quickly removed as it was in violation of a state law and/or health code.] Maybe we can add this to the 2017 legislative calendar…
• • •
Is any state a true brewtopia — with growlers available at breweries and retail and taverns? With a more-options-are-better mindset? With a why-can’t-we-all-get-along? attitude? Nah, it’s always something. But we hope that Rhode Island will make strides to help small breweries thrive, to have more choices at stores, and to motivate a beer lover in Woonsocket to drive allll the way to Westerly — and to explore and enjoy our many other hoppy stops in between.
Mega-thanks to everyone — at all the levels of the three-tier system — who provided data, guidance, advice, and feedback. Please add your input in the Comment section!
American Craft Beer Week is in the home stretch [but don’t worry: next week is another seven-day span during which you can enjoy craft beer in America]; scroll down to check our two previous posts re: what’s happening. If you’re thirsty for growlers and tastings, here’s a roundup of what’s waiting for you at the local breweries. [And vote now in The Favorite Rhode Island Brewpub Poll!]
•Bucket Brewery’s cans are rolling into stores, and they’ll celebrate with the “Yes, we can” Can Release Party/Friday Night Sound Check [6-9 pm], with music by Consuelo’s Revenge, the Paco’s Tacos Mobile Mex food truck, and a cornhole battle. Beer-wise, you can work the fill-your-own canning station and sample their fresh wares, including Sabin’s Stout, aged in an Uprising barrel from Sons of Liberty Spirits Co. It’s $15 at the door, which includes four beer sample tickets [an extra $5 = a souvenir glass and extra beer per pour; bring a non-perishable food item for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and you get a bonus beer ticket].
•Whaler’s Brewing is “invading” Rogue Island at 7 pm, but their HQ in Wakefield will be doing business as usual [today 4-8 pm, Saturday 1-7pm, Sunday 1-5 pm], pouring Strawberry Blonde, Citra IPA, Bourbon Stout, R+D IPA II, Strong Ale, and Hazelnut Stout.
•Grey Sail [today 3-6 pm, Saturday and Sunday 1-5 pm, with tours on Saturday] has Avenue N “Wheated IPA,” Great Ketch, Captain’s Daughter, Pour Judgement IPA, Flagship, Flying Jenny, and Hazy Day for tastings and growlers.
•Proclamation Ale Company will be open this weekend for bottle and growler sales only [no tastings]. On Friday [5-8 pm] they’ll have Derivative: Galaxy available in bottles and growlers, plus bottles of Keraterra and Plattelander. On Saturday [1-5 pm]: all of the above plus the new Derivative: Mosaic [growlers only].
• On Saturday [1-4 pm], Tilted Barn will have Brew Fest IPA, Peeptoad Pale Ale, and “what will likely be the last of Pour Sap” [maple brown ale].
•Crooked Current will have Strawberry Blonde Ale and Raspberry Wheat on Saturday [1-4 pm] for samples and growler fills
It’s Friday! Already?! Sweet! Here are some places to get your beer on this weekend — and a word search puzzle for your time-wasting pleasure:
• On Saturday [5.2], Tilted Barn Brewery will introduce Pour Sap, a maple brown ale made with the sweet sticky goodness coaxed from trees at the farm. It’s ready for tastings and growler fills, side by each with its tapmates Chosen One DIPA and Raffi, an oatmeal stout made with coffee from Updike’s Newtowne Coffee Roasting Company in North Kingstown. Line up and soak up the sunshine and the brews from 1 to 4 pm.
•Proclamation Ale Company is still getting the new brewhouse up and running, so they’re “semi-closed” this weekend. Brewmaster Dave Witham explains: “Oh, wtf does semi-closed mean? It means that we will be closed on Friday, but if you want to come in on Saturday 1-5 pm, we are open for Derivative Growlers Only. Sorry, but we’re unable to host tastings due to the current state of the brewery.”
• Further down the road in Westerly, Grey Sail has Flagship, Flying Jenny, Hazy Day, Avenue N [a hoppy wheat ale], Pour Judgement IPA, and Captain’s Daughter [while it lasts] on tap for tastings and growlers [today 3-6 pm, Saturday and Sunday 1-5 pm, with tours on Saturday]. And if you’re in Newport, be on the lookout for cans of Grey Sail’s new Pour Judgement IPA; they should be available in the rest of the state in the next week or two.
•Pawtucket-bound? Tonight [5.1] at Foolproof’s tasting session [5-7 pm], Warren’s Federal Hill Pizza will share its slices at 6 pm [$10 + three beer samples and a take-home glass]…On Saturday from 1-5 pm, Crooked Current will pour its new Raspberry Wheat Ale, plus Kickback American Wheat and Immortality Pale Ale…And the Red Sox and the Durham Bulls will be in action at McCoy Stadium through Sunday. While you cheer for the home team you can enjoy some brews from Foolproof [Backyahd], Grey Sail [Flying Jenny], and Revival [Zeppelin], plus Wachusett’s Green Monsta, Summer, and Blueberry.
• Don’t forget the mega-ginormous Dogfish Head Total Tap Takeover, which begins at Norey’s today at 4 pm. Click here for allll the details.
• Just for fun, we made a word search featuring the names of local brews. Print it out and start squinting. Here’s what you need to circle:
Captains Daughter • Barstool • Big Bertha • Park Loop Porter • Valhalla • Kickback • Innsmouth Olde Ale • Hurricane • Tendril • Blackstone Pale Ale • Conga • Raffi • Half Day • Dark Dalek
• And we’re sharing two Letterman clips today: the 9.30.86 Rhode Island State Police fashion show [thanks for the reminder, Chuck] and a mini-rant by the beloved Brother Theodore, from one of his 16 Late Night appearances:
We gave you an early heads-up for beer events on Saturday [follow the links for the full reports]: the Record Store Day/Dogfish Head bashes at Pour Judgement, the Scurvy Dog [with a vinyl swap], and the Ocean Mist [their celebration stretches to Sunday] — short take: buy a Dogfish beer and get a raffle ticket for a sweet limited edition mini-portable turntable by Crosley — and the debut of ’Gansett’s Innsmouth Olde Ale, with a walking tour of Lovecraft historical highlights, followed by a first taste [or two] at the English Cellar Alehouse [though on Thursday ’Gansett was retweeting photos of the tallboys already arriving at stores in MA]. And don’t forget the Boston Beer Summit at the Park Plaza Castle today [6-9:30 pm] and on Saturday [12:30-4 and 5:30-9], with nearly 60 brewers pouring more than 200 brews [tix = $55].
Here are some other destinations to head to on this beauteous weekend: Bucket Brewery [100 Carver St, Pawtucket] will host its monthly Friday Night Sound Check today [4.17] from 6-9 pm, with music by the roots-rockin’ Little Compton Band, beer samples and free raffles. Admission is $15; if you bring non-perishable food items for the Rhode Island Food Bank, you’ll get more beer! And you can ooh! and ahh! at their shiny new cans. Do it!…Tilted Barn Brewery is bursting with brews on Saturday from 1 to 4 pm, with Chinook IPA and Raffi, a Oatmeal Stout brewed with coffee from Updike’s Newtowne Coffee Roasters available for tastings and growler fills, plus tastings-only samples of First Harvest Mosaic, Equinox, and Sunrise…Grey Sail is open today from 3 to 6 pm and on Saturday [with tours] and Sunday from 1 to 5. They’ll have Flagship Cream Ale and Flying Jenny, plus Leaning Chimney Smoked Porter, Captain’s Daughter [limited], 3rd Anniversary IPL [limited], and they tell us “we’re down to our last 10 gallons of the following specialty beers for a while/permanently”: Mary Ann’s Ginger Spice [until the fall], Dynasty Imperial Cream Ale [forever], and Pour Judgement IPA [temporarily]…And you can map out the first leg of your own version of the Rhode Island Beer Trail/Brewery Challenge, with a route that runs from Ravenous Brewing in Woonsocket to Foolproof and Crooked Current in Pawtucket to Proclamation Ale Co. in West Kingston [update from Dave: “tonight 5-8, tomorrow 1-5 pm. Tendril available for growlers, Plattelander bottles. Derivative all gone, but we have Peachlander, remaining anniversary and maybe some other random stuff for tastings…(shhh)” to Whaler’s in Wakefield [and the aforementioned breweries]. Follow the links for updates on what you can taste and take home.
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In 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  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].
On Monday, the Brewers Association, which reps “small and independent American” beer makers, released its 2014 report on craft brewing growth, and the news is no surprise: better beer is still on the rise. Craft volume — 22.2 million barrels — grew 18% for the second consecutive year, while the total US beer market increased .5% [a slight uptick from a 1.9% drop in ’13]. Craft brews now account for 11% of suds consumption — double digits! — up from 7.8% in ’13 [it was 4.4% in ’09]. Dollar-wise, craft rang up $19.6 billion — 19.3% of the $100+ billion beer market, and a 22% boost over ’13. At year’s end there were 3464 breweries [up from 2768 in ’13; 46 are “non-craft”]: 1412 brewpubs, 1871 micros, and 135 regional craft companies [with a workforce of 115.5K], with 615 new businesses and only 46 closings. And Rhode Island did its part, welcoming Brutopia, Crooked Current, Tilted Barn, and Whaler’s to the 401 craft family. The BA predicts the increase will continue to surge this year [and they note that “numbers are preliminary”; the list of the top 50 craft brewing companies and overall breweries by volume sales is due on March 31]. Bart Watson, the BA’s chief economist, says “craft brewing is part of a profound shift in American beer culture” and that brewers are on a path to “achieve their ambitious goal of 20 percent market share by 2020.”
Those numbers have an asterisk: in 2014 the BA tweaked its “Craft Brewer Definition,” which includes the word “traditional” [a “brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation”] as well as “small” [six million barrels or less] and “independent” [“less than 25 percent…is owned or controlled…by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer”]. The BA explained, “The idea that brewers who had been in business for generations didn’t qualify as ‘traditional’ simply did not cohere for many members…The revised definition removes the subjective assessment by Brewers Association staff of whether adjuncts ‘enhance’ or ‘lighten’ flavor in a particular beer.” That revision opened the door to the likes of Yuengling — the fourth-largest US brewer in ’13 — plus August Schell [#28], and Narragansett [#49], which had been excluded due their use of adjuncts — specifically, corn — in the brewing process [check out Schell’s impassioned response to BA’s pre-tweak definition]. So those numbers got a big boost from the new “craft beer” companies — and their inclusion inspired mucho debate over what the phrase means these days, with many pundits encouraging the use of one word: beer.
But even without the revenue from Pottsville, PA, New Ulm, MN and our own “Hi, Neighbor!,” the BA report is a reason to be very cheer[s]ful. And we know that everyone who visits Bottles & Cans is doing their part to make those numbers climb even higher in 2015.
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We launched this modest enterprise on October 28 with a post titled “So, where were we?” [which is now the “About” blurb on the home page]: “After three years in the now-defunct Providence Phoenix, Bottles & Cans & Just Clap Your Hands is now digital and mostly-daily, with news on Rhode Island breweries and bars, events, and the freshest releases from our own backyahd and beyond.”
In the past four months we’ve [somehow] managed to fulfill the “mostly-daily” pledge [after running every two — or three or four — weeks in print; we had three posts on December 30!] and mission statement, and have gotten a few big scoops along the way [breaking the news re: the return of Left Hand and Ballast Point and the debut of Alpine].
We’ve been scrolling through the archives for the last few minutes and will immodestly say that we’re impressed and proud of the output at the Bottles & Cans Desk. [And we use the editorial we because we do a lot of mumbling to ourselves at said desk.] We hope you’ve gleaned a few fun facts and gotten tipped off to great new beers, and been entertained too.
Some inside sabeermatics: We’ve amassed 12.5K page views and the daily-visitors-average has been rising every week. Our most-viewed post [aside from the brewery poll] is “Grey Sail’s Captain’s Daughter: a star is born” [“Rhode Island finally has a beer that has earned a buzzworthy following”]. It’s read almost-daily and tops the “search engine terms” on our stats page. [Here are a few intriguing searches: “is cans off your hands a company name”; “ghandi bot cans valuable?”; “what is captains daughter liquor”; “where can you redeem your cans and bottles when you live in providence ri.”] And Bottles & Cans has a huge global footprint, with visitors from every corner of the world. [Which brings to mind the Beastie Boys line, “Don’t mean to brag / Don’t mean to boast / But we’re intercontinental when we eat French toast.”] We’re Rhode Island’s Biggest Little Beer Blog!
As our beloved regular readers know, we’re celebrating this momentous 100th post with the Ask Bottles & Cans! Big Giveaway. Everyone who submitted a question about the local beer scene was entered in a drawing for a bottle of Russian River Damnation, 2011 vintage. And our Randomly Selected Lucky Big Giveaway Winner is…Rob! Congrats, sir! We’ll be in touch, and we hope you enjoy the brew.
Most of the Ask Bottles & Cans! questions were about growler sales and regulations, and we’ll delve into that Big Topic in a series of posts next week [we started exploring Rhode Island Growler World two weeks ago — it’s complicated]. On Tuesday we’ll answer the first query on another beery matter.
Huzzah to 100 posts! And thanks to one and all for reading. Cheers!