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:

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

Final_Four

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 Untappd.com, 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.

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.

The Favorite Rhode Island Beer Bar Bracket: The Elite 8; plus, Foolproof and Proclamation on the Extreme Beer Fest

dunk-beer-glassOn March 18, we kicked off our take on March Madness: The Favorite Rhode Island Beer Bar Bracket. The Sweet 16 featured eight “teams” from Providence/Warwick and eight other superb watering holes from all over our tiny but potent state. After five days of frenzied voting, which included a few very close finishes, the results are in and we’re ready to present the next round — the Elite 8.

In case you missed the initial pairings, here’s the Sweet 16 bracket:

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And now, the Elite 8 [we wanted to advance the teams on the Sweet 16 layout but had to make a new bracket because Free Bracket Generator.com refuses to generate free brackets today]:

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And here are the nicknames we hatched for the teams:

Doherty’s Ale House Partiers • Doherty’s East Ave Freezeouts • Julians Juggernauts • Mews Tavern 69ers • Pour Judgement Deciders • Stevie D’s Wonders • Track 84 Porters • What Cheer Netops

The Elite 8 will run through Wednesday [3.25], so spread the word and support your faves. The Final Four will face off from Thursday [3.26] through Sunday [3.29]. And 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.

       

Beer Advocate’s 12th Annual Extreme Beer Fest , the self-proclaimed “ultimate throwdown of craft beer creativity,” was held at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston on March 20 and 21, with 70-plus breweries pouring a jaw-dropping list of rare and boundary-stretching beers at three sessions. The EBF is an invitational event, and Rhode Island was proudly represented by Foolproof Brewing Company and Proclamation Ale Co. We asked Nick Garrison and Dave Witham for their perspectives on the one-of-a-kind weekend.

The Foolproof crew [Nick, center] with Sam Calagione and Jason and Todd Alström
Nick said: “Extreme Beer Fest was an incredible experience for the Foolproof team, and we were honored by the opportunity to represent Rhode Island craft beer at the festival. The reception to our beers was really positive, and I think we expanded people’s views on our brewery and the type of beers we are capable of brewing. Our peanut butter porter was the biggest hit, though Pineapple Prince — cask IPA aged on half a pineapple and dry hopped with Citra and Amarillo — was a close second. We also were pouring a keg of Vintage Revery 2013 from our very first batch ever [which tasted amazing, by the way] and La Ferme Urbaine Wild Oak — our farmhouse ale soured in a Woodford Reserve barrel over six months. There were so many amazing offerings from breweries all over the country, both obscure and well-known. [Dogfish Head founder and president] Sam Calagione and the Alström brothers [Beer Advocate founders Jason and Todd] also stopped by our booth to hang out and try our beers — that was a special moment for me and the team. The EBF experience reminded me how lucky I am to work in such a fun and collaborative industry.”

Sam and Dave

And Dave shared these words: “We had an awesome time at EBF. We were totally thrilled to be invited [as such a small brewery], and it’s so incredibly crazy and surreal to be pouring beers alongside many of these breweries and brewers that we look up to and idolize. The people in the brewing community are so friendly and welcoming as a whole, and there was a great feeling of camaraderie between all the people in the industry, no matter the size of the brewery, big or small. From a small brewery’s perspective, the fest was fantastic. We noticed a definite trend throughout every session: at the start, we would be pretty dead [no lines at all], but as the session continued we would get busier and busier. Word would start to spread about certain beers we were pouring, and the eventgoers would start coming around to find those beers. In particular, our Derivative, and Harper I Apricot were the most popular with the attendees. From an eventgoers’ perspective, the sessions were filled with so many great beers. I commented to many of the brewers/workers/attendees that this brewfest in particular had such a high quality level of liquid. I drank probably around 50 different samples of beer throughout all three sessions, and for the first time at any fest, there were no beers that I didn’t finish. That’s incredible [hey, I’m pretty critical and picky]. I had awesome beers from The Rare Barrel, Night Shift, Allagash, Crux Fermentation Project, 4 Hands, Right Brain, Jackie O’s, Night Shift, OEC, Treehouse, Due South, and a ton more. It seems like all of the breweries are escalating their game, and it’s so excellent for craft, as well as the craft consumer. Overall, an excellent time. We got to meet a ton of awesome people [including Sam Calagione, who came by the booth for a few minutes to hang out!), drink a ton of awesome beers, and just relax and realize that we are in one of the greatest goddamn industries while it’s in its golden age. We’re supremely lucky and we got to enjoy ourselves while…working? (Wait, this is work?)

“P.S. Go buy some Derivative in the stores later this week when it drops.”

P.P.S.: Check out the “Top 5 In Your EBF Experience” thread at BeerAdvocate.com to see the raves for Proclamation and Foolproof. Congrats, guys!

March Madness: The Favorite Rhode Island Beer Bar Bracket

dunk-beer-glass’Tis the season for Bracketmania, so we decided to get in on the fun and ask YOU to vote for your Favorite Rhode Island Beer Bar.

It was a big challenge to settle on a Sweet 16; we consulted with a few experts, checked the ratings and reviews at the beer sites, and a consensus emerged, which helped to determine the seeding. We tried to place the teams into four geographical regions but settled on “Providence/Warwick” for one side of the bracket and “Outside Providence/Warwick” on the other. And we left a write-in option — a “play-in game” — to accommodate the fine establishments that didn’t make the cut [note: we didn’t include brewpubs, since most of them only serve their own brews; that category could be fodder for a future poll]. Write-ins — aka “how could you leave out _______ ?!?!?!?!?” [the flipside of “how could you put in _______ ?!?!?!?!?”] — can be submitted in the “Leave a comment” link at the bottom of this post or sent to bottlescansclaphands.com.

The Sweet 16 voting will run through Sunday [one vote per reader — tell your friends!]; on Monday [3.23], we’ll post the Elite 8, and you can get ready to make even more difficult picks…

Support your “favorite teams”! Enjoy the Madness!

UPDATE [3.19]: Our teams need nicknames! So here they are! [They haven’t been “approved” by the establishments; we hope they like them; yes, there are a coupla groaners/eye-rollers.]

Track 84 Porters Julians Juggernauts The Avery Bradleys What Cheer Netops The Scurvy Doghouse Doherty’s Ale House Partiers Rogue Island Rascals Doherty’s East Ave Freezeouts Chomp Open Widers The Malted Barley Mash Tuns Pour Judgement Deciders Norey’s Stars Mews Tavern 69ers Stevie D’s Wonders 84 Tavern On Canal Boaters

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And [with a nod to the Farrelly brothers] here’s the other half of the bracket: