The winners of the Favorite Rhode Island Beer Store poll!

beer_medalThe results of the Favorite Rhode Island Beer Store [FRIBS] poll are in! There were 2083 votes cast for 34 stores in six regions. Thanks to all the B&C readers who clicked through to support the packies! [We’ve “reopened” the poll so you can see all of the nominees, in case you missed ’em last week].

But before we announce the FRIBS Mix-A-Six of Honorees, we’re going to dip into the Bottles & Cans archive and excerpt a few entries from “Shelf life: Building the best beer store,” which ran in the 4.4.12 edition of the late, lamented Providence Phoenix. All of the esteemed FRIBS nominees are committed to stepping up their beer game day in/day out, and many fulfill the “Shelf life” suggestions.

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We spend a lot of time in liquor stores (hey, it’s in the job description). And we spend way too much time thinking about what would constitute The Best Beer Store. Here’s the list of the features that add up to Retail Beer Bliss.

ORGANIZATION
Too many beer sections are a haphazard mess. And with the proliferation of new brands and releases, and the limits of shelf/cooler/walk-in space, that’s understandable: “Hey, just squeeze this in over there!” It’s better to have a plan. Many stores group beers geographically: New England, East Coast, West Coast, Europe, etc.

BIGGER IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER
There are a lot of beers out there. If you want to peruse a Vast Array of Beer — perhaps a Confoundingly Astounding Beer Selection — head to the superstores. But a well-chosen and varied selection at smaller stores is usually all you need. Be true to your local stores for go-to favorites, and save the immense beer immersion trips for the weekends.

SPOTLIGHT THE NEW
There are new brands and releases every week. But too many stores make the new stuff difficult to find (“Hey, just squeeze this in over there!”). Most beer geeks know what’s coming out, but folks who are curious about craft offerings will be attracted by the word “NEW!” (it’s Pavlovian). The better stores have a shelf/rack/table/area trumpeting their “NEW!” Arrivals. The “Aha!” moment when you spy the hidden treasure can be invigorating, but getting “NEW!” beer shouldn’t devolve into a game of Where’s Waldo?

MIX IT UP
Mix-a-sixes are superb: you can sample new releases, delve into unexplored styles, reunite with an old fave, etc. More stores should add the option [hint, hint]…And the ever-increasing array of variety 12-packs are a win-win — cutting costs and doing the mixing for you [bonus: some beers are exclusive to 12-packs].

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And now [drumroll, please], we proudly present the winners of the Favorite Rhode Island Beer Store poll:

Blackstone Valley: B&C LIQUORS

Providence/Cranston: HIGH SPIRITS

Kent County: HAXTON’S LIQUORS [Rt 2, Warwick]

East Bay: GRAPES & GRAINS

Aquidneck Island: SANDY’S LIQUORS

South County: WYOMING PACKAGE STORE

We reached out to a few folks for an “acceptance speech.” Here are two of them [we’ll update the post if more trickle in]:

From the entire staff at Grapes & Grains, thank you for voting us as your favorite East Bay beer store. We are constantly striving to grow our selection; reintroduce people to old favorites, dig up hidden gems, and hope to bring as much great beer to the East Bay as possible. We are passionate about what we do here, and are incredibly thankful for our customers who let us share our passion. Cheers!

B&C Liquors would like to thank everyone that voted. All of the craft beer stores deserve a round of applause. It’s not easy for any of us with the ever-growing craft beer industry. Thank you to our amazing and supportive customer base. We’re proud to be categorized as one of the top craft beers stores in the state and pleased to be part of the craft beer revolution.”

Cheers to the Sensational Six — and all of the nominees! The beer lovers of Rhode Island thank you for stepping up your beer game — day in/day out…

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2014: The year in beer ’round here

We’ll start sharing new beer news on Monday, but let’s take a look back at a very eventful 12 months in our local beer circles. Wotta year!!

JANUARY

Whaler’s Brewing Company of Wakefield gets its license; they open their doors for tastings and growler fills on May 17.

proc_handlesFEBRUARY

Proclamation Ale Company, helmed by former music teacher/musician/stay-at-home dad/homebrewer Dave Witham, debuts at the Rhode Island Brew Fest [get your tix for the 2015 edition, on January 31] and opens for growler sales and tastings. His motto: “Big Beer From a Small State.” He tells us: “I [don’t] want to make middle of the road beers that one would sit and idly drink. I [want] to make beers that grab one’s attention with more extreme flavor profiles and complexity, all while maintaining some sense of balance.” Mission accomplished!

MARCH

Newport Storm’s Cyclone Series, which kicked off in 2006 with Alyssa, an extreme brown ale, reaches the end of the line [and the alphabet] with Zach, an extreme oatmeal stout.

APRIL

The Brewers Association issues its list of the top 50 breweries of 2013 [based on sales], and Narragansett Beer is one of three new additions, ranking 49th.

Placentia, California’s The Bruery, which does everything big [bottles, ABV, styles, flavor, and price] and Spoetzl Brewery, the Texas company [the fourth-largest craft brewery in the US] that makes Shiner Bock [and other brews], come to the Ocean State.

MAY

Narragansett Del’s Shandy is released and sets off a buying frenzy. “When it came to our second ‘Hi Neighbor Mash Up’ collaboration,” ’Gansett prez Mark Hellendrung said, “Given the sessionable style of our Lager, and the growing popularity of shandys, we knew a collaboration with Del’s would create a quintessential summer brew that generations of New Englanders would be thrilled about.”

The state’s fifth brewpub, Brutopia Brewery, opens in Cranston. Brewmaster Sean Larkin adds another notch on his mash paddle, adding to his beermaking duties at Trinity Brewhouse, Revival, and Narragansett [he helms the seasonal and specialty releases].

In the 17th annual [and final] edition of The Best, the readers of the Providence Phoenix select Doherty’s Ale House as Best Bar, Beer Geek; Revival Brewing as Best Brewery; Trinity Brewhouse as Best Brewpub; and High Spirits as Best Liquor Store, Beer Selection.

JUNE

Pawtucket’s Brewery 401, the state’s smallest beermaker-to-be, changes its name to Crooked Current Brewery because Stony Creek Brewery of Branford, CT, trademarked the 401 area code for beer-related use. They declare that their “(401) IPA is produced specifically for beer lovers in Rhode Island,” though the recipe is virtually identical to their CT-“specific” (860) and (203) brews. P.T. Barnum would be so proud!

Newport Storm releases its first-ever mixed box: the 12 Sheets To the Wind Summer Variety Pack.

Yuengling — “America’s oldest brewery,” the pride of Pottsville, PA — returns to Rhode Island after a 20-year absence . . . Spencer Brewery,  the first Trappist brewery in the US [in Spencer, MA, about 11 miles west of Worcester], and Michigan’s New Holland Brewing are now distributed in Rhode Island.

brewbusJULY

The Rhode Island Brew Bus hits the road. Owner Bill Nangle says, “We are focusing on the craft of brewing and how it is made. This will not be a booze cruise — we are all about the education of great local beer!”

After more than two years of legal wrangling, Nikki’s Liquors moves to its gorgeous new location on Branch Ave in Providence.

AUGUST

After 18 years — and 1867 batches of brew! — Sean Larkin hangs up his mash paddle at Trinity Brewhouse and goes all in at Brutopia, where he ramps up production of Revival Brewing’s beers; bottles of Zeppelin and Burnside Pale Ale soon follow.

On August 1, Foolproof, Narragansett, Proclamation, and Trinity Brewhouse head north to Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Across America fest in Portland, ME, one of seven events in the “largest craft beer celebration in history” to toast the opening of SN’s new brewery in Mills River, NC.

SEPTEMBER

Stevie D’s, the beer bar mecca in Cumberland, opens a second location at the former home of the legendary Lincoln Bar & Grille in Riverside.

Foolproof Brewing Company starts distributing in Vermont.

Tilted Barn Brewery, an offshoot of Matt and Kara Richardson’s Ocean State Hops farm, is licensed as the state’s first farm beer maker. [They share their first batch of brews on November 22.]

OCTOBER

The second annual batch of Narragansett/Autocrat Coffee Milk Stout — six times bigger than the first release that disappeared in a week in 2013 — hits stores . . . ’Gansett expands its reach to Portland, OR and Chattanooga, TN. . . And they reveal their next mash-up: Lovecraft Honey Ale, a partnership with Revival Brewing [which will be released on January 19].

glass_and-Can Grey Sail launches Captain’s Daughter, a double IPA packed with Mosaic hops. You may have heard that it has made quite a splash.

Proclamation Ale announces an expansion; the news is modified and then updated on December 30.

San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery, named after the ratification that repealed Prohibition; British Columbia’s Central City Brewers + Distillers [try their Red Betty IPA]; and Lewiston, ME’s Baxter Brewing squeeze onto local shelves and try to grab some tap handles.

The Providence Phoenix/NewPaper ends a 36-year run; the three-year-old Bottles & Cans & Just Claps Your Hands franchise goes all-digital and mostly-daily @ bottlescansclaphands.wordpress.com.

NOVEMBER

Revival, Grey Sail, Bucket Brewery, Brutopia, Narragansett, Trinity Brewhouse, and Foolproof are medalists at the 18th Annual Great International Beer & Cider Competition [click the link for the categories and winning brews].

Newport Storm’s Annual Release ’14 is most likely the “world’s first snow beer.”

DECEMBER

Crooked Current Brewery is the people’s choice in the 1st Annual Bottles & Cans & Just Clap Your Hands Favorite Rhode Island Brewery Poll.

Foolproof adds New Hampshire to its distro network, and Newport Storm starts shipping to Pennsylvania.

Grey Sail blows out three candles with the release of 3rd Anniversary, a top-notch imperial IPL, and Captain’s Daughter is deemed “a happy find” by the Boston Globe’s Gary Dzen.

The Brewers Association shares a slew of stats and stuff in their report, “The Year In Beer: 2014 Craft Beer In Review.”

Jack’s Abby Brewing may [“nothing is finalized”/keep your fingers crossed] come to Rhode Island in 2015 . . . .

Narragansett Beer prez Mark Hellendrung gives Bottles & Cans an exclusive peek at their plans for 2015.

We’re anticipating another big year of beer and cheer in 2015. Sign up NOW to share the fun!

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