This weekend: What Cheer blows out three candles, Proclamation at Zwanze Day, and Foolproof’s Beer Hall Night

what-cheer-logoThere are a lot of beery events this weekend. Ready, set, go…

On Saturday [9.19], What Cheer Tavern is throwing a third anniversary party. Before we get to the details, let’s dig into the B&C archives for the piece we did in the 9.20.12 edition of the late, lamented Providence Phoenix:

A few days ago, we checked Nikki’s Facebook to see if anything was new. We saw they had friended What Cheer Tavern on Facebook. Which reminded us that we had been told of a sighting of a new sign at what-used-to-be the Acores Café (aka Café 228) at the corner of New York Avenue and Narragansett Boulevard, across from Sollitto’s Liquor Store — yeah, the one with the giant chicken out front. Facebook led us to their dotcom, where we saw that What Cheer is a new craft-centric beer bar, dedicated to local brews.

Our Kia led us to What Cheer on Monday, where we met Dave Crockenberg and Zöe Brown, the couple who opened the doors to the cozy space last Saturday (Dave’s door to the craft world was opened by Stone’s Arrogant Bastard Ale). Draft options on its six (soon to be eight) taps included Grey Sail’s great Flying Jenny Extra Pale Ale, Revival’s Double Black IPA, Trinity’s Tommy’s Red, Newport Storm’s Oktoberfest, and Narragansett Lager (plus Wachusett Green Monsta); bottles and cans in a cooler represent New England, with plans for “guest” beers from the rest of the US to join the rotation (there’s an array of macros for non-craft converts). Dave hopes to add beers from Ravenous, High Jinx, and the Bucket Brewery down the road, and host local brewers and their wares. They also boast of serving “totally decent food” (half-price wings were being very happily devoured at the bar), and there’s a patio that will become a beer garden. It’s a great spot with lots of potential — and another small step in the spread of better beer.

That potential has been realized — and then some — in the last three years. There are now 10 taps [and a nitro option] and a Mexican-themed menu debuted last week. We asked Dave to reflect on the What Cheer experience: “As far as owning the place for three years, it feels like a giant game of Providence bingo…we never know what to expect! Our customers come from all over the world and every walk of life. It’s pretty much impossible to sit at the bar and not end up in an interesting conversation with somebody. Which is exactly what we hoped to achieve!”

The big bash kicks off at 5 pm and features a “Puerto Rican-style pig roast,” with “tostones, beans and rice, chimichuri, and hot sauce galore.” Oh yeah, and some beer will be on tap. Here’s the tentative draft list: Weihenstephaner Pilsner, Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen, Einbecker Schwarzbier, Bayerischer Bahnhof Berliner, Harviestoun Engine Oil Porter, Victory Weizenbock, Southern Tier Pumking, Firestone Walker Union Jack. Proclamation’s The Stalk, Downeast Cider, and Left Hand Milk Stout [nitro]. Plus “a limited number of bottles of Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien and bombers of Victory Sour Monkey.” Cheers!

Zwanze In 2008, Brasserie Cantillon, the exalted lambic brewery in Brussels, released its first beer named Zwanze [made with rhubarb]. In Flemish, zwanzen means to joke or kid, so brewer Jean Van Roy chose the word to define his series of unique, one-off concoctions. In 2011, after three years of limited releases, he launched Zwanze Day, with special events held at superb beer bars and breweries worldwide.

Zwanze Day 2015 is this Saturday [9.19]. At the Cantillon website, van Roy wrote about this year’s offering: “Belgium: the land of surrealism…This artistic movement, which began at the end of the 19th century, continues to define in part the Belgian spirit and for quite a few people here has even become a sort of life philosophy…With its Zwanze 2015, in its own way Cantillon wanted to perpetuate this typically Belgian surrealist mindset. In doing so, a few changes were made to the recipe for a traditional stout. Specifically, I fermented some raw wheat to improve mellowness and enhance storage characteristics and did not use roasted barley to avoid further accentuating the dry aspect, which was already present as a result of spontaneous fermentation. The recipe is that of a stout, the colour is that of a stout, and spontaneous fermentation followed by 28 months of maturing in a cask has given birth to a ‘surreal’ stout.”

boogalooThere are 56 Zwanze Day sites [chosen by van Roy]; 26 are in the US, including Lord Hobo in Cambridge and Armsby Abbey in Worcester. The folks at the Abbey call it “arguably the most anticipated release in the world of beer.” To make the grand day even grander, all of the Zwanze Day hosts surround the guest of honor with a world-class list of beers. Armsby Abbey’s includes five other Cantillon specialties, plus rarities from Hill Farmstead, Allagash, Fiddlehead, Oxbow, Firestone Walker, Founders, Lost Abbey, Trillium, Tree House — and Proclamation Ale Company! On Tuesday, brewmaster Dave Witham said, “Pretty blown away right now. Confirmed that Harper 2: Electric Boogaloo will make its debut at #zwanzeday 2015 at @armsbyabbey In MA. To be poured alongside all these top-notch beers for #cantillon annual celebration is mind-blowing. Thanks to @armsbyalec and @crftcollective for making this happen!” Harper 2 is a “sour blend containing our blonde, red and dark sours with sweet and tart cherries.” Congrats, Dave — that’s a very big feather in your cap!

Armsby Abbey will begin pouring its Zwanze Day lineup at noon; Zwanze 2015 will be “simul-tapped” all over the world at 3 pm EST. Check their website for details on when to get there and what to expect when you do.

Are you headed to Munich on Saturday to celebrate Okotoberfest? Probably not. So get a head start on the 182nd annual bacchanal on Friday [9.18] — in Pawtucket! Foolproof Brewing Co. is hosting its second annual Beer Hall Night from 5-8 pm. A $15 ticket gets you a commemorative half-liter and three beer pours, and the Noble Knots food truck will tempt you with “Beer Hall Bites.”

The first-ever Tapped Craft Beer Festival HAS BEEN CANCELLED [updated 9.16 @ 1:59 pm] is at the Shannon View Inn [1901 Post Rd, Warwick] on Friday [9.18] from 6-10 pm and Saturday [9.19] from 12:30-4:30 and 6-10 pm, with 50ish breweries sharing more than 150 beers [check their Facebook page for a few specifics], plus chats with three beermakers. It’s not an unlimited sampling event; there will be “multiple packages” for beer sampling, plus food vouchers for sale. Admission is $10.

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Short stuff: Grey Sail needs a bigger boat; the economics of beer in RI; What Cheer spices things up; ants on a log; and more

It’s National Ants On a Log Day! To celebrate, here are a few crunchy items:

Grey Sail Brewing has plans for a new tasting room and other renovations at their Canal St. HQ in Westerly. Dale P. Faulkner has all the details in The Westerly Sun.

In the new Beverage Journal, Jack Kenny answers his own question [with a question]: “What’s the economic impact of beer on our society? Would you believe $253 billion?” The numbers come from The Beer Institute, a “national trade association for the American brewing industry, representing both large and small brewers, as well as importers and industry suppliers.” Kenny broke down the 401 data: “In Rhode Island, the number of people directly involved in beer is 3378: brewing 51; distributing 360; and retail 2967. Wages were $92 million in 2014. An additional 1802 people contribute indirectly [20 in agriculture]. Excise taxes in the Ocean State were $39 million last year, and taxes generated by the industry were $74.8 million. Rhode Island has 20 brewing establishments and 28 distributors.” [We’re looking into those last two citations.]

A midday addition: Lagunitas Brewing Company creates a joint venture with Heineken, posted by Lagunitas founder Tony Magee at Beer Advocate. And maybe we’ll be seeing this image on TVs soon:


Wear white if you wanna, Dave won’t care [and hit their Facebook page for big menu news]:

And put this on your calendar. Tickets will go fast:

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

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: 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:



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 refuses to generate free brackets today]:



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 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

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


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