Beer Bar Standouts to Quench Your Summer Thirst

Years ago, the prospect of hitting all the best beer bars in Rhode Island was a matter of distance, bouncing between Wakefield, Newport and PVD, with a few out-of-the-way places that deserved recognition. Now I’d need to put together a top 20 list just to cover PVD. Competition is fierce, and with a new brewery opening every time a bell rings, there’s no shortage of craft beer in our humble Ocean State. Where we were once a desert, relying on Newport Storm and Samuel Adams to slake our thirst, now we can find craft beer just about anywhere.

Even in my most dedicated mania, I could never hope to personally hit every beer bar, brewpub and restaurant in one day. I couldn’t even try. I get dizzy maneuvering around downtown PVD, and that’s before I even have a drop. Little café’s with limited bottle and can selections or dedicated tap lines are hidden, like Easter eggs, in tucked-away corners of downtown. Even the bar at AS220, a hangout for the trendy, artistic crowd, has a surprising craft beer focus.

So for this year’s Summer Guide, I’ve gone regional. Bear in mind, this is not a complete list of the best places in RI, but just a handful of the standouts that deserve mention, whether you’re new to the state and want something tasty and local, or you’re a Rhody resident looking for the best.

Northern RI

Doherty’s East Ave Irish Pub, Pawtucket – An absolute staple of craft beer in RI, featuring a massive beer list, both taps and bottles, and delicious food. Don’t forget to check them out for upcoming pint nights and other special events.

The Wild Colonial, PVD – When it’s not overrun by the college crowd, the Wild Colonial is my kind of place. Rustic stonework, pool tables and enough craft beer to ruin my palate with hops. Accessible to the common man, but with just enough class to distinguish.

Julians on Broadway, PVD – One of the most well-stocked and lively of the PVD craft beer hotspots, Julians is well-known both for excellent food and excellent beer, which makes it even more impressive when they’re hosting one of their famous beer dinners.

What Cheer Tavern, PVD – A craft beer and whiskey bar with a reputation for good food and a very select list of beers on tap — only the best, brightest or strangest brews they can get their hands on.

Brutopia, Cranston – With a very strong beer and BBQ vibe, this brewpub is “powered by Revival,” which means Sean Larkin’s magic touch is responsible for the beer here. Just don’t get freaked out if some of these brews sound a little weird. Weird can be fun.

Track 84, Warwick – I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Track 84 in Warwick. This humble little craft beer haven has been a pillar of the community longer than I can remember. Generally, if you can find it in RI, you can probably find it at Track 84, and if you’re very lucky, maybe even on tap.

East Bay

Pour Judgment Bar and Grill, Newport  – If you want a place that is completely devoted to craft beer, perhaps in a slightly mentally unbalanced kind of way (my favorite way,) Pour Judgment is right for you. Not only is the tap list great, but the food will keep you coming back.

Norey’s, Newport – This is a bar that takes rare beer seriously. The best of the best take most of the tap lines, with a few select imports or bizarre rarities to round out the list. Between that, the food and the live music, Norey’s is a great spot for craft beer night life.

Malt, Newport – This place may have a simple name, but don’t let that deceive you. As far as Newport craft beer spots go, Malt is renowned for its Thai Shrimp Nachos and excellent selection of taps. It’s definitely one of the classier craft beer hotspots.

Federal Hill Pizza, Warren – I discovered this hidden treasure during one of the East Bay Beer Fests while out foraging for food. Not only is the pizza delicious, the surprisingly impressive tap line has a number of great brews to complement your pie of choice.

The Middle

Boneheads, West Warwick – Primarily a chicken wing and rock ‘n’ roll bar, add a decent tap selection and some truly amazing custom house-made sauces and rubs, and you have quite a formula for a great night. The live music doesn’t hurt, either.

McKinley’s Pub, East Greenwich – The vibrant McKinley’s is hidden in a small cluster of boats down by the water. Despite being far off the main strip, this might be the best place in East Greenwich to grab some good craft beer, then sit and breathe in the ocean air.

Treehouse Tavern, Warwick – Right off of Route 2 is a strange little place called the Treehouse Tavern with a decidedly ludicrous number of taps. It’s a great escape from the traffic and endless shopping plazas of Route 2, but still provides a lovely selection of beer, local and beyond. It’s an absolute must for beer nerds like me.

Going South

Mews Tavern, Wakefield – One of the original craft beer destinations. Mews boasts 69 beers on tap, so you’re sure to find something for whatever mood you’re in — stouts, sours, local brews, hoppy IPAs, or whatever your twisted palate could crave.

84 Tavern, Westerly – A longtime supporter of craft beer, 84 Tavern is generally one of the cooler spots to go in this quaint little border city. Originally it was 84 High Street, but when you name your place after your address and have to move, it presents some minor challenges. Stop in and check out their latest draft offerings.

Malted Barley, Westerly – Ah, the Malted Barley. Not only is this bar an amazing craft beer destination, one worthy of any trip south, but a generally cool place in its own right. While the food is all gourmet pretzels, they are, admittedly, amazing pretzels. Combine that with their legendary beer list and you can’t go wrong.

Wood River Inn, Richmond – This humble little local watering hole has evolved so much over the years. Once it was little more than an after-work pit-stop; now this local-friendly hooch house sports a surprising and expanding tap list.

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