Brewery Sherpa Will Guide You Through Your Travels


Local Rhode Islanders develop Drinking Sherpa; the app that helps people discover breweries, wineries, and distilleries in their area.

It’s no secret that the latest start-ups in RI are mostly breweries — Proclamation! Whalers and maybe Tilted Barn. But the best kept secret these days is Drinking Sherpa, the umbrella company that developed Brewery Sherpa, Distillery Sherpa and Winery Sherpa, locating apps that will change your life. So to give you some context, I’ve just met with the Drinking Sherpa founders, John Varlaro and Brandi Davis, after a very successful collaboration night with RI Girls Pint Out. The bartender came over and mentioned they have Stone Enjoy on tap. Needless to say, we were powerless to resist his offer. Over the latest round of libations, we wax intellectual about the RI tech economy, the brewery boom and other aspects of community and camaraderie in the local economy.  Here is the conversation that followed:

Chris Meringolo: What if someone asked you, “What is Brew Sherpa?”

John Varlaro: I would jokingly correct them and say, “I apologize, but it’s Brewery Sherpa.” (laughs)

CM: Okay, so what is Brewery Sherpa?

JV: It spawned from our frustrations with not being able to find breweries, wineries and distilleries. So it actually comes from a larger problem that  Brandi and I experienced as tourists. Two Septembers ago, we were on our way to New York when I shook Brandi awake and said, “Alright I’ve got some ideas.” In about two hours we were pitching these ideas.

Brewery Sherpa is an app and website that helps people find these destinations, because part of our philosophy is that these places are destinations. Sure we want you to experience the libation, but it’s also about the journey to us. That’s really where libation-tourism comes in; we’re not the only ones who are willing to travel.

CM: How did you come up with the name Brewery Sherpa?

JV: We were watching some documentaries on Nepal and Mount Everest. And so I said to her, “Wouldn’t it be great if there were an app and a website that helped people find these destinations?” And so all of the sudden we were thinking about sherpas. Sherpas help people summit, they help bring them up Mt. Everest, and very quickly we came up with Brewery Sherpa, Winery Sherpa and Distillery Sherpa, because we’ve been to all three and we love going to all three. Drinking Sherpa is the umbrella brand. We felt the name encompasses all three of those.

CM: So is libation-tourism a phrase you concocted?

JV: Yes, it is. We also own the URL (laughs). I think the name empowers those who visit these places, but maybe never thought of it as a type of tourism. Because this is an area of tourism that is growing with the growth of breweries, wineries and distilleries, as well as the growth of hand-crafted drinks at bars. You can go to a bar to really experience a revival of true mixology. People are willing to travel to do that and I think that’s the trend that we’re seeing. We want to foster that.

CM: So when did you guys start to become libation-tourists?

Brandi Davis: 2008, probably

JV: I think our first experience doing something like that was with wineries. We went to North Carolina to visit Brandi’s family and we were struggling to find wineries. We realized not a lot of them had their own websites and if they did, they didn’t have a lot of information.

CM: Why start Drinking Sherpa in Rhode Island?

JV: Because we’re from Rhode Island, and I think we’re very focused on supporting the RI economy. There are a lot of beautiful things happening in RI and we want to help support that.

CM: If you were stranded on a desert island and only had a 12-pack, what would you choose?

JV:  A canoe and a paddle. (laughs)

CM: A 12-pack of beer.

JV:  A motorboat.

CM: That’s not a beer.

JV: That’s a difficult question. I would not be true to myself if I told you I knew the answer to that.

BD: My gut instinct is Three Philosophers by Omegang.

There was plenty more that was discussed, and you can read the full interview on our website. The app can be downloaded on Android or iOS (Apple) for free. Keep your eye on @drinkingsherpa for info about events around the state. Happy travels!

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