Got Beer? Pawtucket Welcomes its New Brewing Neighbors

A fermenter full of hopes and dreams and beer-making business plans is finally becoming a reality at 461 Main St in Pawtucket. The address is the home of Isle Brewers Guild (IBG), the self-proclaimed “craft beer cooperative,” which provides manufacturing, packaging and distribution solutions in a state-of-the-art facility for its brewing partners who are striving to widen their beer-soaked footprint. The IBG also will house a huge taproom and a beer garden, plus classrooms (major in beerology!), offices, and other food and beverage businesses in the 130,000-square-foot campus.

IBG has been in the planning stages for about five years. It was the brainchild of PR maven Jeremy Duffy and beer industry pro Devin Kelly. In 2015, they were about to seal a deal for a location in Providence, but that site was destroyed by a fire. They quickly regrouped and found a magnificent new home at the Kellaway Center, which had been a nuts-and-bolts manufacturer.

The fire also delayed Narragansett Beer’s search for a Rhode Island brewery. Mark Hellendrung revived ’Gansett in 2005 and had vowed to open a facility for the beloved brew, which debuted in 1890. His partnership with IBG hadn’t been made public when the fire provided yet another frustrating stumbling block.

But it’s been full-speed-ahead since they arrived in Pawtucket. The 100-barrel brewhouse’s capacity is 60,000 barrels a year – aka 19,840,320 12-ounce cans. Four other partners have joined the Guild (a few more will announce their deals soon): Newburyport (Massachusetts) Brewing, Farmer Willie’s Craft Ginger Beer (Truro, Massachusetts), Devil’s Purse (South Dennis, Massachusetts), and Sons of Liberty Spirits Co., the South Kingstown company that will showcase the fermented beverages that provide the base for their award-winning single malt whiskeys. Farmer Willie’s had been brewing at Foolproof for the past year; the move to the IBG will increase their annual capacity from 700 to 3,000 barrels. Devil’s Purse, which will celebrate its second anniversary in May, will brew Handline Kolsch and Surfman’s Check ESB at IBG.

Back to ’Gansett: On February 24, Hellendrung got to break the seal on the shiny new tanks at the IBG. “Brewing the first batch of Narragansett Beer in Rhode Island in over a generation was incredible,” he told me (the ’Gansett facility in Cranston closed for good in 1983). “Of course, we’d done some batches with Sean Larkin at Trinity, but this was at our new home and a new day for the brewery. The sound, visual and aroma of brewing your own beer, after 12 years of hard work and our fair share of momentous occasions and setbacks, was really incredible. I can’t wait to share the Narragansett experience at the Guild.”

The official launch of brewing operations took place on March 10: Ribbons were cut, speeches were made (by Gov. Raimondo, Sen. Reed, Pawtucket Mayor Grebien and the IBG troika), tours were led and, most importantly, beers were sampled. The Guild was hoping to have its doors open to the general beer-loving public by now, but work is still underway on the tasting room, the brewing schedule is being coordinated, etc. etc. So there’s a bit more hurry-up-and-waiting to do before you get your first taste of It’s About Time, the cheekily named IPA that heralds ’Gansett’s triumphant return to big-batch brewing in the Ocean State (the company’s seasonal offerings and other limited editions will be made at IBG; production of Lager and Light will still be contract-brewed in Rochester, New York) and the varied offerings from the other partners.

For updates on the celebratory happenings on tap at IBG and ’Gansett, follow @IsleBrewers and @Gansettbeer on the Twitter machine.

For more beer news, check Lou’s blog, bottlescansclaphands.wordpress.com, or follow @BottlesCansRI.

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