Got Beer? Peak Beer? No Limits? Discuss!

Greetings, Motifians! We missed y’all in the Spring Alcohol Issue, but we had to pass on the intoxicating fun and assume the role of designated driver after our attempts to get a virtual roundtable discussion with the state’s brewers failed to ferment (see what we did there?). But we’re bellying up to the bar this time around and sharing the responses from Chip Samson, the mighty co-owner (with brewer Josh Letourneau) of Shaidzon Beer Company of West Kingston.

Lou Papineau (Motif): We’re coming up on the two-year anniversary of the passage of the Better Beer Laws. Is it time to push for more changes to make your beer business even better? What would be on your wish list: Increasing the sales ounce limit (like the push underway in CT)? Self-distribution (a pipe dream, most likely)?

Chip Samson: I think it’s always time to work on increasing limits at breweries. The regulation there is not for safety reasons, because a single person can buy out a liquor store of its beer entirely in RI. It holds breweries back from being able to conduct business to the fullness of their abilities. [Removing the limits would] benefit the breweries, the consumer who comes to the brewery and wants more than one case of beer, and the beer tourism potential in the state.

At Shaidzon, we benefit from our distributor [Craft Collective] being involved at our current manpower level. We wouldn’t want self-distribution right now, but I would support the option for lou got beer NCBnD_seal_solidK-1breweries to self-distribute.

LP: There’s been some talk about whether the craft explosion has reached peak beer and if the bubble is bursting the way it did two decades ago. What do you think? How many breweries can co-exist and live long and prosper in Little Rhody?

CS: I don’t think craft beer has peaked at all, especially in Rhode Island. I think people in Rhode Island are pushing for even more in-state brewery options – to visit the breweries, drink at restaurants and pick up at package stores. The culture of beer drinking is still changing toward craft options. There are still so many tap lines and shelf spaces allocated for big beer. There’s opportunity for more growth in craft.

LP: Have you experienced anything on your trips to other great beer cities that could enhance the Rhode Island beer scene?

CS: I lived in Colorado for several years. The beer cities there are fantastic – Boulder, Fort Collins, Denver and all over the state. The density of breweries makes it very easy in those cities, especially Denver, to walk between a number of them in a short time. One thing I see different there is quite off-common niche beer style breweries and they do really well. People there are craft beer enthused and have been for a long time. As Rhode Island beer culture swings more and more toward craft, I’d love to see less familiar styles becoming more popular at our local breweries.

Quick sips: Newport Storm has morphed into Newport Craft Brewing & Distilling Co. A private equity group led by Brendan O’Donnell (an owner of the La Forge Casino Restaurant on Bellevue Ave) now runs the 19-year-old company, along with co-founders Brent Ryan and Derek Luke. The packaging has been redesigned and fresh brews are on the way; the newest, Rhode Rage, an 8.5% ABV double IPA, debuted this week. The distillery side will soon unleash White Squall Coastal Moonshine, Acrimony Amaro and Newport Gin. Providence Brewing Company is one step closer to opening its HQ at 1920 Mineral Spring Ave in North Providence. Owner Efren Hidalgo got his license on March 30 and will be pouring at the sold-out Newport Craft Beer Festival next week. And huzzah to former Bucketeer Nate Broomfield, who has signed on to work with the PBC crew. Cheers to all!

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

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