Got Beer? The Future’s So Bright We Gotta Drink Shaidzon  

Shaidzon_logoOn Thanksgiving Eve, the Rhode Island beer scene will have yet another reason to be grateful, when Shaidzon Beer Company opens in West Kingston at the former home of Proclamation Ale Company, which has moved to a huge new space in Warwick (they’ve been selling cans out of their loading dock; the Official Grand Opening will be around December 1).

Shaidzon’s beer guru is Josh Letourneau, who was the brewmaster at Grey Sail since it set up shop in Westerly in 2011. We caught up with Josh and got the skinny on his new endeavor.

Lou Papineau (Motif): What did you learn in your time at Grey Sail?

Josh Letourneau: Brewing at Grey Sail since batch one until my recent departure has been phenomenal. There was endless striving to always be improving, from the beer to the business to our community, from both ownership and all of my coworkers. There are factors in beer that become more critical than I was ever aware of until you fail at them and learn from your mistakes, especially as we continued to grow in production. It has been a massive launching point for me and the entire Grey Sail crew.

LP: Who has taken over the mash paddle at Grey Sail? And what beer that you made there was your favorite?

JL: Michelle Kirms, my then-assistant brewer, is taking over the head brewing role, akin to the Patriots – it’s a next-(wo)man-up-type role. It’s a nice model, as most of the staff has been there for a couple of years and know how the beer and brewery needs to operate.

Flagship Cream Ale was owner Alan [Brinton]’s beer that he wanted to launch the brewery with back in 2011 [is my favorite]. We have made some tweaks to the original recipe, but it is a classic easy-drinking ale that has become a brewery favorite, and definitely one of my favorites to brew and drink. It tests your brewing capabilities when the recipes are simple and delicate, something I’ve always been striving for as a brewer and hope to bring to Shaidzon Beer.

LP: When did you start thinking about opening your own brewery? And did the availability of the Proclamation space jumpstart your plans?

JL: The idea of opening your own brewery is always a twinkle in the eye of a brewer. A lot of times the logistics and startup costs can be easily overlooked. Proclamation Ale Company moving on and leaving a turnkey brewery was a huge factor. I don’t know that I would have ventured off if this opportunity hadn’t been planted at the doorstep. My partner at Shaidzon is Chip Samson; we met through a mutual friend when we were teenagers. He was a minor league baseball broadcaster for the Hickory [NC] Crawdads in 2012; since then he has worked in marketing and sales for IT companies and as the Massachusetts sales manager for Grey Sail. Chip is handling the business side while giving me a hand in the brewery.

LP: We imagine it has been a smooth transition taking over the Proclamation operation. What changes will you be making to the space?

JL: Taking over a current brewery is great, but there is the factor of making it your own. We don’t want people to come in and say, “Oh, it’s Proclamation but a different owner.” We want to change the tasting area around and make our own styles of beer. I’m hoping to produce a vast amount of styles and treat it more like a brewpub, with ever-rotating beers and especially styles. It is more work because I’ll always need to be developing recipes, but that’s the fun of being an owner/brewer.

LP: Can you tell us what styles are planned? What will the first offerings be?

JL: In the tanks right now is a Czech pilsner, a London porter, a saison and an imperial stout. I have always wanted to brew with indigenous ingredients and naturally foraged edibles and am looking to incorporate them into some of my beers. I am hoping to have a foraged saison series of ingredients found around our woods and coastline. I am also lucky enough to be neighbors with Rhode Island Mushroom Co., who grow some incredible mushrooms and I can’t wait to dabble with those in our beer!

We’re hoping to be rocking and rolling the week of Thanksgiving with some 750ml bottles on November 22, plus growlers and on-site pours starting on the 24th. Check us out on Twitter and Instagram [@shaidzonbeerco] and on Facebook for updates.

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

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