Tharr Be Whaler’s!

Beer-Group-PictureWhaler’s Brewing Company at RI Winter Brew Fest

It was more than a year ago when I went to that forsaken place … the kind of place that only the reprehensible and hopeless would congregate. It was a rough area to say the least; there were always a few broken bottles in arm’s reach. The population was rife with scurvy and desperation. Lights barely lit the room and the seats were covered in splinters. Oh wait, that was last night.

Last year found me attending the inaugural Rhode Island Winter Brew Festival and my first introduction to Whaler’s Brewing Company. The fuzzy memories of that festival tell me I had a pale ale with a wonderful crisp hop aroma. In the year that followed, the Whaler’s name was only mentioned in hushed tones among a select few who were well connected and had their finger on the pulse. Finally, on the eve of the second Rhode Island Winter Brew Fest, the curtain lifted to reveal a fully licensed brewery and three driven individuals ready to make their mark on the state. Whaler’s is the latest brewery in the current RI beer explosion and the first one to officially open in 2014.
The story starts with Josh Dunlap and Andy Tran in 2010. Josh was a head brewer and Andy was the best friend and business partner when they decided to build “your new favorite neighborhood brewery.” And so the Whaler’s moniker was chosen and they set to work locating space and getting the necessary equipment to build such a venture. They started by renting what Andy describes as a “deep, dark, dank spot in the middle of nowhere” that they had been eyeing for quite some time and began the long permit process. Along the way there were some bumps in the road, but also some triumphs. In November 2013, Wesley Staschke was brought on as a full partner in the Whaler’s organization. Wes was starting his own operation up the road in West Warwick and recognized that joining forces with Whaler’s was the way forward. As the story goes, they started chatting and both parties found they could benefit each other and then became one.
The Brewery
The deep, dark, dank spot in the middle of nowhere that became the home of Whaler’s Brewing Company was previously used as the dye room for Palisades Industries, which owned the mill complex located in Wakefield. The brewery boasts a six-barrel brewing system and eight shiny new 115-gallon fermenters. The two head brewers will be Josh and Wes, two men with different tastes and preferences when it comes to brewing. Josh prefers the bigger beers while Wes prefers more wheat and sessionable types of of beers. While this may seem a hinderance to some, it gives Whaler’s the ability to produce a wide range of styles that should please just about any beer drinker.
The Curtain Lifts
The Whaler’s showing at this year’s RI Winter Brew Fest was their first as a fully licensed operation and certainly beat last year’s showing. For sampling they had a hazelnut creme stout, white IPA, barley wine and a strawberry blonde. I personally stopped in to sample a few of them when I could get away from my table. The barley wine and the hazelnut creme stout seemed to stand out in my mind as their best. The good news is that  they both are likely to become the full-time beers that Whaler’s produces. Don’t worry, it’s likely you’ll see the other two beers throughout the year as seasonal releases.
Even though Whaler’s is a fully licensed operation, there are a number of details yet to be sorted out, such as distribution and availability. Whaler’s wants to make sure that everyone can get their beer regularly and they avoid the pitfalls that other similar local operations have fallen into in the past. They do plan to have some kegs rolling out in early spring at some select locations, which have yet to be announced. Brewery tours will also be a while in the making due to the focus on getting the beer out the door at the moment.
The Home Stretch
The RI Winter Brew Fest was also a launching point for their  40-day Kickstarter campaign. The funds raised will go to supplying kegs and other equipment to get their beer on the streets. They have already reached their goal of $12,000 but stress that all extra funds raised will go into making the brewery even more awesome. According to Dunlap, they “want the locals to really feel like they have a part in this brewery, because they do.” Their campaign offers some pretty cool rewards for supporting them at very affordable levels. The Kickstarter campaign will end on March 13. A quick Google search will bring you right to the donation page should you want to support them and local beer.
Smoke Signals:
1070 Kingston Rd. Wakefield, RI 02892
Twitter: @Whalersbrewing
Mix a Six: Notes and Happenings Around RI
  • Narragansett has let slip that they are working on a Del’s Lemonade Shandy for the summer. It will be their standard lager mixed with Del’s lemonade. No specific release dates have been announced yet on this.
  • Gray Matter Marketing is at it again with another awesome beer event, Craft Brew Races, which is a 5K and beer fest rolled into one. The Providence race is scheduled for July 20. The course will be in the downtown/waterfront area.
  • Proclamation Ale Co. is experimenting with a ‘merican Strong Ale dubbed “The Sunday Snuggler”
  • Bucket Brewery has been hosting Sound Check night, a fantastic time to hear live local music and drink local beer. Tune in to their @BucketBrewery or for the next Sound Check night.
  • Doherty’s Ale House in Warwick will host a Unita Brewing Co. beer dinner on April 30 at 7pm.

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