Pivotal Brewing: Dropping anchor in downtown Bristol

In 2019, Todd Nicholson and Rebecca Ernst made the courageous decision to quite literally “pivot” from their 9-to-5s to go all in on their dream of owning a brewery. “We were at pivotal points in our lives. Todd was between jobs and I was looking to transition out of my job in the event industry, so Pivotal Brewing Company was born,” says Ernst.

Pivotal joins Twelve Guns and Six Pack Brewing as Bristol’s third brewery. The newest edition to the thriving East Bay brewery scene has found a home in a repurposed mill building – similar to The Guild Warren, which opened in 2021 in the Tourister Mill development in nearby Warren. 

Launching with three carefully crafted beers, Pivotal was welcomed by its new neighbors on Wood St. when the brewery opened Thanksgiving weekend. Ernst & Nicholson weren’t sure what to expect for a turnout but were pleasantly surprised by the range of guests, from locals to RWU students to neighbors from the assisted living community next door. “It has been an amazing experience so far,” Ernst says. Flowing on the taps was flagship “Hello My Name Is Pivotal,” a Double IPA, “ESB,” Extra Special Bitter English ale, and “Sippican Fruit Salad,” a sour. Each beer represents the co-owners’ and head brewer’s specific tastes in beer. The plan is to have up to 12 different beers available in seasons to come. 

An unmistakable smoke stack marks the entrance of Pivotal Brewing. The repurposed mill space is wide open with 40 foot ceilings and an array of quirky and comfy fittings. Ernst has adorned the walls with art from her hometown of New Orleans, LA and is still seeking art from locals to give the space an eclectic, funky feel. In warmer months an outdoor beer garden will be open for summer activities including a party for Bristol’s famous 4th of July parade.

In the meantime guests are encouraged to get comfy and stay a while. The brewery is dog-friendly, even indoors, catering to the K-9-forward community. Food options are available from nearby restaurants such as Common Pub and Brick Pizza Co. Food truck collabs and pop-ups are also in the works for warmer months to come.
Learn more at pivotalbrewing.com

We Assure You RI Comic Con is Open: “Clerks” Reunion & Beer

RI Comic Con is back after the 2020 hiatus and it’s going to be bigger than ever. Starting Friday, November 5th through Sunday the 7th, the Rhode Island Convention Center will be overflowing with artists, vendors and celebrity guests, including a nearly complete reunion of the cast of Clerks. Clerks was the first movie by director (and Comic Con headliner) Kevin Smith. The black and white film indie was a true labor of love for Smith and didn’t come to be without any sacrifice. In efforts to scrounge together a bare-bones budget, the future comic book store owner ironically sold his extensive comic book collection, maxed out his credit cards and depleted his college fund. The film — depicting the mundane yet magical everyday life of two convenience store clerks — became an icon for the everyman, and a beacon of hope for DIY filmmakers and artists everywhere. 

Local breweries are no stranger to the hard-working do-it yourself-spirit, so it’s fitting that Proclamation Ale of Warwick, RI is partnering with Altered Reality Entertainment and RI Comic Con for a third time to create a Clerks themed beer for the event. The beer is the successor to 2019’s “Take a Vacation to Rhode Island ComicCon,” an IPA featuring the Griswold family station wagon from National Lampoon’s Vacation, honoring that year’s headliner Chevy Chase. 

“Beer? Do people still even drink that? At Quick Stop we had a strict weed-only policy!” says Bryan Johnson – Kevin’s real-life friend of whom the film was based off of. 

The Clerks Beer will be a 7.2% Abv Double IPA conceptualized by Proclamation owner Lori Witham, offered throughout the con for Clerks and comic book fans alike. 

Beer won’t be the only concession collaboration from Smith this year, as he also presents “Mooby’s Pop-up” – the fictional fast food chain from Clerks II

Kevin and his team kicked offPin his hometown of Red Bank, NJ in September of 2020. Since it’s debut the fake food chain appeared in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Nashville, St. Louis and Boston. Now Rhode Islanders will have a chance to get their hands on a Mooby’s signature Cow Tipper with a side of Hater Totz 

Be sure to check out the  rare panel, featuring the film’s main cast. Actors Brian O’Halloran (Dante Hicks), Jeff Anderson (Randal Graves), and Marilyn Ghigliotti (Veronica) will be joined by director and Silent Bob himself Kevin Smith and his counterpart Jason “Jay” Mewes. Other View Askew guests include Trevor Fehrman and Kevin Weisman of Clerks II, and Scott Schiaffo of Clerks

All guests will be available for photos and autographs as listed on the RI Comic Con website. The 2021 con-beer will be offered throughout the Rhode Island Convention Center and at select vendors through Craft Collective, so fans should take advantage of the opportunity to crack a cold one with their favorite Clerks cast member. Have one, have 37, we don’t judge! 

Tasting Ahoy!: Beervana Returns

Beervana is without a doubt one of the most sought-after beer events not only in the state but in the Northeast. With an astounding 250+ vendors, this event gives beer connoisseurs an unmatched opportunity to experience the best beer the region has to offer. With the exception of 2020, the festival has not missed a beat since its maiden voyage in 2009. 

“We launched Beervana Fest with a wonderfully intimate event at the Roger Williams Botanical Garden,” says co-founder Brian Oakley “and although hanging out with 500 of our closest friends in that amazing environment is an experience I will never forget, we had to move to a larger venue if we were going to do it again which is where Rhodes on the Pawtuxet came in.” Beervana makes its return Friday, October 15th, 2021 to the historic Cranston venue.

This year’s celebration will include dozens of new breweries. Some local first-timers include Apponaug Brewing Company, Moniker Brewing, and Union Station Brewery all of Rhode Island. Massachusetts neighbor Greater Good Imperial Brewing of Worcester will make their debut, as well as the Untappd favorite Equilibrium Brewery of Middletown, NY. 

The inevitable covid-19 restrictions will be in place at the event to ensure guest’s safety and comfort. All state mandates will be in place with this year’s program. In addition, the event will only happen at a single session on a Friday vs. the previous double sessions on a Saturday. The number of attendees has also been reduced by a few hundred to allow proper social distancing. 

Brian Oakley, co-founder of the fest gives his own advice to newcomers of the festival. “We always recommend taking an uber or some sort of car service because there is nothing more fun than safe fun,” Oakley said. “That being said, there is a lot of great stuff to try. With that in mind, we recommend taking your time.”

Of course with over 250 vendors, it is impossible to try everything, so Oakley urges guests not to just be in it for the bragging rights. “Savor the flavors and the moments with your friends. Actually be in the moment and enjoy the time you are there. Be present and have fun.” 

Beervana, FRI, OCT 15, 6:30PM – 10PM at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet, 60 Rhode Place, Cranston, RI 02905 Tickets available at: https://beervanafest.com/

Guildy Pleasures: Warren’s first brewpub

The smallest town in the smallest state, Warren, RI, which was once known by most as a blink on the way to Newport, has experienced a renaissance in recent years. With a plethora of quality restaurants, Warren has slowly become a dining destination for New Englanders. Adjacent to the town’s Main Street is Water Street, which overflows with eateries like The Square Peg, Revival Craft Kitchen and Bar, Bywater, and the fresh-faced “The Wharf”, formerly known as The Wharf Tavern. Perhaps the most obvious pillar of Warren’s recent renewal is The Tourister Mill. The once-luggage-factory is unmistakable when coming over the two bridges into town. Now a luxury apartment complex, the Tourister stands as a beacon of change for the town and is bringing in new businesses left and right. The latest to hit the scene is Pawtucket-based brewery The Guild.

When The Guild’s first location in Providence was destroyed by a fire, co-owner Jeremy Duffy wanted to move into the Tourister Mill building, but the property’s owners already had a long-term vision that included the new 99 Water Street Apartments. 

“So, we moved on to Pawtucket,” Duffy said. “It is amazing that several years later we are back in Warren, at the original spot, to open our first small-batch brewery and beer hall.” 

The Warren location is the third endeavor for the beer company, following their most recent launch on the Providence Pedestrian Bridge with The Guild PVD Beer Garden.

With 140 seats indoors, and 40 seats on the gorgeous patio facing the Palmer River, The Guild Warren is continuing to staff up and expects to employ roughly 30 people. Local hires include General Manager Ed Levy and Head Chef Stephen Lima, both from Bristol. 

Over a dozen beer selections are available, including multiple Guild originals such as the Observatory – Pale Ale, Isle of White – White IPA, and new brew Warren G – Double IPA. Other offerings include a new Pear Cinnamon Seltzer by Willie’s Superbrew and Chair 2 Light Lager by Sons of Liberty. 

In addition to the abundant drink line-up, Chef Lima has created a substantial list of mouth-watering appetizers and small bites. Flash Fried Tri-Color Cauliflower, Smoked Pork Belly Nachos, and a Quinoa Salad Bowl to name a few. For protein, an array of sliders are available including burgers, chicken, and roast beef. 

“The energy around us opening was incredible and it has not stopped,” said Duffy. “We have seen terrific crowds since day one…. The nicest thing is that our biggest fans have been the tenants of 99 Water Street and the American Tourister. We are grateful for that.” 

The Guild is reciprocating Warren’s warm welcome with plans to collaborate with the town’s many restaurants and vast art scene. “We want to use Warren as a place of innovation and collaboration around our beers. We have a terrific seven barrel brewhouse that is ready to be that platform,” says Duffy. 

The Guild Warren, 99 Water Street, Warren, RI. Currently open Wed through Sun. Visit their website @theguildwarren for times.

Message in a Bottle: CBD sparkling water comes ashore

Beak and Skiff Apple Orchard of LaFayette, NY, has created a CBD sparkling water that’s washing ashore in the Ocean State. 

If you haven’t heard of Beak and Skiff, you may know them for their colorful hard cider brand, 1911 Established. The nearly 110-year-old apple orchard produces their handcrafted cider with a “Tree to Can” process, making 1911 a fresh addition to many local draft lists. You may have seen their gorgeous cans in restaurants and liquor stores around the state. Since mastering the art of hard cider, the family-owned farm has ventured into a new product — cannabis — and so far Rhode Island is the only state aside from New York to carry the resulting drink.

The bubbly beverage is described as “full spectrum hydration,” and is offered in an array of flavors — mango lime, blood orange and black cherry. It has zero calories and zero sugar, and contains 20 milligrams of hemp-derived full-spectrum CBD extract. 

Not all CBD is created equal, and that’s why Beak & Skiff has all their products tested by a third party for quality after it is grown on the orchard and processed in their state-of-the-art hemp house. “As a 100% family-owned-and-operated business now in its 5th generation, integrity and transparency are of the utmost importance to us,” says owner Marianne Brennan.

You can find Beak & Skiff’s CBD Sparkling Water at liquor stores around RI, including Nikki’s Liquors, Jamestown Wine & Spirits and Heritage Liquors. For more, go to beakandskiff.com

Hi, New Neighbor!

Narragansett Brewery’s new waterfront location in India Point Park is holding its official grand opening celebration, August 5 – 7. There will be three days of fun-filled events, complete with music, food and, of course, beer releases.

Mark Hellendrung, CEO of Narragansett Beer said, “We’re all pretty excited this week for our grand opening! This will be the first time that we’ll be able to have a full line-up of music and food trucks, so it should be an awesome week. We’ll also be showcasing the wide variety of great beer that the team has been brewing with three different sours for Sour Slam on Thursday and six unique IPAs on Friday for National IPA Day.”

August 5, 4 – 9pm: Hollow Turtle, a folk/rock band from Warren will perform. Trap Box PVD will be dishing out modern Latin Eats, including burgers, sandwiches and tacos. And Gansett will release their Sour Slam.

August 6, Noon – 10pm: Isabella Materra will be performing, and Bonetown Burger and BBQ will be providing their signature traditional BBQ with heavy metal influences. In honor of National IPA Day, ‘Gansett is launching Electric Dave IPA, named after the project manager from Advance Electric who made the brewery a reality. The beer pays homage to all who worked hard through the pandemic to make the new brewery possible. 

Grand Opening Party! August 7, noon – 10pm: Sharks Come Cruisin’ will perform sea shanties by the sea that you’ll want to sing along to, ‘Gansett in hand. Everyone’s favorite Saugy Franks will be serving up traditional New England hot dogs.

Narragansett Brewery, 271 Tockwotton St, PVD.

Yes, We Can!

Rhode Island’s first brewpub is welcoming change with new ownership and new beer. For the first time in 28 years, Union Station Brewery is canning and distributing two of their in-house-made beers. With a little help from Buttonwoods Craft Brewery, double IPA The King is Dead and New England IPA Cranston Thug Life are canned, and the two hazy commodities will hit the streets in weeks to come through local distributor Craft Collective. Until then, you can grab a 4-pack right at the brewery. 

Fan favorite Cranston Thug Life is a nod to part owner Mike Delehanty’s son, Jack, who earned the nickname at age 11 after drinking his cup of frozen lemonade from a paper bag.

Delehanty has remained optimistic throughout the COVID crisis, despite assuming ownership just months before the pandemic hit. He met challenge after challenge while creating delicious beer on what he describes as “the oldest equipment in the state.”

“While the pandemic certainly slowed down getting to where I wanted to, I’ve been really happy with the beer our brewer Dave Kenney has made. Each beer seems to be better than the last,” says Delehanty.

Beer Balm: WaterFire’s new rooftop deck feeds the soul with food, fresh air, cocktails and art

Every Thursday through August 26, culture and cocktails will collide on the WaterFire Arts Center’s picturesque Rooftop Deck. The “TroopTop Deck” is the latest collaboration between WaterFire Arts Center and their neighbors at Troop, who will be bringing over much more than a cup of sugar. The weekly event is an exciting new opportunity for the PVD community to safely socialize while enjoying local art, music and, of course, beer. 

Reservations for this COVID-conscious event will be limited to 90 minutes. Patrons are invited to experience the rotating art exhibit on display before heading up for a bite and a beer, where your reservation entitles you to a designated table where you can unmask and unwind with your bubble. 

I attended the second night of the TroopTop Deck event with my boyfriend and fellow Motif contributor Chuck Staton. We were greeted at the door and checked in for our reservation upstairs. The expansive repurposed mill building has a way of making your hopes feel big and your troubles feel small. Troop was offering a thirst-quenching lineup of Revival Brewing beers including classics like Night Swim’ah Wheat Ale, What Cheer? Pilsner and my selection, Pinky Swear Berliner Weisse. Revival Brewing also is a new neighbor of WaterFire Arts Center having recently moved to 50 Sims Ave. Local craft wine was also being served from Rumford-based Anchor & Hope.

Small savory bites were provided by Auntie’s Catering. Their offering this week was a delicious assortment of homemade spreads — a well-balanced pesto hummus, a grape and feta salad, and an onion and herb dip — paired with two types of crackers and fire-roasted tortilla chips. The tasty array received high-praise from my date and articulate food writer, who stated, “It was really, REALLY good.” Two “reallys,” really! 

Unfortunately a bout of unseasonably cold weather moved the event inside; however, we thoroughly enjoyed our time sitting on the indoor balcony and had ample time to experience the current art exhibition “Down To Earth.” The nautical inspired showcase is the work of the late URI professor Robert Rohm. The gorgeous display brought a sense of calm and life to the space, providing a much-needed change of scenery after nearly a year of looking at the same four walls. According to Peter Mello, WaterFire managing director, the next major exhibition will be a retrospective of the large-scale, site-specific, community-focused photography of Mary Beth Meehan. The exhibit will be on display from June 30 until August 22. 

Although the weather kept us inside this time, we most definitely will be returning to the TroopTop Deck this summer to bask in the sun and spread the local love one beer at a time.

Tickets for the TroopTop Deck can be purchased through The WaterFire Arts Center website at waterfire.org, and the $5 admittance fee will go to support the non-profit organization.

Lord of the Beer: Gansett’s new head brewer breaks barriers

Spring is a time for reinvention, and Narragansett Beer is welcoming change with an all-new brewery near India Point Park in Providence and a new head brewer to go along with it. Head brewer Lee Lord will grace the RI beer giant with her talents, coming off an impressive track record at Smuttynose Brewing Co., Watch City and Cambridge Brewing Co.

Lord is breaking barriers with Narragansett by becoming their first-ever female head brewer. She has more than a decade of experience in the beer industry and she’ll play a critical role in shaping the company’s next chapter.

“I’m beyond thrilled to join Narragansett and help reestablish the brand’s RI brewing tradition here in Providence,” says Lord. “Working closely with Mark [Hellendrung, ’Gansett’s president] and the team has been such a collaborative and rewarding experience. I can’t wait to continue to build upon ‘Gansett’s storied heritage … brew the highest quality beer and create an amazing experience for fans right on the beautiful India Point Park waterfront!” The enthusiasm is reciprocated, Lee!

Lord is an active member of the New England/Boston chapter of the Pink Boots Society, an organization that provides scholarships to women in beer and beverages to further their professional education. Lord credits the organization and the supportive network as a major component in propelling her career forward. She was also recently awarded the UC Davis, Intensive Brewing Science for Practical Brewing scholarship for her enduring commitment to her work and influence on other women brewers.

“We could not be more excited to welcome Lee to the Narragansett team!” said Hellendrung. “Lee … is a true force to be reckoned with. I can’t wait to drink the wide range of styles to be brewed, from the innovative to the traditional classics.”

Narragansett Lager, Narragansett Light, Del’s Shandy, and Fresh Catch are some of the company’s renowned classics, and Lord plans on brewing some unique flavors that fans have yet to experience. A special Pink Boots collaboration will be part of the kick-off to the organization’s 2021 Collaboration Brew Day. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Pink Boots Society to support their scholarship funding efforts. The brewery expects to be diving deeper into IPAs (see photo above) and will have rotating limited releases, some of which may only be available at the new brewery itself. They’re also excited to revisit historical styles like cream ale, which haven’t been around in a while. Lord is also known to have a flair for kettle sours – although ’Gansett isn’t making any firm committments just yet.

The launch of the waterfront brewery, where you can find Lee and the Narragansett team slinging some of the best beer this small state has to offer, is set for this spring. The brewing equipment is already in, and those first batches of beer have begun their journey toward taps everywhere. The building’s surrounding patio has been poured, and the bar is almost done. “We’re expecting doors any day now,” says VP of Sales and Marketing Jim Crooks, of the progress. Look for announcements soon, and join the reinvention!

A True Saint

Antimo Mastrostefano

If it isn’t painfully obvious by my name, I am of Italian heritage. My Mastrostefano ancestors grew up in the heart of Federal Hill, even owning an Italian bakery where Roma sits nowadays. My grandfather Antimo was as Italian-American as they come, a hardworking landscaper who didn’t shy away from a drawn-out Italian meal on the weekends with friends and family. He was known to drink Black Label, a Canadian lager that is no longer made. If he were around today, I’d surely bring him a four-pack of what Shaidzon has brewed for St. Joseph’s Day to wash down his zeppole.