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Beer, the Best Date: Hoppy details of looking better after each sip

Image by Jeannie, the Happy Heart Wanderer, the local artist who finds hearts — all year long — in everyday surroundings. Check out all the heartiness that surrounds us in RI at instagram.com/happyheartwanderer

If you were going to date a beer, which beer would you date? Before you judge me for this question, let me ask you this: Haven’t you ever whispered into your pint glass, “I love you?” 

No? What kind of beer are you drinking then?! I have spoken these three words to more pints than partners. Picking out the perfect pint is much like dating. You are meeting and discovering, to determine whether there is a connection or not. Lust, love or leave it?

Is there anything more desirable than a person who is fit? I am not trying to be shallow. Isn’t it true that if you are happy with the way you look, you are happier in general? “Fitter. Happier.” We met at Proclamation Ale Company. Being hoppy yet smooth, with an ABV of 8.5%, surely this was the DIPA for me. Then I saw KDA was back around… we had a history together. The beertender told me that both DIPAs were strongly related. I ended up going home with “KDA”. Was that wrong of me? What can I say? KDA is juicier to me. Haven’t you ever been dumped by anyone for another? Thought so. Me too.

On a recent visit to a neighborhood pub called Skeff’s, I asked their bartender, Patrick Hamilton, for some advice on dating. We both ended up making the same decision: Whalers Brewing APA “Rise.” Patrick said, “Rise is dependable, never disappointing, and would rise to the occasion.” I have to say Patrick was a complete gentleman in his response. I, however, am not so innocent in my references to horizontal positions with vertical reactions. There is a reason #beergasm exists. This pale ale is a crushable 5.5% that I will have over and over again and never get tired of, much unlike the unreliable men I have dated. 

Maybe I need a little romance? I can’t tell you the last romantic gesture I received from a date. This thought introduced me to another beer, the “Fifth Anniversary” from Shaidzon Beer Company. Anniversaries celebrate love — yearly celebrations of blissful entanglement — exactly what this annual Shaidzon stout represents. Made by Seaworthy Coffee Roasters with coconut and freshly roasted local coffee beans, this tall, dark, and delicious stout is perfect to warm me up on a cold winter night. I don’t like overly sweet things. They seem fake: nauseating and hard to take seriously, much like a date that tries to sweet talk you into bed. I like strong and mysterious things like this stout. Because of its bold coffee flavor, delicious coconut, and its 8% ABV, I had “Fifth” twice and went back for another “date” a couple of days later. Less pretentious equals better outcomes.

What is it about a bad boy? You can’t resist him even though you know he is going to break your heart. Maybe it is because he breaks the rules. He is confident, dominant and assertive. Hanging with him makes you feel like a badass. That is why “Cranston Thug” from Union Station is just the gangster I look for. This NEIPA is dry hopped and has an ABV of 6.7%. Like a true baddy, it is hazy, dominant in flavor, and maintains a bitter bite through each sip, all the way to the end. This rebel with a hoppy cause always wins and there is not much you can do about it.

I have never been a fan of dating apps. Profiles never seem to be truthful and I can never seem to find a match. If Long Live Beerworks were a dating app, it would be the exception. I not only meet many interesting choices, I always find I like, if not love, most. However, much like my dating life, once I am introduced to a beer at Long Live, it disappears. The great thing about this is that soon enough, another beer will catch my eye without leaving time to be upset. Unlike boys, there’s no crying over beer. I still felt the need to ask for some beer dating advice from two beertenders at Long Live Beerworks, Riley Mello and Kristie Martin. It came as no surprise that they chose from the list of the many optimal singles from Long Live. “I would choose PVD Pilsner because it’s a classic,” Rylie said. “It is like a walk on the beach, sharing banter, seeing a movie and then getting dinner. It would be a night I would remember the next day. There would be no foreplay but simple pleasures.” At 5.24% ABV this certainly is one that you could over-indulge in with no regrets.

“I would choose Move Mountains,” said Kristie. “I like to hike and this is my favorite.” Luckily for Kristie, this single IPA is back on the available list. Its profile reads, “Riding that tropical wave,” with a 6% ABV and flavors of coconut and citrus. I can see why Kristie chose this newly re-available gem.

In the mood for a little ménage à trois? Long Live has a bit of a history. My favorite, by far, is Life Among Giants, a collaboration with Nova Farms, a cannabis retailer. For me, this was love at first sip. If any beer was my soulmate, this 8.5% ABV DIPA would be it. It is hop-forward throughout its body with juicy, piney cannabis terpenes that linger on the tongue. I long to meet again. With beers that live up to their name like Poets in the Night, DDH Hopeless Romantic, You’re Dead and Out of this World, Good, Good Things, Three Times a Lady, and “What is Love, you are bound to find the beer of your dreams here. Unlike any dating apps, I only swipe right at Long Live. 

This will not be the end of my craft beer love affairs. Whether they are only for one night, hard to find, or no longer available, they have all been memorable. These short term beer-lationships have kept things exciting and new. I am positive I will find another to cherish. Finding a beer “to date” has been much easier than finding a person. After all, beer has never broken my heart.




Hops For the Holidays: One beer writer’s favorite foamy gifts

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Large silver kegs filled with craft beer, I’m smitten
Raising pint glasses with good friends to cheer
These are a few of my favorite beers

What happens when a third beer is born to a family? A “Middle Child’’ is born. This is not a middle child with a syndrome of feeling left out – this is a child who gets attention and is loved equally, if not a bit more. “Middle Child” from Grey Sail Brewing is the peacemaker between two of my favorite Grey Sail beers, Captain’s Daughter DIPA and Little Sister Session IPA. Captain’s Daughter, as you may recall, won Motif’s 2022 Drink Awards in the DIPA category.

What was the inspiration behind the birth of this beer fusion? Justin Carlson, bar manager at Grey Sail explained, “I wanted a beer to drink after my shift that didn’t have a higher ABV to make me lose all ambition to cook dinner or do laundry. I also wanted a beer that would have somewhat of an ABV to take the edge of the day off. I decided to mix Captain’s Daughter with Little Sister.” His idea went over so well with other staff like Nicholette, a beer tender at the brewery, that they decided to sell it on tap. Middle Child has an ABV of 6.5%. It’s smooth with a mild malt sweetness but still has a slight hop on the end of each sip.

Rich Welsh, head brewer of Grey Sail told me, “I think people forget about us because we’re readily available and reasonably priced.” Grey Sail, I have not forgotten you. The brewery is a must-visit, not only to take in the 1920 historical house the taproom is in, but to purchase beers like these two and others that are only available at the brewery.

Love Mexican Lagers? Look no further than Vigilant Brewing, Bristol’s newest brewery. “Los Hermanos” is one of my favorite Mexican Lagers. There’s a sweet malt on the nose and palate, and true to the style of this beer, it is smooth and crisp. This can easily be your Sunday football game pint choice. It’s crushable and with an ABV of 5.9%, you can have a few.

After speaking with John Ottero, one of the brewers of Vigilant it was easy to see why this beer is delicious. “I consider all of my recipes as my ‘babies.’ The story of ‘Hermanos’ does not disappoint. During the construction of Vigilant, I’d walk into complete organized chaos with various team members accomplishing their tasks for the day. In my line of sight I would find bottles of the popular ‘Corona’’ beer everywhere.” John stated he gave the team a hard time, “with a smile of course,” saying that they “are a brewery and this beer should not be here.” It was suggested by Kevin Amaral, the owner, that John make a Mexican Lager. At first, John shut the idea down. He felt a Mexican Lager wouldn’t be good for Vigilant’s brand. However, this all changed when John tried a pint of Mexican Lager from Buttonwoods brewery. After some research, John developed a recipe that would be “approachable and unique.” This is true to what Vigilant Brewery stands for. Amaral expressed that he wants Vigilant to be a brewery that provides locals with beer that isn’t intimidating and is in a recognizable style.

If you know me well, then you know that I would add at least one beer from Long Live Beerworks to my top favorite beers. In fact, honestly, it was difficult to narrow down to just one beer I love. Given Long Live’s penchant for constantly rotating beers, many of my favorites are no longer in production. It would be a tease for me to talk about them, and surely put me on Santa’s bad list, wouldn’t it?

Ironically named to be perfect for this article, I am choosing “You’re Dead and out of This World” IPA. As you may know “You’re Dead and Out of this World” is the name of a song by Norma Tanega, the theme song to the series “What We Do in the Shadows.” It features 4 vampires who try to fit into mortal society. Nevertheless, this IPA stands out! It’s brewed with four different types of hops and has an ABV of 7.4%, making it not too weak but not too strong. Alongside notes of citrus and grapefruit, you can truly taste the full hop in “YDAOOTW,” as with most LLBW beers. It’s hop-forward and dominant to the final sip, which is what I generally look for.

I would be doing an injustice not to mention Friendsgiving, an annual collaboration with PVDonuts since 2019. This pastry stout has a high ABV of 12% and is meant to be sipped. Brewed with vanilla and hazelnut, it is a delicious spin on a traditional coffee stout. It’s a well-crafted dessert in beer form, so it is probably sold out by now.

Looking for a more traditional styled stout? As with all the breweries, it was hard to choose my favorite. I picked Raffi’s Oatmeal Stout from Tilted Barn. It is perfect for those chilly New England days or nights. If you haven’t been to the Tilted Barn, let me give you a glimpse of my visit this fall: It was a chilly day. The Tilted Barn was packed, but I managed to find a table by the window with an outside view of patrons huddled near fire pits, sharing pints. The tables inside were adorned with pumpkins as the light shined through the many windows. I ordered a sample of the Raffi. This stout pours dark brown and has a potent scent of coffee. Each sip is filled with strong coffee and slight bitter undertones that even out with a hint of vanilla. As the sun set in the sky and the stout warmed, the flavors of coffee and vanilla became more intensified.




Giving Thanks to A Creative Brewer: A crooked holiday

Thanksgiving is a time where we look back and reflect on what we are grateful for.

I admit that I am often in thoughts of my blessings. The craft beer community has contributed largely to that. I have met a lot of amazing people over the years and many who have become part of what I consider my beer family. 

Around this time of year about eight years ago, I walked through the doors of a newly opened brewery called Crooked Current. I remember being immediately greeted by Nichole Pelletier, owner and brewer, and Jason Lourenco, assistant brewer. It was a complete beer geek moment for me to meet my first female brewer. Nichole and Jason were friendly and personable. The atmosphere of the brewery was inviting and comfortable. Nichole explained that she loved cooking and that is how her passion for brewing started. She mentioned to Jason (who is her husband today) one day that she would like to brew for a living and he fully supported this idea.

“I am thankful for my husband, my partner in business and in life, without whom Crooked Current would come to a screeching halt and would never exist in the first place. His role is behind the scenes and therefore he doesn’t get the same recognition as I do. It was his belief in my ability that inspired the creation of this business and I am thankful everyday for his faith in me.”

The brewery had a wall painted with the Crooked Current logo and a picture of “Rosie the Riveter” from World War II saying, “We Can Do It.” I remember thinking that described Nichole completely. She made a career change to follow her heart and what she enjoyed doing. Nichole summarized this for me by saying, “To anyone following their passion, I’d say congrats on figuring out what your true passion is: Many never do and it took me years of soul searching to discover mine!” 

Over the years I frequented Crooked Current with family, friends, and significant others. I held surprise birthday parties there and pre holiday celebrations. 

Eight years later, I walk through the doors of the brewery and I am once again greeted by Nichole, and I feel as if I am meeting an old friend. The atmosphere is still cozy and welcoming. Nichole has decorated the brewery with a fall and Halloween theme. The beers also reflect this seasonal vibe. Nichole explained to me that she puts a lot of creative thought into her beers. Nichole stated that she was able to focus on creating new craft beers during COVID. “I was able to focus on a couple of recipes that I previously did not have time to do.” Nicole comes up with ideas based on foods that she has tasted and flavors she likes.

Two of these beers created during COVID were available on draft when this article was written, “Cherry Pie Golden Ale” and “Maple Pumpkin Ale. Nichole also had two beers available she calls her “witches brews,” “Amuck IPA,” and “Black Flame IPA.”

I ordered a flight of all four plus the “White Stout,” and took a seat outside on the benches that are available. I couldn’t help but think of Thanksgiving when I took a sip of the Maple Pumpkin Ale recently infused with coffee. It poured a hazy amber color with thick lacing. The aroma was of maple syrup layered with a strong coffee flavor that followed through to the palate. Coffee flavor dominated through to the back bone with a slight touch of pumpkin on the front end. As this ale warmed, sweet flavors of pumpkin puree added came through, layering throughout each sip. 

The “Cherry Pie Golden Ale” was next up. It pours a hazy amber hue. This ale presents with a slight cherry taste on the front end and a delicious malt and cherry backbone. This ale, made with real cherries, was not overly sweet and could be easily paired with dessert. 

I am not sure if you have ever had a white stout, but you need to. This “White Stout” poured an amber hue. Coffee is present on the nose and there are sweet coffee flavors on the front end and bitter flavors of coffee on the back bone.

Next up were the witches’ brews. The “Amuck IPA” poured a hazy honey flavor with a non-retentive head. There is an aroma of tea on the nose as well as the palate. There is a slight touch of honey at the backbone. This can be described as sweet tea, but the beer version. The “Amuck” is made with green Matcha Powder, ground green tea leaves.

My last beer out of my flight sample and my favorite was the “Black Flame IPA.” Purple potion-like pour, grape in color, this IPA had thin-rimmed head retention and waterfall lacing. On the nose there are aromas of grape and malt. This is also true of the palate. The flavor was sweet with a touch of acidity, comparable to a white wine. As the beer warmed, malt dominated and the sweet grape fell slightly into the backbone.This was made with Butterfly Pea Powder which is blue but when brewed turns purple due to the PH level change.  

Both Butterfly Pea Powder and Matcha Powder have antioxidants, flavonoids,and peptides. This means you are potentially drinking to your health as these have beneficial properties for your hair and skin, as well as anti-inflammatory benefits. If that doesn’t make you spellbound I don’t know what will.

What creative craft beers do we have to look forward to? Nichole explained to me that she was adding a scorpion pepper to her Mexican Chocolate Stout. This was inspired by the Day of the Dead as well as Scorpio season. Nichole plans on transitioning this chocolate stout to a seasonal Peppermint Mocha Mint Stout. Yum! Think that’s all? Thanksgiving eve Nichole will be releasing her EggNog Stout. Before this she will be pouring her second year collaboration with Linesider brewing. Nichole explained that it was their take on fruit cake but with a higher ABV than last year. “It has been aged since June in Newport Distillery barrels.”

I know what I will be bringing for “dessert” to holiday house parties!  

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I asked Nichole what she was thankful for professionally. “… I know this is going to sound cliché, but it just can not be stressed enough: I am extremely grateful for the customers. I do my absolute best with each person that walks through our door to make them truly feel my gratitude – and I can only hope it shows. They kept us afloat during a worldwide pandemic and they continue to support us with even more options on the market than ever before, and not one day will go by that we ever take their support for granted”.

Nichole is truly creative and puts thought and time into her crafted beers. The beer she crafts is flavorful and made with real ingredients that can not be compared with hop-forward beers. If you are looking for less hops and beer that is light and refreshing, this is the brewery for you! Crooked Current won a Motif drink award for her Neapolitan Brown Ale for favorite Reds and Browns.

As I left Crooked Current Brewing I saw that the World War II picture of “Rosie the Riveter” is still on display. I look at it and it summarizes my exact thoughts of empowerment and female patriotism. In a male dominated craft, Nichole continues to be successful and stands out among other breweries for following her creative style. Nichole is truly an inspiration and for that I am grateful! Thank you and cheers, Nichole.

Crooked Current Brewery is at 560 Mineral Spring Ave, Pawtucket

They are open Thursday and Friday 5 – 8pm and Saturday 1 – 5pm.

There are three beers on tap and more to choose from to go. There are usually pop-up food trucks available with seating inside and outside.




Half Pints for a Cause: Drinking to support emergency workers

Giving to a charity makes us feel good. Giving to a charity and being able to raise a glass of delicious craft beer to them is even better. If you are looking to support a local cause this month you can do just that at Bristol Beer Fest. Most of Bristol’s Fire Department, with the exception of four career positions, is volunteer. These trained volunteer front line workers are making sure that the nearly 23,000 residents of Bristol are receiving medical care and that the town is safe. 

100% of the proceeds from this beer fest will be donated to Bristol Fire Department Benevolent Association Charitable Trust and the renovation of Fireman’s Memorial Park. A memorial is planned to be erected there in memory of volunteer fire fighters and emergency medical personnel. 

This event is being held at Vigilant Brewery. All four breweries from Bristol will be there with at least 16 total different beers to sample. In addition, there will be food from George’s Grill and Moving Dough Wood Fired Pizza. There will be live music by East Bay Roots and Mischievous and Friends.

The Four breweries of Bristol are Pivotal Brewing, Six Pack Brewing, Twelve Guns Brewing and Vigilant Brewing Co., Both Six Pack and Twelve Guns are past winners in Motif’s Drink Awards. This year, Twelve Guns was nominated in four beer categories. Six Pack was nominated and won in four beer categories. Vigilant Brewing Co is the newest brewery of these four – they opened in June of this year. It is the only one I have not been to and I am excited to try some of their craft beers.

Mark Papi, owner and brewer of Six Pack, mentioned that there will be a variety of beer styles offered at this beer fest. “ There won’t be just all IPAs to sample. We are all meeting up soon to make sure of this”  Each brewery “will be bringing at least four beers to sample.”  The event is being held at Vigilant Brewing Co, 44 Ballou Blvd in Bristol on Oct 23 from 1:30 – 4:30pm. At the time this article was written there were 100 tickets left.

Tickets are being sold on EventBrite. $35 per person includes an eight ounce sample glass, unlimited craft beer pours from the four breweries, and a door prize raffle ticket. 

With the season of Thanksgiving upon us, I would like to extend my gratitude to the Bristol volunteer Firefighters and EMS workers, Cheers and thank you!




Half pints for a cause: Drinking to support emergency workers

Giving to a charity makes us feel good. Giving to a charity and being able to raise a glass of delicious craft beer to them is even better. If you are looking to support a local cause this month you can do just that at Bristol Beer Fest. Most of Bristol’s Fire Department, with the exception of four career positions, is volunteer. These trained volunteer front line workers are making sure that the nearly 23,000 residents of Bristol are receiving medical care and that the town is safe. 

100% of the proceeds from this beer fest will be donated to Bristol Fire Department Benevolent Association Charitable Trust and the renovation of Fireman’s Memorial Park. A memorial is planned to be erected there in memory of volunteer fire fighters and emergency medical personnel. 

This event is being held at Vigilant Brewery. All four breweries from Bristol will be there with at least 16 total different beers to sample. In addition, there will be food from George’s Grill and Moving Dough Wood Fired Pizza. There will be live music by East Bay Roots and Mischievous and Friends.

The Four breweries of Bristol are Pivotal Brewing, Six Pack Brewing, Twelve Guns Brewing and Vigilant Brewing Co., Both Six Pack and Twelve Guns are past winners in Motif’s Drink Awards. This year, Twelve Guns was nominated in four beer categories. Six Pack was nominated and won in four beer categories. Vigilant Brewing Co is the newest brewery of these four – they opened in June of this year. It is the only one I have not been to and I am excited to try some of their craft beers.

Mark Papi, owner and brewer of Six Pack, mentioned that there will be a variety of beer styles offered at this beer fest. “There won’t be just all IPAs to sample. We are all meeting up soon to make sure of this.”  Each brewery “will be bringing at least four beers to sample.”  The event is being held at Vigilant Brewing Co, 44 Ballou Blvd in Bristol on Oct 23 from 1:30 – 4:30pm. At the time this article was written there were 100 tickets left.

Tickets are being sold on EventBrite. $35 per person includes an eight ounce sample glass, unlimited craft beer pours from the four breweries, and a door prize raffle ticket. 

With the season of Thanksgiving upon us, I would like to extend my gratitude to the Bristol volunteer Firefighters and EMS workers, Cheers and thank you!




Beervana Fest: Where the brewers come out to play

I am trying to remember when my love for craft beer first began. I would have to say it started when I tasted my first Belgian about twelve years ago at the far away Ebenezer’s Pub in Lovell, Maine.

Needless to say, since then my preferences in styles have varied and increased. Like some of you, I am sure, I often go for a number of different styles of craft beer to sample. What better place to do this than a beer festival? Now that COVID restrictions have lessened and the prevalence of available beer festivals has increased, it is time to get out and enjoy them. I have attended two so far this year and in October Beervana will be my third beer fest – and first Beervana Fest. Not knowing anything beyond what I read in previous years, I was curious to hear what exactly Beervana was all about.

I had the opportunity and pleasure of speaking to Brian Shawn Oakley, co-founder of Beervana. I asked Brian about his love for craft beer and how Beervana all started. “I was not super excited about beer until craft beer was produced. I would go to the liquor store, often Nikki’s and purchase different craft beers with various styles.” This is how Brian met co- owner/founder of Beervana and owner of Nikki’s, Mike Iannazzi.

Brian and Mike, both passionate about craft beer, wanted a festival that represented unique, world-renowned beers. They wanted to establish a venue where one could enjoy and appreciate different styles, responsibly. At that time many of the brew fests being held had a history of overindulgence and partying. Brian felt that was not truly getting the craft beer experience.

What does Beervana mean to Brian, and would he attend if he was not the co -owner? “I want people to get out and be seen in a consolidated beer world landscape. I wanted an environment where people are participating and socializing. Where else would you get to taste 80 plus unique craft beers?”

“In a world where people are on cell phones, it is important to be able to communicate face to face.”

I couldn’t agree more with Brian, and the Beervana he and Mike have created has become just that.

The guidelines and mission statement of Beervana Fest are that each brewery has to produce a unique beer specifically for the fest. The brewery also needs to have a representative at the fest who is a team member. Personally, interacting with a brewer or staff from a brewery has made the beer fests I have attended amazing and unforgettable. Brian mentioned that this interaction between the brewery and attendee is what vendors love the most about being part of a craft beer fest.

Brian and Mike pay for all the beer served at Beervana ($30 – 40,000). They rotate and include RI breweries every year as well as many from nearby states. Allagash Brewing Company has been a part of Beervana from the beginning.

In addition to this, Brian and Mike work with breweries and produce a collaboration craft beer, this year collaborating breweries will be Beer’d Brewing Co., Buttonwoods Brewery, Long Live Beerworks and Origin Beer Project.

One has to wonder how Beervana has survived through the pandemic. Brian answered this by stating, “The credibility of the work put in as well as staying true to the mission statement of the festival has kept us active into our fourteenth year. The showcase of unique beers that are offered has contributed to this. There are no hidden fees for the vendor as well”

In the words of Sean Larkin, co-founder/owner and Master Brewer of Revival Brewery, “Their shows are top-notch. Brian and Mike curate a really good show for craft beer fans and brewers alike. They try to have different and interesting speakers every year. They have done a great job thus far curating this. It is good to support a festival that is local.”

This year Beervana will be changing its location to The Waterfire Arts Center on Valley Street in Providence. Being at a smaller location this year, Beervana will be held in two sessions this year to allow attendees room to interact and to avoid long lines at the brewery vendors.

It is no surprise that Beervana has succeeded and continues to be held annually. Brian says, “I encourage people to dress up in Halloween costumes.” What better way to spend Halloween than sipping on amazing unique craft beer and interacting with the beer community and brewery vendors?

After speaking with Brian, I am super excited about attending this fest. These tickets will sell out: To purchase a ticket go to beervanafest.com. Tickets are $65 per person. This includes a tasting glass and unlimited 2-ounce pours. In addition to over 50 tables of craft beers, there will be music and dancers.

A partial list of breweries was released when this article was written. Breweries are subject to change:
Allagash Brewing Company, Apponaug Brewing Company, Beer on Earth, Beer’d Brewing Co, Burlington Beer Co, Buttonwoods Brewery, Deciduous Brewing Company, Ommegang Brewing, Exhibit A Brewing Company, Finback Brewery, Forest and Main, Frost Beer Works, Narragansett Brewing Company, Good Measure Brewing Co, Greater Good Imperial Brewing Company, Grey Sail Brewing, Foley Brothers Brewing, Hive Beer, Lamplighter Brewing Co, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Long Live Beerworks, Mast Landing Brewing Co, New England Brewing Co, Nikki’s Liquors, Notch Brewing, Origin Beer Project, Proclamation Ale Company, Ragged Island Brewing Co, River Styx Brewing, Shaidzon Beer Co, Stone Brewing, Tilted Barn Brewery, Union Station Brewery, Upper Pass Beer Company, Vitamin Sea Brewing, Von Trapp Brewing, Widowmaker Brewing, Wild East Brewing Co, Zero Gravity Brewery.




Drink Award Winners

Profiles written by Heather Bryant, Kelly Currier, Gina Mastrostefano, Mike Ryan.

RI BrewFest (PVD, January)

Favorite Brew Fest – Brew Fest used to take place at the Pawtucket Armory and has been at the WaterFire Arts Center since 2019. Taking a two-session approach, it’s usually on a Saturday in late January or early February. 2023 dates haven’t been announced yet, but it sells out fast, so keep an eye on ribrewfest.com

With around 50 brewers for a typical showing, this fest emphasizes regional and especially local participants. Perhaps it’s also because it happens in the RI-event-deadspace of deep winter, but this fest certainly warms our readers’ hearts. Or gullets. Or both.

– MR

Linesider 

Blonde Jovi won best label art – Blondes. Everyone has a favorite. Linesider Brewing is no exception. As they posted on social media after the event, “Your favorite blonde took home some hardware last night. Blonde Jovi took home the Favorite Can Art category at the 2022 Motif Magazine & and Drink awards! This award means something extra to us because it was a write-in category which means to win it, voters had to specifically think of the can and vote!” 

I can’t help but sing some of the lyrics of the 1980’s band Bon Jovi. We all know and love the song “Runway” and the words, “Guaranteed to blow your mind.” The imperial pale ale is “Easily our most talked about label,” agrees Kyle from Linesider, “So this was really a great one to win.”

The ’80s hair band look – and highschool yearbook photos from the era – were the muse behind this can art created by artist Stephen Lloyd Drake

Linesider Brewing Co is located in East Greenwich. The co-founders are Jeremy Ruff and Dan Koppen, a former New England Patriot. 

  • KLC

Smug Brewing

Traitorade won Favorite Clever Name – “The name came when we were canning another beer. It was the day Tom Brady got Buckaneer’d, and that was all over the radio as we worked.” says Michael Huftalen of Smug. “We started to speculate on what a beer inspired by Tom Brady would include. It would be salty, because we were feeling pretty salty about the whole thing. Key limes brought the Florida connection, and sour … well, that’s just obvious. The name was sort of a ‘Eureka moment.’”

The brew became emblematic of the new, mostly-friendly rivalry, and was in fact featured in a segment on the local news in Tampa. Smug’s not officially distributed in Florida, or outside of Rhode Island, but when the news crew dropped by the brewery, they might have taken a few cans – and definitely some Traitorade shirts and hats – back to the peninsula. “We were pretty surprised,” admits Huftalen, “When a news crew from Tampa showed up in the brewery.”

Traitorade isn’t currently available, but it proved very popular during its run. Will it be back? “I think that depends on what Brady does, going forward,” says Huftalen. Meanwhile, you can snag similar flavor profiles from Smug’s Summer Series or Be Fruitful series, both of which have numerous sours.

– MR

Newport Vineyards

Rhody Coyote won Favorite Cider – Rhody Coyote hard cider is made from a family recipe with fresh Rhode Island apples that are juiced and then “kiss the juice with champagne yeast.” In addition to winning the Motif Favorite Cider award, it also won RI best cider at The Big E up in Massachusetts. It is 7% ABV and considered drier than your average cider. No word on whether it’s caught that road runner yet.

You can sip this delicious cider inside or out while overlooking the beautiful grounds of Newport Vineyards. 

Located in Newport and also home to Taproot Brewing Company, the vineyard also offers beer from the brewery in addition to wine. There is also a farm-to-fork restaurant, a setting for live music during the summer and great views all year long.

 – KLC

Whalers

Drift won favorite seltzer, RISE won favorite Pale Ale – Whaler’s American Pale Ale, RISE, has become one of the locally crafted goodies you’re most likely to be able to find outside its brewery of origin. It’s actually tied into Whaler’s origin story – “It was the first collaboration between our two head brewers,” explains Turtle from the tasting room. “They weren’t sure if things were going to work out. Josh [Dunlop] is a former marine from the West coast with a taste for heavy, strong beer to drink with his buddies, while Wes [Gatsky] is more of a chemist, a college-grad from Boston with a science degree and a love of lighter, more refined taste. He really likes sours, for example. But they met in the middle somehow with the RISE. Our regulars all gave really positive feedback, they told us we hit a home-run. This was the one we needed to make more of. Now it’s really the brew that keeps the doors open.”

RISE is “an everyone beer,” Turtle says. Mainstream tastes that might be drawn to Bud or Miller also like this – you don’t have to be a fan of craft beers to appreciate it, but if you are you’ll find flavors that make it distinctive.

RISE also pursued a different strategy during the pandemic – instead of trying to expand the geographic footprint of the popular beer, they focused on getting product consistently to the places that wanted to carry it. 

“When supply issues were hitting everyone, we didn’t want to go into new places, we wanted to make sure our customers had enough, to maintain our slhelf space,” Turtle says, explaining why RISE can be found in so many spots, but only in RI, MA, CT and a few specialty bars around NU and the rest of New England. “We also don’t get cans and put on labels like most breweries – we get custom printed cans. When there was a big can shortage last year, it didn’t really affect us the way it did most smaller brewers. We were able to keep getting the product out there,” Turtle reveals.

Dunlop and Gretsky continue to collaborate, of course. Their newest collab is Muse, a cloudy NE style IPA with lighter drinkability at only 7%. “Seltzers [like Drift] have also exploded in the last few years – we have all these flavors with no additives, just fresh fruit purees, like our new cucumber lime,” Turtle tells us. “At the end of the day, it’s about handing out beers and having a good time – you want to make what people want to drink.”

– MR

Sons of Liberty

Honey Chamomile Flavored Whiskey won for Favorite Whiskey and True Born Gin won Favorite Gin/Vodka – Sons of Liberty (SoL) in Kingstown is a staple in the liquor landscape of our lil’ state. They began dedicated to producing whiskey from some of the quality beers they loved. Since then, they’ve moved on to rye, gin, vodka, cocktails in cans, craft beer, seltzer … you drink it, they probably make it.

SoL has received national attention for their commitment to well-executed American single malt whiskies. Having recently won Craft Distiller of the Year for 2017 from Whiskey Magazine, the company has appeared in many stories about their products. So it’s not a big surprise that they were selected as favorite Whiskey, although it’s a little unexpected that their Honey Chamomile prevailed over their more traditional blends. Infused with local honey from Woods Farms, this seasonal blend has floral notes and a slight caramel aftertaste.

The True Born rests in an oak barrel for three and a half years. It tastes a little citrusy, and picks up flavor – and color – from the barrel, producing a gin designed “for whiskey drinkers who want to step out of their comfort zone.”

– MR

RI SPIRITS

Rhodium Coffee Black Walnut Vodka won in “other” spirits – “We seek to make spirits that could be made nowhere else.” Goal achieved, RI Spirits! The home of Rhodium brand premium gins, vodkas, and liqueurs is the brainchild of Cathy Plourde and Kara Larson, who serve as founders, owners, and distillers. Their commitment to providing gluten-free, organic, and kosher products truly makes this company a community star, and their refreshing focus on partnering with local farms and suppliers for ingredients has served them well when it comes to their award-winning Coffee Black Walnut Vodka. 

Featuring cold-brewed, decaffeinated Guatemala Antigua coffee that was sourced and roasted by their Pawtucket neighbors Downeast, with a touch of cardamom and a mellow infusion of foraged black walnuts, their unique twist on flavored vodka has the power to convert new fans – the writer of this blurb, who genuinely dislikes coffee, had three samples at the Motif Awards! 

– HB

Six Pack Brewing

Ollie won Favorite “Misc beer;” Lennie Favorite Pilsner; Ruby Favorite Kolsch – Six Pack Brewing is coming up on its two-year Anniversary this November. They are among five breweries and a cidery in their immediate area. Despite this local competition, they were nominated in three categories this year and won awards for all three.

Mark Papi, owner and brewer, told me that he was honored to be nominated and was happy to have one beer win in a category. “I was surprised to be nominated for three beers and even more so to have each beer win an award.” Three different beer styles were represented, Ollie, a Grisette Belgian Farmhouse Ale, Lenni, an Italian Pilsner and Ruby, a Kolsch.

In case you were wondering about the names, each of the beers is named after a dog. Ollie and Lenni were part of Mark’s original dog family of six. Ruby was named after a beer naming contest Six Pack had. She was a police dog who sadly had to be put down, Mark stated “We couldn’t think of a dog more deserving.”

Six Pack Brewing is located in Bristol, RI. They are, not surprisingly, dog-friendly. They offer six beers that maintain their original styles and vary in hops. Mark is soon adding two more beer styles to the original six line-up, as well as a hop water. “We wanted to have a non-alcoholic drink for those who don’t want to drink. Although we offer non-alcoholic beverages, this is something that our customers have been asking for.” Let me ask you, is there anything better than pints and paws?

– KLC

Lops Brewing

Pumpkin Spice Ale won Favorite Flavored Drink, Espresso Peanut Butter Porter won Favorite Porter, Favorite Overall Brewery – Lops Brewing had its grand opening in 2019, just in time for COVID’s impact on the landscape and the world. Located at 122 North Main St, near the Stadium Theater in Woonsocket, the brewery is still very much in the small batch phase, but its results are promising for founder Sean Lopolito’s wish to “translate my love of beer, brewing, friends and family, into a profession.” 

The seasonal Pumpkin Spice Ale is the top seller for Lops, and the Espresso Peanut Butter is also a fall release, so now really is the time to drop by, say hi to Sean and his co-owner and wife Sarah, and sample away!

Lops not only took Favorite Porter and the coveted Pumpkin Spice prize, the brewery received more votes overall, across all categories, than any other participant.

– MR

Tilted Barn

Sunrise Over Sea won Favorite Sour, Summer Sol won Favorite Wheat, Is This Still Lawn Boy won Favorite LagerMotif has written about Tilted Barn quite a number of times over the years, and words like “rustic,” and “charming” keep coming up in those reviews. Despite being in middle-of-nowhere-by-RI-standards Exeter, fans of the Tilt have definitely found their hearty, flavorful brews, made with hops grown on the premises, are worth the drive, the wait, and well worth voting for online.

Owners Matt and Kara Richardson live on and manage the gorgeous (and rustic, and charming) property, which has been in Kara’s family for over 50 years. To marry their mutual passions of farming and quality beer, in 2007 they founded Ocean State Hops, which supplies hops to both commercial breweries and home brewers. The logical next step: brew their own beer. Enter the Tilted Barn Brewery, RI’s first farm brewery, in 2014. Since then, they’ve become a rare but appreciated staple of the local beer culture.

Sunrise over Sea is a milder fruited sour made with cranberries and tangerines. Is This Still a Lawn Boy is a czek-inspired darker lager, a relative of Tilted Barn’s popular Lawn Boy. Summer Sol is a wheat – and a seasonal, so don’t expect to find it now.

– MR

Ravenous

Coffee Milk Stout won Favorite Stout – “Rhode Island is coffee milk – and Ravenous is Coffee Milk Stout.” Whether you’re from Woonsocket or up from Westerly, you’ll be thirsty, nevermore, when it comes to trying this signature Ocean State beer. 

When Dorian Rave launched his brewery in 2012, one of the first concoctions was the malty homage to coffee milk, and it’s been in regular rotation since, even making the tap trek when Ravenous moved to its new, larger location in 2019. A nano-brewery that champions the motto of “Brewing quality ale, one small batch at a time,” their warm and wood-filled space with plenty of long tables was designed to encourage strangers to sit closer and connect over a common passion for good beer. Often, there’s at least one person at a table who is earning their badge of honor in trying Coffee Milk Stout for the first time!

– HB

Narragansett

Fresh Catch won Favorite Light Ale, Musik Express IPA won favorite IPA, 2nd place for Overall Favorite Brewery – “Made on Honor, Sold on Merit” has been the tried and true slogan for Narragansett Beer for well over a century. The local mogul has made headlines for decades and has struck gold yet again pulling in 3 awards from the Motif Drink Awards. 

‘Gansett beer is largely known for their lager, a beer that has stood the test of time, and has a claim to fame for being featured in the 1975 Speilberg classic Jaws. But the brewer is making waves with their take on other styles of beer, winning best in category for Favorite Light Ale, and Favorite IPA. Light Ale winner Fresh Catch is a go-to for many thirsty Rhode Islanders including ‘Gansett CEO Mark Hellendrung. “This is my go-to beer, crisp, easy drinking with lots of citra and hops.”

Musik Express (favorite IPA) was the first IPA to be brewed at the new India Point brewery in 2021. “I just love brewing this beer…it’s great to know people enjoy it as much as I do.” – says head brewer Lee Lord. The new brewery built in 2021 was also the 2nd place winner for overall favorite brewery. Events manager Ezra Juskewitch comments – “We’ve had such a diverse gathering at the brewery over the last year – the people, events, the waterfront location and wide open feel really make this place special.”

– GM

12 Guns

The Meg Blonde Ale won Favorite Blonde – Twelve Guns in Bristol, RI takes its name from the early Rhode Island Naval vessel, the U.S.S. Providence, which served in the Revolutionary War under the Continental Navy. 

The U.S.S. Providence was proud to boast about having twelve guns on board, but this brewery only needs eight taps on rotation to make some serious waves in the Rhode Island beer world. It’s no surprise that their signature brew, The Meg, blasted through the blonde ale competition, giving this often-overlooked beer style some well-deserved attention! Easy-drinking, well-balanced, clean and refreshing, with moderate malt and little to no hop bitterness, this classic style might be your most well-rounded ale experience ever. If you’re curious to grab a can, their brewery on 549 Metacom Avenue has the same mellow vibe, with a communal indoor space, frequent food trucks in the parking lot, and at least one well-behaved dog that’s used to lots of attention from the friendly crowd. 

– HB

Crooked Current

Neapolitan Brown Ale won Favorite Reds & Browns – The infamous ‘ice cream beer’ reigns supreme again! The Crook strikes gold again with its extraordinary take on melding chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry with beer – and yes, it really does taste like all three! But anyone who’s ever paid a visit to the smallest brewery in the smallest state (at one point) knows this kind of impressive creativity happens every day, thanks to the extraordinary brain of brewmaster Nichole Pelletier

Nestled into a tiny space in the Lorraine Mills, off Mineral Spring Avenue in Pawtucket, Crooked Current is a popular post-work stop for Pawtucket workers eager to relax after a long day – there’s often lines out the door! But tasting their amazing flavor combinations? It’s worth your while to make a trip to the ‘Bucket.’

Grey Sail

Captain’s Daughter won Favorite DIPA – Head Brewer of Grey Sail Brewing, Rich Welsh has been brewing for five out of the seven years he has been working there. The award winning beer he brews, Captain’s Daughter, “…is based off of a home recipe of the owners that was tweaked until it got to its current form. The recipe is more or less untouched,” with “some procedural tweaks” said Rich.

In a world with so many DIPAs available, what makes Captain’s Daughter stand out and why did it win Favorite DIPA? Rich says, “I think it stands out because it’s able to walk the line between old and new school IPAs. It has that initial bitter punch with a dry finish that leaves you wanting more, but still has plenty of hops aroma and citrus from heavy amounts of Citra and Mosaic.” 

This perfect description of Captain’s Daughter is why I and many others have it on draft often, and as a staple in the beer fridge. Captain’s Daughter is also getting a new variation that will soon be available: a year-aged, whiskey barreled version. 

– KLC

Buttonwoods

3RD PLACE for Overall Favorite. Although they didn’t take any of the individual categories this year, Buttonwoods fans voted them up to second place for several brews and overall.

Buttonwoods Brewery had four beers nominated in four different beer styles: IPA, Light Ale, Golden Ale & Blondes, Pilsner. In addition to amazing beers, head brewer Morgan Synder’s creative outlook, charismatic and comedic personality make this brewery easy to love. 

“It’s always an honor to have even one beer nominated, let alone 4! To know people enjoy our beer enough to nominate is really all we can ask for!” 

What contributes to Morgan’s talented craft brewing beers? “My favorite part of brewing would have to be the tinkering; every batch is an opportunity to improve. Which is probably why my favorite beer to brew is our Pilsner because every little change feels like it’s shouted through a megaphone”

Morgan has created a brewery atmosphere to bring people together “Community is one of the key components of beer. Drinking has such a strong social aspect that’s super important to us… to create an environment that matches that tone and sentiment.” That also motivates the many evening activities Buttonwoods likes to host, from horror movie screenings to vendor fairs to trivia nights.

There are always plenty of beers and a variety of styles on draft, canned and bottled at the brewery. New beers are featured on the brewery’s instagram via video that are definitely a must watch. Buttonwoods Brewery is located in Cranston and has been open since 2017. They are dog-friendly, have inside and outside seating and a pop up kitchen.

– KLC