Welcome to an occasional series focusing on breweries that are off-the-beaten-path but worth your time. I know, I know… it’s hard to get Providence folks to leave the city. And with so many world-class breweries available so close to home, why bother? Trust me here. Get in the car, fire up Google Maps, and if you really want some fun, do what I do and travel back in time to a place before the interstate highway system was invented with the magical incantation, “Hey google! Turn off highways!”
This trip starts up route 44, past the Capitol, and up over Smith Hill. Once you get past I-295 it starts to feel progressively more rural; by the time you’ve driven over the Waterman Reservoir causeway you may even feel relaxed. When you get to Chepachet, either take a right on route 100 or continue down 44 and head right on Reservoir Road. It’s all about the journey, which today brings you to the village of Pascoag. Local tip: if you run around talking about “Passkoag” you’ll get laughed at. Pronounce it “pass go” and you’ll fit right in.
Oh, and the beer. Speaking of beer, today’s destination is emblematic of how times have changed in Pascoag. 30 years ago, my buddy and I used to drink Bud Lights at George’s Pizza, because, well, he lived there, and it was the only place in town. Now thanks to the craft beer revolution you can have a couple of really excellent pints at Bravo Brewing Company, located invitingly in a brand-new building at 75 Main St.
Bravo Brewing Company is a veteran-owned nanobrewery that was founded in 2019. They donate 1% of annual sales to Homes For Our Troops, a national non-profit organization based in Taunton, Mass., dedicated to building and donating adapted homes for severely injured post-9/11 veterans and their families.
One of the things that I look for in a smaller brewery is a diversity of styles. I love NEIPAs, double IPA’s. and triple IPA’s (and every other way people have found to cram hops into beer), but I will always have a soft spot for traditional beer. Bravo tries to consistently keep a diversity of beer styles in play. The last time I went, I began my visit with a pint of “Union Jack English Pub Ale.” You really cannot lose with a beer like that. At 4.8% it’s eminently quaffable. The traditional English hops give it a somewhat minty flavor which plays well with the stone-fruit overtones: That’s a characteristic of the yeasts used to produce English ales.
Hopheads: Do not despair! They have two solid IPA’s on tap. The first, “Bravo Brewing Echo,” made with Azacca, Galaxy, and BRU-1 hops, has a nice crisp bitterness to it. I like an IPA to have a little edge; so many NEIPA’s are just juice bombs. This one is juice but still bitter which is a nice handbrake for a 7.2% beer.
Seeking a more ‘traditional’, soft, hoppy NEIPA with very little bite? Their “Mayday New England IPA” fits the bill nicely with a soft citrus flavor and some nice dank aromas. It’s very gentle on the palate and at 5.6% drinks well. I’d cheerfully come back another day and have a couple pints of this.
For the next two beers in my flight, I decided to break with tradition and have the strawberry beers. The first, “Strawberry Basil Saison,” is an interesting and intriguing beer. There are some flavors that intersect between Strawberry and Basil and when combined with the saison yeast, it makes a fascinating flavor profile. One sip, you swear it’s dominated by strawberry, then the next you feel the basil asserting itself. The other strawberry beer was a regular Strawberry Blonde; not particularly interesting but unobjectionable. If you have someone in your group who doesn’t like “craft” beer then this is their tipple.
They are open Wednesday through Sunday and they almost always have someone serving food as well. It’s a nice ride to an out-of-the way spot, and well worth the trip. So remember: Get out on the back roads and drink Rhode Island!