Seltzer Weather: A guide to finding the best seltzer to tickle your taste buds
We all have that crazy aunt who would have one too many wine coolers at the family cookout. A vicious combination of Seagram & Smirnoff always managed to take that 7th birthday party or baptism down a bad path. Well, reality check people — we are the crazy aunts now. And while our behaviors may be questionable, our tastes have evolved. We’ve put down the wine coolers for something with a bit more pizazz. (If your idea of pizazz is a blast of Co2.)
Spiked seltzer has quickly become the drink of choice for many. Often gluten-free, spiked seltzers also offer fewer carbs, fewer calories and typically low alcohol content, making it the perfect drink for those who like to party but want to avoid packing on the pounds. White Claw is arguably the most popular brand of this new beverage that has taken the drinking community by storm. It offers a variety of flavors from black cherry to mango and rings in at 110 calories. Other large brands also have concocted their own signature version of seltzer including Truly, BON VIV and even domestic beer mogul Budweiser.
Local breweries are jumping into the seltzer craze, too. While enjoying a socially distant meal at The Patio in East Greenwich, I was approached by Adam Aktchian, a rep of Two Roads Brewing of Stratford, Conn. He offered my boyfriend and me a sample of their newest brew, H2Roads, in a delicious raspberry flavor. He encouraged us to pour the drink over ice to witness its vibrant fruity color, which comes from the real fruit used in the drink. Head brewer Phil Markowski says on the Two Roads website: “We wanted to avoid an artificial flavor from additives and offer an alternative to folks who prefer a natural tasting product. Real fruit was the only way to achieve this. The natural byproduct of real fruit is real color, which all of our seltzers will have.” I can personally vouch that the results are amazing.
For your drinking pleasure, this guide will help you find the best spiked seltzer for you:
Two Roads – H2Roads
Flavors: Raspberry, grapefruit, black cherry, cranberry lime
Flavors: Black cherry, lime, grapefruit, mango, raspberry, watermelon, tangerine, lemon
Alcohol % by volume: 5%
Bud Light Seltzer
Flavors: Black cherry, lemon lime, strawberry, mango
Alcohol % by volume: 5%
The Four Cs: Courtland Club’s (ice) cream and cocktails
A couple of years ago, the Courtland Club opened on the West Side of Providence, a revamped social club that’s not just for old men anymore. But as its interior is more speakeasy-vibe than luxuriously spaced, they needed to adapt (as every other restaurant and bar) to CoronaTimes.
Their solution was an outdoor window — where the keypad-containing door now remains propped open with a table — through which they serve freshly made cocktails and ice cream to go. Recently, they’ve added five outdoor tables to their quaint backyard, which means you can snag a spot to sit if you time it right. My friend and I happened to get lucky on a Sunday afternoon, and we were taken to a small table in the shade, adorned with a vase of flowers.
Their menu was put together on an old-fashioned message board, with black and red letters. The list of cocktails contains some of their classic favorites, like the Mother Theresa — and with a garnish of edible gold stars, how could you not love this drink? — and seasonal creations. For example, each month they have a zodiac-inspired cocktail, and even though I visited in my birth month and am proud to be a Cancer, I’m not usually a fan of tequila. Instead, I opted for a Beach Rose Martini, and hot damn, it was perfect. It was like inhaling beach air, in the best possible way. It was served in a small mason jar, and garnishes (like the gold stars for my friend’s Mother Theresa) were given in a small Ziploc bag.
The ice cream is drool-worthy, and with the heat wave we’ve been experiencing, I was not only drooling but profusely sweating. I couldn’t decide between Piña Colada ice cream and the Strawberry Daiquiri Sorbet, so I decided to do the unthinkable and get a scoop of each. Mixing sorbet and ice cream? Yes. Regrets? None. In fact, I loved the Piña Colada ice cream so much, I got a pint of it before we left.
If cocktails and ice cream aren’t enough to inspire you, here’s a bonus: Each week they serve a specialty cookie for which 100% of proceeds to go charity (a “dough-nation,” if you will). I’m proud to say I supported the EduLeaders of Color RI, and I will happily eat more cookies if it means I can help more people.
The Courtland Club accepts online orders and table reservations. You might even find a pizza on their menu — the Pizza Of the Week is always worth checking out. Masks are required, because we want to spread love, not germs. The Courtland Club has come a long way since the ’40s, and now the doors are wide open.
Explore the Loire: Try one of these summer sippers during your staycation
The Loire Valley wine region starts at the Atlantic Ocean and reaches into central France. It is most famous for Sancerre and Vouvray. While great examples of each exist, for the most part, the most expensive and least interesting wines imported into the US are going to be from these two appellations. Luckily, there are 67 other appellations full of diverse styles of wines to explore at great prices.
After Champagne, the Loire Valley produces the most sparkling wine in France. These bubbles come in every different style, and you can get a bottle of sparkling white, rosé and red from the Loire for the same price as one bottle of nice Champagne. Sparkling wines from the Loire, like all wines from the region, are not as mainstream in our country. This means two things. It is best to shop at a store specializing in wine to find them, and when you do find them, you can be reasonably sure that the liquid inside is going to be delicious. Some names to look for include Lambert, Louis de Grenelle, Champalou and Domaine Terres Blanche. Huet, from Vouvray, is one of the more famous names (especially for their sweeter still wines). You might also come across some sparkling reds, which are really wild. Domaine Terres Blanche is one example and Chateau de Miniere also makes a really cool red pét-nat.
If forced to drink whites from only one region, I would spend three seconds thinking about it before opting for the Loire. There are so many great wines in so many different styles, mostly from three different grapes: sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc and melon de bourgogne. If you find a wine from a different grape, buy it! It’s going to be fun, trust me. The western most part of the Loire is the Muscadet or Nantais region. At one point, most of this region consisted of large areas of machine harvested vines, grown to produce the largest harvest possible. This resulted in flavorless, diluted wines, which some growers then aged on their lees (mostly dead yeast cells) to add texture. Thankfully, a revolution began in which growers started working with organics, hand harvesting and producing smaller yields. This vanguard recently started giving way to the next generation, which are continuing these ideas, but also experimenting with new ideas as well. Once Muscadet was Muscadet. Now there are 10 Crus within Muscadet, highlighting different soil types and terroir. Muscadet is a wonderful region, making white wines that can age for years. They are crisp, minerally, often even a little briney — the perfect foil for our shellfish. They are also comically undervalued as compared to the appellations of Chablis and Sancerre, with which they share certain characteristics. Names to look for include Eric Chevalier, Jo Landron, Pepiere, Luneau-Papin, Michel Caillot, Domaine des Cognettes, Michel Delhommeau and so many more. Once you’ve explored melon de bourgogne a bit, reach out for the other wines of the region. A good start is Jean Aubron’s Folle Blanche, a steal for under $15.
What about chenin blanc? You can find chenin from the Loire dry and bright, rich and full bodied, and sweet and succulent. It’s amazing what this grape does in different regions. Skip Vouvray and look for wines from Saumur, Anjou and Savennieres (a little pricey). These are underrepresented appellations, and many of the winemakers are very small, so the best bet is to ask your local wine merchant for recommendations, or better yet, have her choose a few different styles for you to explore.
Sauvignon blanc gets all the love. Many people today equate the Loire Valley with Sancerre. It’s true that some of the great sauvignon blancs of the world come from Sancerre, but it’s also true that the United States is awash with mediocre Sancerre, usually selling for $30 or more. Unless someone needs to be impressed, your best bets are to explore the wider Touraine region. For under $20, and often more like $15, there are sauvignon blancs full of bright acidity and crisp citrus fruit. Henri Bourgeois, a Sancerre producer, makes a $15 petit sauvignon blanc that is delicious. However, there are many more like Les Deux Moulins, Domaine L’Aumonier and La Chapiniere, among others.
Cabernet franc is king in the Loire. Whether you are drinking from the appellations Anjou, Saumur or Chinon, you are drinking cabernet franc. With its red berry fruit and crunchy texture, these wines are all perfect for the summer. With climate change, you can even find wines big enough to pair with a steak. Look for gamay as well. Often labeled with a Touraine or even Vin de Pay designation, gamay from the Loire often showcases peppercorn and bright red berries. It can usually be served with just the slightest chill. If you see a wine from the grapes grolleau, pineau d’aunis or others, be sure to grab them. They make fascinating bright, light wines. You might even find pinot noir. Two of my favorite pinot noirs on either end of the spectrum are both from the Loire Valley. Jean Francois Merieau’s Les Hexagonales is easy and delicious at $16, while Claude Riffault’s version from Sancerre is savory, elegant and beautiful at $40.
What about rosé? The Loire valley makes plenty of that, too. Most tend to be brighter and more focused then the Provence style that is so in. They are, for the most part, can’t miss, especially for anyone looking for a different type of rosé. Like most wines from the Loire, they are terrific with food. So get out there, and start exploring this amazing region before everyone else finds out how great the wines are!
Traitorade: The brew that gives a whole new meaning to sour beer
It could be argued that NOTHING has been the same since Tom Brady made his infamous move to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. New England fans have been sour since Brady signed to the Florida team back in March, and Smug Brewing of Pawtucket has released a beer that perfectly encapsulates their feelings.
Traitorade is the latest 7% ABV Key Lime Sour beer from Smug. The flavor profile is sour with a hint of saltiness, derived from Florida’s key limes. Of course this hilarious creation pokes direct fun at the former Patriots players (including Rob Gronkowski, who also signed to the Tampa team in April); however, the brewery notes on their Instagram account: “Remember, it is just a joke. We love our former Patriots players.”
Every New Englander has to hang it up and retire to Florida sometime, right?
Traitorade is available to order for pick up at smugbrewing.com
Forging a New Path: Campus Fine Wines discusses shifting their businesses during the pandemic
Campus Fine Wines is owned by two couples, Howard Mahady and Natalie Butler, and Andrea Sloan and Vin Scorziello; Howard and Andrea both brought years of experience in the wine industry to the local liquor shop. Campus is the place to go to find the coolest bottle of wine you didn’t know about, whether your budget is $10 or $50. I caught up (remotely) with Andrea to talk about their store and their decision to only offer curbside and delivery during the pandemic.
Justin Hutchins (Motif): Describe Campus Fine Wines.
Andrea Sloan: Campus has been on Brook Street in Providence since 1974, but we bought it in July 2012. We focus on organic and natural wine and grower champagne, but we’re a full neighborhood liquor store, so we also have the usual lineup of beer and spirits and everyday-bargain sections.
JH: Can you talk about your decision to move to curbside and delivery only, and your choice to remain that way even while other stores opened up?
AS: We had been watching this pandemic since January, when it was just a blip in the twittersphere. That’s when we started ordering gloves, bleach, Lysol, etc… Perhaps that sounds like paranoia, but we were reading what epidemiologists were saying, and it just sounded dire… So we were mentally prepared to close, and we honestly thought that we would be ordered to close, which never actually happened. We went to credit/debit only in the beginning of March, and then decided that we would close to the public before the pandemic was declared. We decided to do this because we couldn’t justify putting our employees, ourselves or our customers at risk, especially when so little is known about this disease. We also lost Vin’s (Andrea’s husband) mom the day before the pandemic was officially declared in the US, so this isn’t abstract for us, and the no funeral, no closure (“no days off cuz you’re essential!”) thing is really not fun. So we would like to avoid other people having to go through that same thing, if possible.
We also stay closed to the public for the same reasons we closed at the beginning: the safety of our staff and our community, especially when mask-wearing has become political, which is just extraordinarily stupid, but not at all surprising. But there’s also the financial aspect; if one of us gets COVID, we have to close and quarantine for a minimum of two weeks. We don’t know about anyone else, but that would be hard for us to weather.
JH: Give me an idea of what you had to do to run the business in the current format.
AS: We had to trust that our customers would not abandon us. And thankfully they have not! Then because our staff is so tiny, we reduced our hours and days that we’re open to Tuesday through Saturday, noon – 6pm. There are only five of us here, and life is too damn short to work seven days a week, 12 hours a day.
Because we’re curbside/delivery only, we really had to up our e-comm game, which meant creating an e-comm site. So there’s been a lot of loading product and notes and praying that the inventory is accurate (narrator: the inventory is not always accurate). And we took advantage of 0% financing at a local Ford dealership and got ourselves a van, so we were able to increase our delivery capabilities substantially.
JH: What has the response been from your customers?
AS: It’s been pretty fantastic, and we’ve even gotten new customers because of our business model during this crisis. The only people who give us grief (and some do, loudly, from the sidewalk) tend to be maskless and unfamiliar to us, which is why we stay curbside/delivery only.
JH: Campus is a very brick-and-mortar store, in the sense that it is rooted in the community. Have you found new ways to stay connected to the community? And how have you adjusted while being closed to the public?
AS: Probably not new ways, but we try to keep up with the newsletter every week, just for some sense of normalcy. But it’s not easy, and it’s frankly impossible to act like anything is normal. Instagram is generally our go-to for posting new items and sharing any bits of news. And we still chat in our doorway!
JH: What climate would allow you to feel comfortable opening your doors to the public again?
AS: That’s difficult to say. We think our local government is doing a pretty good job at managing this pandemic, but there are some serious ignoramuses at the federal level, and we’re just not sure how we’re supposed to trust the info that trickles down. Then you have well-managed, science-appreciating countries that re-opened only to shut down again. We’re not infectious disease experts, but we think we’re going to see a second wave, and we’d rather not rock the boat now.
JH: Tell us about the process of choosing wine for your store, and how you have adapted without tastings or trying new wines from sales people and suppliers.
AS: We do request things to try, and we’ve always sought out and asked for wines from producers and importers we know and trust, so it’s not all that different from before. No tastings is a challenge, and there’s not one of us here who is comfortable doing some Zoom video thing, so it’s going to stay no-tasting for quite some time. But we do try to taste as many new items as we can as they come in so that we can accurately describe and confidently sell them. Unless it’s some teeny tiny production allocated thing, which we rarely get to taste anyway!
JH: Campus Fine Wines is very active in social issues. In a time where many businesses are politically and socially neutral, why do you feel it is important to take the stands that you do as a business?
AS: As a society we’ve been trained to accept this notion that regular people aren’t supposed to share political opinions (that’s for the talking heads on TV!) and that “responsible” media isn’t supposed to differentiate between truth and lies (that would show bias!), so that leaves us all at the mercy of the loudest yellers who are usually collecting hefty paychecks for their opinions. The rest of us are supposed to “stay in our lane.” Why does Tucker Carlson get to express opinions but we don’t? We have no intention of ceding our 1st Amendment rights to cable television and YouTube personalities, and our platform is just as or perhaps more valid than theirs; no one pays us for our opinions, but we know what’s right. You either side with humanity or you don’t. If you don’t, there are plenty of other shops out there. And right now, more than ever, silence really does equal complicity.
JH: Can you explain the philosophy and choices you make in choosing wine, and why you think that is important?
AS: We try to support producers and importers with whom we already have relationships, and we generally go for real wine from real people. The industrial, corporate producers will be just fine without us, so we’d rather support the little guys, who tend to take a more ethical/responsible approach to farming and doing business.
JH: Say I’m getting into wine, and I want to explore wines in the natural category. How do I navigate all these crazy labels and even different colors?
AS: Haha, yeah it is a little nutty out there … well, first, it’s usually not super cheap. You *can* find natural wine under $20, but it’s not all that common, so be prepared to spend a little more, especially with the tariffs still in place. You want to know your importers, from old-school, like Louis/Dressner, to Jenny & François, Selections de la Viña, SelectioNaturel … and then talk to your trusty retailer! People email us all the time now for recommendations, and that’s a really good option when no one can do tastings. But natural wine is not all funky, murky, barnyard situations. We have plenty of flawless wines that are naturally made, so you don’t need to have an out-there palate to enjoy them.
JH: Tell us the easiest way to get cool wine from you with the way you are currently operating.
AS: The e-comm (campusfinewines.com) is the easiest, but if you don’t see what you want or you want more guidance, send us an e-mail or give us a call.
JH: Lastly, what’s your go to wine of the moment?
AS: Well it’s hot right now, so rosés and muscadets are no-brainers. We just got a fun Pipeño from Selections de la Viña, 2019 Estacion Yumbel Pipeno, 100% Pais from 150 year old vines, fermented and aged in 60-year old pipas (vertical, large barrels made from the native beechwood tree called Raulí). This is a chillable, lively, old-school, Chilean red that’s perfect for summer.
Breweries Are Back: Your favorite breweries and bars are adapting to the new normal
As the dust of coronavirus finally begins to settle, breweries and bars in Rhode Island are making accommodations to adapt to the new normal. Phase II allows restaurants and breweries to open with a long list of restrictions, including limited capacities, face mask requirements and no bar access unless assisted by a server. While some breweries continue to thrive on can sales only, a handful of RI breweries have reopened their doors and have made the necessary changes to serve their thirsty guests safely. For Apponaug Brewery in Warwick, this means new procedures and a dozen new tables added to their patio aback the converted mill.
My friend Michayla and I made our reservation on a Saturday, eager to get out of the house and put on something other than sweatpants. Apponaug was bustling with patrons who seemed just as thrilled about coming out of hibernation. Upon arrival, at least one guest was required to give their contact info in case of a future outbreak. Masks on, we were kindly led to our table where we were then allowed to take them off while dining/drinking. Because of the limited bar access, we also had a server. The satisfaction of being handed an ice cold beer straight from the tap was something I truly missed. The condensation, that first crisp sip and simply interacting with other humans are just a few things I’ve been yearning for since March! Apponaug is one of the first breweries to reopen in Phase II along with Union Station Brewery, The Guild and Long Live Beerworks.
While bars still do not have a clear reopening date, Galactic Theatre in Warren is still slinging everyone’s favorite ice cold indulgence, and it’s not what you think. Galactic has become a staple for locals in Warren and even a destination for some victual-seeking visitors. Before the coronavirus outbreak, this rockabilly-themed bar served craft cocktails and beer in the glow of the silent movies they’d play around the clock. Eclectic and delightfully dark, this Main Street bar is the passion project of Providence-based musician Dave Podsnap. When learning that bars would not be allowed to open in the wake of the virus, Dave channeled that passion and creativity to put a new twist on his business — ice cream.
Within just weeks of receiving the news, this bustling bar was quickly converted into a one-of-a-kind ice cream parlor. Dave has always had a passion for ice cream however he quips, “I never had a clue I’d EVER be serving (ice cream) out of an apocalypse driven take-out window.” But we are so glad he did. With a music and pop culture inspired menu, Galactic Theatre gives its guests a taste of what they’ve come for since the beginning. “The King’s Bowl” is a play on Elvis’ favorite with vanilla bean ice cream, peanut butter sauce and sliced banana. All sundaes are made with Rhode Island favorite Warwick Ice Cream.
“The community response has been amazing as always. They never let you down and that’s why we never let them down,” says Dave. “We have seen local folks ordering two or three times per week so far and have also had a large amount of guests driving from other towns, some as far as Boston!”
Galactic plans on rocking the take-out window until they are allowed to go back to normal. But will they still serve ice cream? I posed this question to Dave and his response was a simple “FOREVER!” There are even plans to renovate to accommodate an ice cream window that will be open in conjunction with the bar. A flatbread menu and to-go bottled cocktails will also be added in the coming weeks. “We are blessed to be in such an organically grown area. No strip malls on our street and we will keep it that way. Keep Warren weird, one sundae, vintage film or original song at a time.”
Beer in Entertainment: From the big screen to the small screen, beer abounds
Spring has sprung and while this is typically a time for the resurgence of beer and brewery events, unfortunately we have to take this time to ditch the crowds for our couch. It’s no surprise that many of us are finding ourselves binge watching significantly more Netflix than we used to. Instead of covering beer events this month, I thought I’d use this opportunity to take a look at the history of beer drank by our fictional friends over the years.
As the popularity of craft beer rises, there are a handful of celebrities, actors and musicians eager to get their name on a beer of their own. Frank Sinatra was one of the first celebs to do so in the ’60s when he appeared as the poster boy for Budweiser. Flash forward a few decades to the ’90s — surely you’ll remember the OG brother band Hanson. The trio founded their own brewery in their hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, called Hanson Brothers Beer Co. On tap you’ll find an American Pale Ale called “MMMHops” after their hit song “MMMBop,” which peaked at #1 on the Billboard Chart May 24, 1997 (and peaked at #1 in my heart forever). Other musicians to get their hand in the craft beer scene include Fat Mike of punk band NOFX who started the “Punk in Drublic” festival, an annual punk-rock craft beer & music festival. Comedian Tom Green, Entourage actor Adrian Grenier, and WWE’s Stone Cold Steve Austin also have collaborations with US craft breweries.
If you’ve traveled anywhere outside of Rhode Island and mentioned your home state, you’ve likely been asked: 1. How do you like living in New York? And 2. Is Quahog a real town? The animated FOX series “Family Guy” (written and produced by RISD graduate Seth McFarlane) is set in a fictional town called Quahog. While the town itself does not exist, an accurate depiction of the Providence skyline can be seen looming over the Griffins’ suburban home. Protagonist Peter Griffin is often seen drinking Pawtucket Patriot Ale with his buddies at The Clam. He even worked at (and was fired from) the brewery in one episode. While the brewery is named after Pawtucket, it is thought that the beer is actually a parody of the Boston company Sam Adams, for obvious reasons. In a famed crossover episode with “The Simpsons” titled “The Simpsons Guy”, a Duff beer label (Homer’s beer of choice since 1989) is discovered underneath the Pawtucket Patriot Ale label. A court case ensues between the animated competitors, which highlights the many similarities between the two shows. While no version of Pawtucket Patriot Ale is available in real life — you can enjoy a Duff beer at Moe’s Tavern in Universal Studios, Florida!
In the world of fictional beer, there is one name that — if you’re watching closely — pops up quite a bit. Heisler Beer has been featured in dozens of popular TV shows – “Bones,” “Parks and Recreation,” “New Girl,” “Brooklyn Nine Nine” and “The Good Place” to name a few. Heisler “Gold Ale” is the name given to a prop beer produced by supplier Independent Studio Services, hence its prominence in network TV. The Gold Ale has a classic look similar to popular domestics, and has been seen in both cans and bottles. The FX comedy “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” starring yet another RI native Charlie Day — has also featured Heisler Beer, however they favor a less popular prop beer called Brockman Beer, which has also been seen in Texas Chainsaw 3D. The popular comedy, now in its 14th season, has even sparked an entire line of nine beers from Odd Side Ales Brewery in Grand Haven, Michigan, all featuring popular jokes from the show.
Shut. It. Down!
Following their popular release of Knock It Off beer, Proclamation Ale once again collaborated with Frog & Toad to release Shut It Down, an IPA named after Gina Raimondo’s oft-repeated phrase to Rhody citizens. The IPA has a floral aroma with light stone fruit flavor and floral notes, and is available for pickup at the brewery.
The can art for both Shut It Down and Knock It Off was designed by PVD artist Maret Bondorew. Her art also appears on t-shirts that are available through Frog & Toad and on bags of Knock It Off coffee, sold at White Electric in PVD. Portions of the sales of the beer, the t-shirts and the coffee go the RI Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund.
If by the time you read this, its popularity has shut down sales of Shut It Down Beer, you can still help the community by grabbing a t-shirt, brewing a cup, knocking it off and shutting it down.
Proclamation Ale in Warwick has teamed up with Frog & Toad — one of Rhode Island’s most loved gift shops — to brand their newest double IPA “Knock it Off.” The collaboration samples the art of Maret Bodarew of Frog & Toad and is a nod to the important message delivered by Governor Gina Raimondo in regard to social distancing guidelines — “Knock it Off!” The very straight-forward, very Rhode Island message adorns the cans of the latest Double IPA from Proclamation, as well as accompanying t-shirts provided by Frog & Toad.
The tropical DIPA boasts notes of lime popsicle, mango, peach and even Mello Yello, and is available for online orders with curbside pick-up between 3 and 6pm Monday through Friday and noon to 3pm Saturday and Sunday. While you sip in solitude, you can have peace of mind knowing that $2 from every 4-pack sold is donated directly to the RI Foundation Covid-19 Response Fund to help support local non-profit organizations.
This is a troubling time for the state’s two dozen breweries. Selling cans is one of the only ways a brewery can strive to make ends meet while waiting for the economy to open up, as breweries rely heavily on their taprooms and events for revenue. Luckily for Proclamation, the response to the new beer has been overwhelming. It is great to see that even in these unsure times, two local businesses can keep the camaraderie and creativity alive all while giving back to those in need and delivering a message that could help us all. “Knock it Off” and support local! proclamationaleco.com
Taking the Edge Off: Bartenders and other industry workers discuss the coronavirus
Whether you are out on the front lines, working from home, out of work or quarantining, these times are uncertain for all of us. Small businesses across the country and particularly here in Rhode Island are doing what they can to carry out business where possible, while keeping up with government issued guidelines. Luckily for us, in a time where we could all use something to take the edge off, some of the state’s favorite breweries and restaurants have found a way to deliver … literally. However not every business is so fortunate. I’ve caught up with some colleagues in the industry who were willing to share their personal journey surrounding the coronavirus and its effects on their livelihood.
If you’ve never spent a sunny Saturday getting sunburned out on Hot Club’s patio, you’re missing out. The waterfront bar has been a hub for socialization in PVD for more than 35 years. If there’s any such thing as a “townie bar” in the middle of an urban city, Hot Club is it. Unfortunately, social distancing has left the bustling bar with no choice but to close temporarily, resulting in temporary job loss for the bar’s loyal employees.
“Bartenders and industry workers are taking a hit on another level. I use my money I make (at Hot Club) as my grocery money and on-hand cash. Now a week and a half in, I’m laid off from my full-time job and it is really starting to sink in how terrifying this all is,” says Abbi Booth, a bartender at Hot Club for more than seven years. However, management is doing all they can to take care of their staff during this time. Booth says that her manager has personally offered assistance to all employees, and has encouraged everyone to apply for unemployment for the time being. “I don’t think there has been a day where our Hot Club group chat has been silent,” Booth adds. “N ow more than ever we’ve become so close and communicative with one another.”
Although times are tough now, Abbi remains positive. “We’re looking forward to opening again and celebrating with our co-workers and customers.” Abbie even recalls my own dad’s signature drink, “Wish I could give him a Coors!”
While it’s been hard to find good news these days, Governor Raimondo offered a glimmer of hope for service industry workers last week by issuing an order that allows RI bars and restaurants to sell beer and wine with takeout orders. This is great news for Jamie Buscher, brand manager at Craft Collective, one of New England’s top craft beer distributors. “The shutdown hit the food and entertainment industry in Rhode Island hard, and no institution in the supply chain was spared,” says Buscher. “We distribute craft beer and wine to restaurants and bars throughout Rhode Island, and anecdotally, this order is providing significant relief to not only our customers, but our suppliers as well.” Suppliers being independently owned breweries that rely on restaurants and bars to offer their beer on tap. These breweries now continue to have the opportunity to send cases of beer to be enjoyed with takeout. Buscher adds that Craft Collective serves both Massachusetts and Maine in addition to Rhode Island. “We hope that both states will follow RI’s lead.”
One of the many brands Craft Collective represents is Finback Brewing out of Queens, New York. I was recently in touch with Niko Krommydas of Finback — originally to cover the event “Whale Watching” — a beer festival to be held in Providence by Finback, which also welcomed 40+ breweries and vendors from the area. Of course, the event is postponed and according to Krommydas is “Absolutely rescheduling.” For now, Finback is lucky enough to — like Rhode Island breweries — provide curbside pick-up and deliveries. Finback has a location in Brooklyn that has yet to open to the public; however, they are currently using the space for can sales. “We have the chance to meet the neighborhood and give them a taste of what’s to come,” says Krommydas.
“Banding together really makes it easier to deal with this mess,” he continues. And it’s clear that many of us share the same attitude. Patience is key during these trying times, and while it’s hard to visualize, we will inevitably be able to once again toast to good friends and good times.