1

Got Beer?

Go Big Brew or Go Home

 

Ah, the magical sweet smell of hot water mixing with malted barley. The spicy scent of hops stinging the nostrils and enticing the pallet to imbibe. It must be homebrew. For those of you who have never experienced the smells, you’re missing out. What better way to participate in the craft beer revolution than to brew your own? Well okay, maybe drinking some craft beer would be good too, but ancient brewing tradition holds that good beer must be enjoyed while brewing new beer.

Speaking of homebrew, the American Homebrewers Association has designated May 7 as National Homebrew day. To celebrate the holiday, homebrewers gather with friends, family and even strangers on the first Saturday of May (May 4 this year) for a “big brew,” to share the love of their craft and educate new brewers. Homebrewing clubs will sometimes organize group brews on big brew day, where the members all brew together at someone’s house. Brewing together is a great way to learn new techniques and exchange information. It’s also a great way to share beer amongst members. The American Homebrewing Association has both a club locator and suggested recipes on its website.

So, if you’ve ever been on the fence about getting into homebrewing, May 4 might be a good time to give it a whirl. You can find good advice, good ingredients and good people at your local homebrewing shop.

Foolproof Expansion

After only three months on the market, Foolproof Brewing Co. in Pawtucket, has completed their first expansion. Three brand new shiny fermenting tanks were delivered in early April. The tanks arrived on a single flatbed truck and were lifted by crane to their new home. This upgrade effectively doubles Foolproof’s capacity. 

We’re Going to Need a Bigger Bucket

Homebrewers turned pro, the boys over at the Bucket Brewery are also looking to expand. Currently they have a one barrel (bbl) capacity brewhouse capable of putting out about 16 bbl every month. This planned expansion is going to move up their capacity by a factor of 10, giving them the ability to brew 10bbl in a batch and an overall output target of 110bbl each month. They’ve started a crowd source funding campaign to help them finance this ambitious expansion. If the campaign proves successful, it will put Bucket’s capacity on par with other loved breweries in this state such as Trinity, Coddington, Revival and Grey Sail.




Warm Up With Some Spring Bocks

Spring is here, or at least that’s what people keep telling me, though it’s hard to imagine as I haven’t felt my toes since October. It’s time for the spring beers, which have taken an odd turn over the last few years. Once upon a time, spring beers were fairly traditional. Normally, a brewer worth his or her hops would produce a bock – the traditional malty spring lager with a rich history from the land of beer, Germanic Europe. It’s a very nice style, if somewhat heavy for liteweights. But now, it seems, the new trend is a variation on white ales, which is a problem for me because I generally dislike white ales. It’s not that I can’t be objective – I can – but it means that instead of sipping on a tried and true style, I’m tasting a number of citrusy, light, coriander-flavored trendy beers. Call me that angry old codger that tells kids to stay off his lawn, but I believe beer should taste like beer and not a flower pot. So, here I salute a few of the bocks left on the shelves.
Berkshire Brewing Co. – Maibock Lager

If you like sweet beers, get your insulin ready. I kid, but this is definitely a brew for those with a sweet tooth. I love BBC’s brews, from their Coffeehouse Porter, of which I keep a small shrine in my kitchen, to their Cabin Fever, which keeps me warm during those six months worth of chilly nights. The Maibock’s sweetness covers a mild roasty flavor that works with the rather hefty body. This one’s not for the faint of tongue, but it’ll sure make you recognize the warmth it’ll spread through you.

 

Breckenridge – Pandora’s Bock

This beer gets points for a clever name, because who doesn’t love a reference to classical mythology? This one is not as super-sweet, but it does have that trademark toasted malt character that’s vital to a good bock. Moreover, the very light hint of hops gives it a little more balance and poise than you might find in other bocks. As always, Breckenridge knows what it’s doing when it makes a beer… except for the Agave Wheat. I don’t know what you guys were thinking there. Otherwise, it’s a flawless record.

 

Upcoming Events
On April 10, Hugh Sisson, the award-winning brewer of the famous Clipper City/Heavy Seas line of select suds, will be stopping by and commandeering the taps at Norey’s Bar and Grill in Newport. He will be bringing some special samples to sip, including a bourbon-barrel brew that should not be missed. If you’re unfamiliar with Heavy Seas, then you’re missing out on some fine fermented fluid, particularly their unique Loose Cannon IPA.

On April 27, the Newport Craft Beer Festival descends upon the picturesque city of Newport once again, celebrating good beer produced by hard-working brewers who care about their craft. The Great Friends Meeting House hosts the soiree, which brings together brewers like Newport Storm, Old Burnside, Sebago, Cape Ann, Woodstock Inn, Stone, Trinity, Wachusett, and Cisco. If not one of those appeal to you, then there’s something seriously wrong with you.




Warm Sunshine, Spring Flowers, and Beer: The Great Int’l Spring Beer Fest Returns

By Amanda Resche

 

What’s that? The sun finally came out? Well, I can’t think of a better way to welcome spring than with beer, and it just so happens that it’s almost time for the seventh annual Great International Spring Beer Fest.
Rhode Island’s first and largest beer festival returns to the Rhode Island Convention Center on Saturday, April 20, with two sessions: 1 pm to 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm to 10 pm. Close to 80 breweries and distributors will be on hand, with a greater variety of beer than ever before.
New this year will be a separate area showcasing Rhode Island brewers, hosted by the Rhode Island Brewer’s guild. If you haven’t already, this will be a great opportunity to check out Rhody’s newest breweries, including Ravenous, Bucket, Grey Sail, Foolproof, and Revival, along with the old standby, Newport Storm, pouring their new west coast style IPA, Cyclone Will. I’ve not yet met a new Rhode Island beer that I don’t like; Revival’s Double Black IPA and Bucket’s Park Loop Porter are already in my regular beer rotation.
Joining the beer fest for the first time are two new Connecticut breweries – Two Roads and Stony Creek. Two Roads’ Brewmaster Phil Markowski literally wrote the book on Farmhouse Ales, (really, there’s a book!) and their Worker’s Comp Saison is on my must try list. Stony Creek is getting ready to begin distribution in Rhode Island with their (401) IPA; an easy drinking brew with cascade hops. Another first timer is Three Heads from Rochester, New York. Between the entertaining label art and the solid Beer Advocate reviews, I have high hopes for these guys.
Among the returning breweries, expect to see familiar favorites like Long Trail, Lagunitas, Brooklyn, Ithica, Mayflower, Otter Creek, and Sam Adams, along with smaller breweries like Wormtown and Blatant – both highly recommended.
If for some reason beer alone is not enough to get you in the door, New Hampshire’s excellent Moonlight Meadery will be on hand sampling several of their meads and melomels, which are fruit meads. I couldn’t keep myself away from their table during February’s RI Brew Fest. For the cider fans, newcomer McKenzie’s will be pouring their award-winning Black Cherry Hard Cider.
Continuing with the beer-alternative theme, we have Magic Hat founder Alan Newman’s Traveler Beer Company and his fine craft shandies. While a shandy is usually lemonade mixed with beer, Traveler also makes strawberry and ginger versions with real strawberries and ginger. With their crisp taste and relatively low ABV, I expect any of Traveler’s offerings would make an awesome addition to a mid-summer picnic or bike ride.
Food vendors will be available at the beer fest, and there will be live entertainment from the The Jesse Liam Band and North East Groove. Tickets are $44, and are available in advance through www.beerfestamerica.com




Got Beer? An April Fool’s Pale Ale

Stone Enjoy By 04.01.13 IPA

Beer nerd’s log, stardate, em… March nineteenth… point two. After much trickery and guile, I’ve been able to obtain a bottle of Stone’s latest, super-limited, highly-sought-after and wholly coveted “Enjoy By.” This specialty brew is boasted as a “devastatingly fresh” double IPA. Freshness is the gimmick here, which ensures that if we do see its like again, it shall have a completely different date. Either that or it’s an elaborate April Fool’s joke. I wonder if Stone just packaged a watery pilsner, told everyone it was a super-fresh IPA, and then said it expires on April first. I wouldn’t put it past the company whose other brews are often labeled as bastards. Let’s find out! After all, the clock is ticking on this one. 

Cracking and pouring, we get a light amber color with a resilient foamy head (phrasing!) that leaves a perfect lace upon the glass. The aroma smacks of largely floral hops flanked by lesser notes of citrusy grapefruit and the fresh pine smell of the outdoors.

Of sound body and with a hops bite that would take a lesser beer nerd’s head off, this brew’s final kiss of death is the alcohol content, which reigns in at 9.4%, more than double that of a typical “lite” lager in the uninspired American style.

The mouthfeel is crisp with a pleasantly tingly carbonation that dances on the tongue. The malt sweetness is present, if overpowered by the ridiculous amount of hops. While it’s nowhere near a point of balance, this is a beer for hopheads. If you’re a lightweight, then this is not the beer for you. If you’re a hophead who loves IPAs, then I hope you’ve already grabbed your bottle (phrasing) because I don’t think it’s going to be around or as fresh as it… hey, wait a tic… Alcohol is a natural preservative, as are hops… Hence the India Pale Ale, which was designed to not spoil on long sea journeys. And this is a double IPA, so it’s even stronger and hoppier than a normal IPA. Its true, hop flavor can degrade over time, but nonetheless.

Did I just figure out the April Fools joke? Why, those cunning bastards!

 

The Great International Spring Beer Festival

The Great International Spring Beer Festival is returning to Providence on April 20. This yearly festival of beer includes live music, food and a wide variety of beer from all over the region and beyond. The typical lineup includes names like Samuel Adams, Magic Hat, Long Trail, Sierra Nevada, Ipswitch, Berkshire Brewing Co., Trinity Brewhouse and Newport Storm. Hopefully this year we’ll see some of our newbie brewers popping up. There’s two sessions, afternoon and evening, though the afternoon session is usually more preferable as it often sees a calmer, more enlightened crowd whereas the night session often attracts the more, shall we say, overly enthusiastic imbiber.

As much fun as this event is, there’s always those people who go to these things to destroy their brain cells in exchange for a criminal record, and once again I could launch into my usual tired tirade about how you should drink responsibly, how this festival is a celebration not an excuse to destroy your better judgment and math skills, and how the Providence Police mark this date on their calendar every year.

So, perhaps instead I shall instruct you in how to be civilized. It probably will work about as well as teaching math to a cat. But if my cat can learn that pee plus the carpet equals getting dumped into a bathtub full of water, then perhaps there’s hope for all of you yet. So, let’s see if we can’t class it up a little this year.

1. Upon entering the festivities, thou art provided a small plastic sampling vessel. This vessel is not to exceed, in volume, two ounces. This might seem limited, however, the astute patron will notice that sampling is unlimited, therefore creating both the illusion of oppression and the reality of freedom. Therefore, be cautious and patient, and thou shalt taste any brews thy should want, in a moderated fashion, thereby warding off unnecessary inebriation whilst still experiencing maximum enjoyment.

2. Take care in sampling as some of these delicious concoctions can range from 5% alcohol by volume, which is slightly greater than your typical “lite” lager, to 9% or higher. If thou should imbibe such a hearty brew, perhaps getting into the nearest line of excessive length would give thou time to properly process such robustness. In addition, as there are three and-a-half hours within which to imbibe, a steady, measured pace is easily attainable and sustainable.

3. Do show the utmost respect to those gifting you with refreshments, as well as those officers of the peace who may be present. Everyone at such events are there for your enjoyment, and those performing the tending services will certainly be rather overworked. An unsociable demeanor will in no way endear oneself to them, and has, in past circumstances, often resulted in the physical ejection of the offending patron.

4. There are often, at such events that draw a largely male crowd, certain members of the female persuasion that may be scandalously clad. In such circumstances, respect is once again asked, nay, demanded such that no unfortunate misunderstandings should result in the necessity of peace officer intervention. This is, after all, supposed to be a celebration of beer, and the personal space rule still applies, despite the abundance of patrons in the limited area.

That is all, my good sirs and madams. As always, please enjoy with responsibility and good judgment when sampling your libations. Indubitably!




Holy Trinity Brew House

Trinity Brewhouse has been a staple in downtown Providence for well over a decade now, and for most of that time, Sean Larkin has been using their facilities to produce amazing beer for Trinity, Narragansett, and now his own personal pet project, Revival Brewing.

Seeing as how Rhode Island is experiencing a sudden upswing in craft beer production, I thought it best to talk to the Rock Star himself. A mile walk and a $25 dollar parking ticket later (Where the HELL are they when someone tries to T-bone my Nissan with an F250?) I sat down with the legend himself.
Surprisingly humble and fashionable in his 1930s Newsie’s cap, Sean is a local brewing icon. Deep within the bowels of the Trinity-Revival operation, he crafts award-winning brew after award-winning brew… and some that don’t win awards as well. What? They can’t all be winners? Doesn’t mean they’re not awesome.

Starting as an assistant brewer, Sean stepped up when his mentor stepped down, filling the shoes of the original brewmaster and then some. “The system was already set up and mastered,” said Larkin, “When I started here… the brewer at the time, who trained me, had the system all figured out, and even worked it up into spreadsheets. So, we could plug our recipe into the spreadsheet and see what we could expect to get.”

Though Revival has yet to begin work on a brick-and-mortar brewery, the in-house system at the famed Trinity Brewhouse in downtown Providence churns out Larkin’s pet project. It’s not only an operation that Sean’s familiar with, but it gives him the freedom to play with recipes, ingredients and ideas. Some brewers test out recipes as homebrews before a release, or like Lagunitas, sell their odd batches anyway and hope they are successful, but the setup at Trinity affords a little more freedom. “When we want to test out a recipe, we’ll just go ahead and brew it, then sell it here in the pub. We’ll get feedback from our customers and then, based on that, we’ll often tweak it or make whatever changes we feel we want to make.”

More than just using his loyal regulars as guinea pigs, Larkin has a lot of room to work in the ironically small brewhouse. The actual beer gets cooked upstairs behind the bar, in what must be a very warm room in the summer time. The worth then gets channeled downstairs. Behind the basement bar, fermenters line the walls of a room smaller than my kitchen in a little fermentation dungeon, lined with cylindrical vessels full of the magic elixer. Old wooden casks sit with beer aging within, labeled with handwritten paper taped on the cask. A couple of them have spigots on the bottom, and this is where the result of the Trinity/Revival alchemy is born. On the walkabout, we passed a tray of unbaked brownies, apparently made with some of their coffee stout, looking fudgy and delicious while the beer man himself talked about the process.

“I really only have to worry about a budget. Even then, I don’t really have to report to anyone. As long as I keep the percentages up, I can basically do whatever I want.” It seems like the life any brewer could want. Not only is he a well recognized, accomplished brewer, Sean has the kind of relaxed atmosphere with which to experiment and create even better concoctions. Still, I haven’t met the man yet who has brewed beer and not wanted to open his own brewery. Sean Larkin is no exception. “I was already kind of established with what I’ve been doing here and at Narragansett,” he said. “I really wanted something that was my own,” Larkin teamed up with a company called Betaspring, a mentorship organization whose specialty is helping startup companies, providing consultation, logistics and advice; essentially, helping take care of the paperwork so the beer man can work his magic.

Though Trinity has been selling its IPA in six-packs for years now, the sudden upswing in Rhode Island microbreweries and nanobreweries creates a competitive market. Simply competing for bar taps, shelf space in liquor stores and cooler space in better liquor stores is an uphill battle, but the amiable Larkin doesn’t see the likes of Foolproof and Ravenous as opposition. “I love that they’re doing what they’re doing,” he said. “I love anyone opening a nano(brewery). One thing about Rhode Island is that the people here… they like the brand that they like. They stick with that brand. I have people come up to me at beer fests and be like ‘You guys are awesome, better than Union. Union Station sucks!’ Well, first of all, Union station doesn’t suck. I know the brewer there; we’re friends. I don’t believe anyone’s beer sucks.”

If you haven’t yet tried Revival, or Trinity Brewhouse for that matter, you’re missing out on a staple of the Rhode Island craft beer scene. Revival’s Black IPA is currently available in four-packs in the more hip liquor stores in this state, and a few places even carry the magnificent brew on draft. You can check out their website for certain locations, and hound your local packy to bring it in.
revivalbrewing.com




Got Your Beer Online?

By Pete Larrivee

Hello and welcome to the first “Got Beer” column of the new online version of Motif! We’ve finally moved into the 21st century, and it’s about time because my leeches and electro-shock health care plan is expensive! Here you’ll see beer reviews and craft beer news before they hit the paper every month. We’re looking forward to even more online content in the future, so keep your eyes on us. We’re going places!

Magic Hat Pistil – From the label alone – a green and yellow swirling pattern – it looks like someone wants to lure people away from Ithaca Flower Power, and what a coincidence, look what’s in stores now at the exact same time. I wonder if this was a marketing decision on the part of Magic Hat’s corporate masters or if it’s a coincidental Spring Fashion Week label. The beer claims to have dandelion in it, which is on track with your typical style-defying Magic Hat offering. I guess we’ll find out when we crack the cap.

Well, it’s nothing like Flower Power, but it’s a pretty tasty little darling. This is definitely a spring beer, light with flowery notes in it, but unlike the Flower Power (which gets its flavor entirely from the floral hops), this brew uses dandelion to give it a strange, buttery taste that almost reminds me of mead. It’s a touch on the fruity side — not that there’s anything wrong with that.

This might not be the type of beer I’d normally go for as a spring seasonal, but it’s one of the more inventive I’ve ever tried. Though some might be put off by the dandelion, I found it a nice light little brew that made me pine for warm sunshine… or maybe I’m just tired of shoveling out my car.

Weyerbacher Verboten – A Belgian-style pale ale, this is one of those cross-styles that never seem to fail. Most Belgian’s tend to have a heavy wheat taste and an alcohol punch that’ll knock a lightweight on his Cheetos-puffed exterior with just one bottle, but the pale ale hops bring a tasty and welcomed balance to the mix. In the case of Weyerbacher’s Verboten (which is “forbidden” to those of you who speak only ‘Merican), the strong wheatiness is still pronounced, but there’s a pleasant hop tingle that leaves a crisp aftertaste. This slightly cloudy golden brew both satisfies and leaves you wanting more. The 5.9% ABV is good too because it’s 25 degrees right now and I’d love to feel warm!

Clown Shoes Lubrication – I know, I know, that name sounds like the title of the strangest porn ever – and yes I do spend enough time on the internet to know that thanks to rule 34, it probably is the strangest porn ever – but in actuality, Lubrication is an “American black ale” that’s “brewed with natural flavor.” You know, I see little items like that, and I always wonder what exactly an unnatural flavor would taste like. Is there some strange, ancient, forbidden elder hop that goes against the laws of nature and requires a thousand adjectives and at least a dozen adverbs to convey it’s horror?

I seem to have gotten off track with all the talk of pornography and Lovecraftian horrors, which is a sentence I never thought I’d see myself type.

So the Lubrication is an American black ale that pours just as dark and foreboding as the first paragraph of an Edgar Allen Poe story, but then it foams up into a tremendous cloud of sticky-sweetness on top giving it the appearance of that sea-foam invasion.

Yes, yes, yes, but how does it taste, man? Well, aren’t you impatient!

Lighter than I expected. This brew doesn’t quite have the body one would expect from something vaguely in the direction of a Black IPA, which is probably why it’s just called a black ale. Though it does have a crispness from the hops, it’s mostly in the lightly-citrusy and piney areas. It takes a bit for the foam to settle, which is usually considered a good indication for a beer. It has a yeasty aftertaste as well, which definitely comes through thanks to the carbonation. Trust me, a beer nerd will get that one. The label claims it’s made with West Coast hops and orange peel, which accounts for all the flavors I’m sensing. Definitely give it a taste, but make sure you pour it into a very tall glass.

Coming Soon: Sean Larkin and Revival, or… Dude, what’s with the hat?




My Big Bash and Burn

It’s hard to make lightning strike twice. Actually, it’s hard to make lightning strike at all unless you’ve got a Tesla coil and a generator the size of a Honda.

 

New Albion Ale

I had written a wonderful review of the New Albion Ale from New Albion Brewing Company (brewed by Samuel Adams) but then my computer completely crashed and burned on me. Hard drive dead, all work lost, and here I sit straining my memory to remember what I’d written, watching the clock tick away.

My impressions were good. The beer itself was less than extraordinary, but it’s the beer credited with starting the microbrew movement in America, so it was there before the market became saturated like the humble grains of barley that went into it. However, it was the right beer at the right time: light, well-balanced, flavorful and just right to lure the hardcore brand loyalist beer drinkers away from their rice and corn concoctions.

 

It was the original crossover beer, and while it might turn off some liteweights (misspelling intentional) and pale in comparison to Double IPAs, remember that in a historical context, there was nothing but pilsners, bad pilsners, and the New Albion Ale – a simple, humble pale ale that changed everything.

The beer was brewed in honor of Jack McAuliffe, the man whose simple brewery began this renaissance of beer. In the name of those who came before, raise a pint in salute.

 

agunitas Sucks

Normally I’d indulge in a bit of wordplay here, but since we all see the punchline coming a mile away, I’ll let it just slide on by like a speeding bus without comment.

 

The Lagunitas Sucks (aka the Brown Shugga Substitute) is an odd little brew from under the Californian sun. Apparently, when attempting to brew their trademark Brown Shugga, something went awry. Rather than submit to hara-kiri, they chose to soldier on, making this brew. It’s light, with a strange crispness to it that I can only assume is from hops, though there’s a strange twinge of sweetness that I can’t quite identify, making it different from most brews of its like. (If there are any other brews of its like.)

 

It tingles on the palate and brings to mind a bizarre sort of kiwi-like citrus note on the aftertaste. Maybe all that sun has gone to their heads, but damn if this quirky little brew isn’t tasty.

 

And Also…

 

Normally these types of events slip by me due to things like publication dates, deadlines, flying computer shrapnel and good old-fashioned laziness, but for once I’ve got the drop on them!

February 16: Beer and Cheese Pairing at Newport Storm from 5:30 to 7:00pm. Five beers versus five cheeses, all locally made. In clear defiance of convention, enjoy your beer and cheese; leave the wine for Valentine’s Day.

February 22: Brews for Books at the Adams Memorial Library in Central Falls. Local cheese, chocolate and beer. The newest Rhody brewers on the block come together to benefit the local library. Books are good!

 

 




Something’s Brewing in the Bucket

By Amanda Resch
You might not have noticed yet, but Rhode Island is in the midst of a beer boom. Five new stand-alone breweries have opened this year, bringing the state’s total to seven. One of those new breweries is Bucket Brewery in (where else?) Pawtucket. Founded by close friends Nate Broomfield, Erik Alaksen, T.J. O’ Connor, Drew Powers and Ron Klinger, Bucket is a nano brewery: a one barrel brewhouse. The name is a nod to the brewery’s Pawtucket home at Lorraine Mills, its small scale and the history of brewing: before six packs and glass growlers, beer was brought home in buckets.

The brewery is a direct product of the founders’ love of home brewing. Everyone involved has a day job, and all profit currently goes directly back into the brewery. Bucket Brewery is committed to encouraging the growth of craft brewing in Rhode Island, and is a member of the Rhode Island Brewing Society. Nate and TJ told me they’d like to see even more new breweries, hoping the state will encourage the growth of the industry and remove some of the legal obstacles they’ve had to overcome.

With its small size, Bucket faces unique challenges. Equipment for this scale of brewing, for example, is not readily available. Much of the equipment has been repurposed from something else; as T.J. put it, “Everything we use is a glorified bucket!” The two fermenters are modified 60-gallon soda syrup tanks that T.J. found, and are a large part of the reason Bucket is now a commercial brewery. Too big to legally use for home brewing yet too cool to pass up, the tanks demanded that the friends graduate to a commercial venture.

Keeping with the DIY theme, Bucket’s tap handles are fashioned from upcycled chair legs. The crew is always on the lookout for abandoned chairs to de-leg and mount a small bucket on top.

Now on to the important part – how’s the beer? I’m happy to say it’s delicious, which is not really much of a surprise as the guys brew what they like to drink. The current lineup leads off with the Bucket Pail Ale, a balanced and perfectly hopped ale that’s not at all bitter. Next up is the Rhode Scholar, an ale inspired by the Kolsch style. With a modest 4.6% ABV, Rhode Scholar would make a fantastic lawnmower brew. The Park Loop Porter is a fairly traditional English porter, and is a fantastic representation of the style. The most adventurous of year round offerings is the Thirteenth Original Maple Stout. The maple syrup added in the fermentation process gives the stout a nice maple flavor, without being cloying or too sweet like some other maple beers I’ve tried in the past.

In March, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, the brewery will release the first beer in their seasonal Consistently Inconsistent line, a red rye ale. Expect that to be followed by a saison in the summer and a brown ale in the fall. When I visited the brewery none of the seasonals were available to sample, but Nate and T.J. did let me try one of their experiments: an orange chocolate porter. While a porter flavored with orange zest is something I wouldn’t normally go for, I was really impressed with it – balanced and crisp with a faint tartness from the citrus over a nice chocolate malt backbone.

I can’t wait to see what other tricks these guys have up their sleeves. All of Bucket’s offerings struck me as flavorful yet immensely drinkable, my two favorite qualities in a beer. Bucket is currently available only on draught and only in Rhode Island, making it a truly local brewery. While you can’t tour the brewery, you can find their beer at Chez Pascal, Doherty’s, Track 84 and other bars and restaurants throughout the state. Check their website, bucketbrewery.com, for an updated list. Note: If the Farmer’s Market Beer and Wine Bill passes, you’ll also be able to find Bucket’s beers at the farmer’s market!




Grey Sail SetsSale

 

Unless you live under a rock, or don’t drink good beer, or don’t care about local business news, you’ll be surprised to know there’s a new brewery in town!

Grey Sail, not to be confused with Grace Ale or Graze Hail, is the new microbrewery on the scene inRhode Island. Whispers have been echoing for months in the craft beer world, and the buzz is surprisingly strong. Run by husband-and-wife team Jennifer Brinton and Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Article-By-Request, this little brewery is a story of passion and really amazingly good luck.

Grey Sail might have slipped under the radar and opened with a whimper instead of a bang had fortune not smiled upon them… a lot. Enough to make aspiring brewers insanely jealous… like ME! With a background in homebrewing, and industrial engineering, the pair had a good foundation to put together their fermenting dreams. However, as most passions do, this one sat on the shelf for many a year while things like jobs, children, and you know, real life got in the way.

When they finally decided enough was enough and it was time to seriously get to work on that life-long dream, they dusted off that old business plan, and started getting to work. One of the first hurdles was finding a location, which they have Hurricane Irene to thank.

The old Napa Auto Parts/Post Office/Macaroni Factory onCanal StreetinWesterlywas going unused after the flooding. Not only a historic building, which originally produced pasta, then progressed to passing postage and finally proceeded to peddlePontiacparts, but also a building the town ofWesterlywas eager to get sold. Though it sat abandoned since the floodwaters receded, and the vast majority of the building needed some work, the obstacles were fairly minor. The Town ofWesterlywas tripping over itself to get new occupants, slashing red tape like a cat after you’ve hung up new drapes. With the help of years of friends and industry contacts who could do the much-needed renovation, the process of purchasing, renovating, and refitting the building went by quickly and, for the most part, smoothly.

Next came the equipment, which was designed and built by the Grey Sail team with the kind of impressive forethought, planning, and attention to detail that only people with real passion can attain. Despite a few minor glitches, which are always predicted and manageable, everything was up and ready to go in a matter of months.

Yes, months. Ask anyone who has, or is trying, to open a brewery, macro, micro, or nano if they think they can get it done in less than a year and you’ll get the kind of look most accountants give you when you ask them if they’re busy around April.

Arguably one of the hardest steps in setting up a microbrewery is finding a distributor. Those unfamiliar with the three-tier system, I shall briefly explain:

The makers of beer are the first tier, the suppliers.

The distributors are the second tier, who buy the beer, ship it, and deliver it to stores and bars for a piece of the action.

Then on the bottom tier — where I usually am — are the stores and bars that sell the beer. This is, by law, how beer, wine, and liquor must be sold in theUnited States.

The legal paperwork alone can send some dedicated brewers howling into the night in fits of absolute madness, let alone spending the time shopping around to find a distributor that is A. looking to carry a new brand, B. willing to take a chance on a new company, and C. will do so for a reasonable cost and with a minimum of hassle. That’s the abbreviated list.

If I’ve just crushed your dreams of opening a microbrewery, fear not, for there is a White Knight in this story. Grey Sail hadn’t even begun making beer yet when a good friend of mine, and to all craft beer drinkers everywhere in RI, stepped in. Chuck Borkoski, who heads Elevated Spirits, a division of Mclaughlin and Moran, heard the same whispers as the rest of us and decided to make contact.

One meeting was all it took. Despite not having any beer to sell, or even sample, and no certainty of when the facility would be even cooking, agreements were made, papers were signed, and promotional merch was ordered. Knowing Chuck myself, and having even interviewed him for this very magazine, I’m not surprised in the least. So, after all that, what is their beer like?

Grey Sail Flagship Ale

While it’s supposedly modeled after a cream ale, this beer puts me in mind more of an English Bitter. It’s a nice, light session beer that isn’t afraid to give you a toasty, hoppy flavor. There’s nothing creamy about it, if you’re worried it might be too heavy, but if you’d like a pint of something with a bit of English on it, this is the brew for you.

Grey Sail Tilted Chimney

Their winter seasonal is a smoked porter, named for the crooked chimney in the middle of their building. Hey, when you’ve got a famous landmark for a headquarters, you might as well roll with it. But how is it? The smoked porter is a roasty, toasty, slightly bitter little malty brew that belongs in a glass by a fireplace. It’ll be available in most places in 22oz bottles.

Cheers!




Quest for the Holy Hoptimum

All right, I’ve got it. It took some time, effort, and a lot of hard work, but I finally managed to get five damn minutes to sit down and have a beer. Oh, and it’s the Sierra Nevada Hoptimum.

This brew has taken off just about everywhere I’ve seen it, and I know that because I haven’t been able to find it. I used to have a manager like that, who apparently had that quantum physics thing going on where as soon as you spotted him, he was already somewhere else. Finding the Hoptimum was a challenge all in itself, since scouring liquor stores and bars is not exactly a recreational activity. But, at last, I’ve found the elusive brew.

I’ve heard the hype, but as a rule I never trust the hype, which is why I’ve determinedly never read Harry Potter or had a twitter account. But since I had to try this for myself, the Hoptimum being a hoppy brew right up my alley, and it’s my job, I fought for my bottle.

And yes, it lives up to the hype. Oh, good beer gods, does it live up to the hype. It’s got a fantastic hoppiness matched by the perfectly balanced body. The blend of hops isn’t just the usual slightly dry citrusy/piney blend, this is… well, to be frank, it’s unique.

I’m tempted to compare it to that unattainable Pliny the Elder, but without comparing the two side by side, it’s not a fair comparison.

The Hoptimum is a crisp, bright brew with a wonderful, lingering, tangy, hoppy aftertaste. Each sip has just enough sweetness to match the big brutal hops, which once you get over the initial hop blast, you realize it’s like a blast of nice cold water on a hot, humid summer day, it’s almost like a relief, especially if you haven’t had a good IPA in a long time.

This may be one of the finest IPA’s I’ve ever tasted. It’s definitely in the top five. Again, I’m going to need the top five side by side to really fairly compare them. But yes, it’s that goddamn good! If you’re a hop head, or a fan of good beer in general, you had better start fighting for your pint or four-pack now. Oh, and don’t be greedy, take only your fair share and let others enjoy this great beer blessing. If I could make an IPA like this, I’d probably never leave the house.

Domestic Disorderly

I hope you don’t mind me going off on a bit of a tangent, but we have to stop calling them ‘Domestic’ beers.

First of all, the term is misleading. It’s like saying your cheeseburger is a domestic meal. Second, there are more craft beers produced in this country than ever before, and the term ‘Domestic Beer’ applies to them, unless it’s dollar pint night in which case ‘Domestic’ I think takes on the same meaning as a domesticated dog.

But therein lies the confusion. Even Samuel Adams made this distinction in a commercial some years ago pointing out that it had more flavor than a typical domestic beer, than immediately pointing out it IS a domestic beer.

And the blokes at Boston Beer are not alone. Sierra Nevada, Dogfish Head, Harpoon, Magic Hat, these are all completely American beers produced in this country, owned by Americans and made by American brewmasters using their own recipes that create American jobs and absolutely cannot be outsourced.

Budweiser’s never been truly American, and currently it’s owned by a European Company. So even calling Budweiser a Domestic Beer is stretching the term a little. Does that mean Budweiser is an Import?Sierra Nevadais Domestic.

Again, the fault lies in the term. Sure, it was okay when the world was divided into the cheap stuff made here, and the expensive stuff made there, but things have changed so much in the industry that the terms have become meaningless. There are imported beers that are so cheap you could blow your entire beer budget on a couple of cases and still have food money for the rest of the week.

So it is my opinion that we need to retire this outdated phrasing in favor of something more accurate. I’ve been brainstorming quite a bit on this point and I’ve come up with some possibilities.

‘Familiar’ and ‘Exotic’ – The only problem with this is that ‘familiar’ is a very subjective term and I don’t think bar owners will be getting people to line up for ‘familiar’ dollar pint nights.

‘Corporate’ and ‘Craft’ – Corporate draft night doesn’t sound any better, as corporate has a stigma associated with the name, and Craft Night might attract the Goth crowd accidentally.

‘Quantity’ and ‘Quality’ – This one is more accurate, and to be honest, really addresses the direct purpose of each category. One you drink to get drunk, the other you drink to enjoy. It’s unambiguous and direct. Plus each has a ‘Q’ and ‘Q’ is an awesome letter, just ask anyone in the middle of a Scrabble game.

‘Lagers’ and ‘Ales’ – I’m not even going to go into this one, because it’s stupid and ignorant.

‘Average’ and ‘Above’ – I suppose this opens for a theoretical ‘Below’ category, but I don’t think big corporate breweries would be all that enthused about calling their brews ‘Average’ after the billion dollar marketing campaigns.

I thought long and hard about this, but I think I’ve finally come to something that might work.

‘Common’ and ‘Specialty’ – Let’s face it, the big 3 (or, rather, the big 2,) are always going to be around, in great quantity, no matter what. And ‘common’ doesn’t mean anything bad. It’s the beer for the ‘common man’ as a politician might say. Then, there’s the specialty category that denotes a beer that had more thought and effort put into it than your typical ‘lite’ beer.

So I move that from this day forward, throughout the land, spreading near and far, we shall no longer use the archaic terms ‘Domestic’ and ‘Import.’ From now on, it’s ‘Common Draft Dollar Pint Nights,’ and ‘Specialty Beer Specials!’ For I, the Beer Nerd has decreed it, it must be so. Bar and pub owners, let’s move with the times and embrace the future of beer together!