Ominous clouds, black as the darkest stout, filled the sky and bright flashes could be seen on the horizon in all directions. I was perched on the side of a hill in Warwick about to get a tour of the latest addition to the RI pub scene. For a few months, whispers had been echoing around my favorite watering hole about a brand new project that would raise the bar (pun intended) for craft beer establishments around the state. Who could be behind such a project you ask? Why, none other than Jack Doherty, local beer baron and owner of Doherty’s East Ave Cafe, Shannon View Inn and Sullivan’s Publick House, to name a few. This new utopia of craft beer was aptly named Doherty’s Ale House.
Returning to this particular building was like a dream. Not one of my beer-soaked dreams of late, but one of my childhood. The building used to house a Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse, complete with talking moose head. The rain let up for a few minutes and I walked into the building, which was still a work in progress. The foyer looked just as I remembered it, save for the drop cloths and uprooted hostess station. When I passed the hostess station, the old dream ended and a new hop-infused one began. Immediately I was greeted by a large room with high ceilings and wood rafters, which would be a great room to celebrate in if I were a Viking who owned a large wooden tankard. If only. I found Jack just inside the door wearing his typical garb and enjoying a rather large cigar. I shook hands with Jack and started on the 10 cent tour.
We went into the smaller of the two rooms, which would serve as a function room when needed. The room was still being painted, but it was clear that there was lots of potential. The far wall had a large stone fireplace that Jack assured me was in good working order, all the better for those snowy winter days. Opposite the fireplace was one half of the bar, completely refinished from the original artifact. A waist-height divider a few feet in front of the bar provides some separation from those ordering a drink and others already performing 12-ounce curls.
We continued toward the back of the restaurant past a large door separating the two bars, but more on that in a minute, and entered the large room again for a closer look. At one end of the room was the other half of the bar with four 55-inch flat screen TVs lining the top. Around the perimeter of the room, more TV brackets were being installed. When that job is complete, there will be a total of 18 all over the establishment. It’s times like these when I wish ESPN Ocho was a real thing; it could surely warrant a screen or two. The center of the room had a number of sections divided by waist-height walls similar to those in the function room. At the far end of the room was a large glass window that sectioned off an alternate function room, currently filled with handmade tables that still had the clear acrylic curing.
We continued to the state-of-the-art kitchen, complete with baking equipment. Yes, baking equipment – the new staff baker will make Kaiser rolls and other breads to go with the meals. The kitchen was also portal to the rather large walk-in fridge that is larger than the kitchen at East Ave. Leaving the fridge, we stopped in the office to look at a few pictures of some art projects his staff had been working on. There were two pieces in the shape of Rhode Island, one completely adorned with Newport Storm bottle caps and the other with local beer labels. The third piece is a craft beer sign covered in more labels.
Jack led me through the door that divided the bars and we entered what is, quite possibly, the crown jewel of the establishment. The door, salvaged from a now defunct Woonsocket liquor store, is the gateway to what could only be described as an arctic beer heaven. Lined by brushed stainless steel panels, each wall had a foot and a half window running the entire length of the cold room. These windows would be the support for the 124 taps that Doherty’s Ale house now boasts. It would be a safe bet to say that puts them on top as far as total draft lines in the state. They will have a few bottles available but it will be a small fraction compared to the taps. The tap lines will feature mostly east coast brews from Maryland to Maine with a few others thrown to please the beer explorer in all of us. Not only will there be plenty of beer, but craft liquors will also be on hand if you need some stronger medicine.
Sadly (though only to my childhood self) the moose head is long gone; the only remnant is a small control panel with two buttons labeled “birthday” and “regular show.” But for the craft beer wonderland that has replaced it, it was a good trade. Guided by the mantra “Local People, Local Places, Local Beer,” this new location promises to be an easy favorite among those who love craft beer. Doherty’s Ale House is due to open in early June, which is not early enough in my opinion.
Happenings and Notes From Around the State
Foolproof Expansion (again)
They just keep growing! Mid-May saw the first time that Foolproof Beers were available outside of the ocean state. Next stop, the world.
Not just in kegs anymore, Bucket Brewery has started producing growlers. The growlers are brewed and bottled exclusively for Bottles in Providence (bottlesfinewine.com). The first batch of 50 was delivered on May 23 and sold out within two days.
Art for the Casual Drinker
Ever wanted to learn how to paint? Enjoy a good local beer or a wine? Why not mix the two? Paint and Vino of Pawtucket will teach even the least artistically inclined of all of you how to paint while you enjoy two complimentary beverages of your choice. They just opened on May 4 and have most classes on the weekends. For more information visit paintandvino.com
Beer with a Mission
Cape Commons Beer Co. may be in the early stages of starting up, but their goal is clear: clean water for all. A few cents from each beer will be a micro-donation to other partners that will further the mission. They plan to launch their flagship lager this summer. cape-commons.com
Number 8 Is Pretty Great
Travel and Leisure magazine recently ranked Providence as the 8th best beer city in the US. And considering that we were compared to craft beer heavyweights like Portland, Denver and Seattle, it is quite the honor. We even managed to beat out Austin and San Francisco.
Homebrewing Will Be Legal in all States
The last two states holding out on making homebrewing legal have finally passed bills to legalize it. Alabama passed a bill in early May to legalize homebrewing immediately. Mississippi also recently passed a bill that will make homebrewing legal on July 1.
East Bay Beer Fest
(Nobody expects the seventh item!) Yup, another first annual beer fest is coming to town. The East Bay Beer Fest will be held on Saturday, June 15 from 12 – 4 pm next to the Blount Clam Shack on historic Water Street in Warren. Not only do you get to drink beer from all your local RI breweries, but proceeds will go to benefit two great local charities – TAP-IN and The Stephen Hopkins Center for Civil Rights. If you didn’t know what to get your craft-beer loving dad for Father’s Day, now you do.