A great way to kick off the spring publican season — or just enjoy a mild spring afternoon — is with a glass of ginger beer. Better yet — local ginger beer made with a New England crop grown by Farmer Willie and released with the help of Pawtucket’s Foolproof Brewing Company!
Not sure where to start? Never heard of ginger beer? Well, here’s the story: It’s been brewed since the good old days of 500 BC in China and was once suggested by Confucius as a cure for everything from stomach bugs to throat cancer. The brew made its way to Europe via Alexander the Great, who, according to the Greco-Roman historian and proto-gossip-columnist Arrian, was rather fond of the stuff. It reached America through England in the 19th century and has been grown by small crafters ever since as a homebrew.
Nico Enriquez, co-founder of Farmer Willie’s, told Motif, “A Cape Cod goat farmer, my childhood friend Willie Fenichel and two seniors at Brown (myself and my best friend) launched this company using a Kickstarter last summer and have struggled to keep up with demand ever since, hence the move to work with the legends of Foolproof: Nick and Steve!”
In 2008, Willie Fenichel began home-brewing his own alcoholic ginger beer and set up a local business by selling it to tourists and beachgoers. This simple but powerful recipe eventually found its way to Nico and Max Easton, two Brown University students who immediately wished to build a production and distribution model. They received a grant from Brown’s Venture Labs, an in-house venture capital vehicle for entrepreneurial students, and were awarded a small grant. Two years later, Farmer Willie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer is now sold at 40 different locations throughout the Cape.
Now, the beer’s set to be produced in volume — with Farmer Willie’s getting their hands on two new 2,000-gallon tanks, which will expand their brewing capacity eight-fold. Capitalizing on Farmer Willie’s increased capacity, Foolproof, according to president and founder Nick Garrison, “plans to release the beer as a contract-brew” maintaining the Farmer Willie’s label.
The beer has even received accolades from master actor and raconteur Bill Murray, who’s on record as saying that Farmer Willie’s is “best ginger beer I have ever found.”
High praise indeed.
Ginger beer seems poised to give comparatively old-fashioned hop-&-wheat brews a run for their money this season, and I, for one, am looking forward to it.