A taste of the tropics.
When I think about the month of July, I think about warmer weather, food cooked on the grill, backyard beers, and fireworks, of course. I am sure you have neighbors like I do, setting off fireworks all night, disrupting your sleep and giving your dog or cat anxiety. But they are beautiful the moment they light up the sky; a spark-lit fuse and an explosion of color like falling stars.
Fireworks is also a term used to describe a feeling we experience from another person. Has anyone ever made you feel fireworks? A buildup of attraction and possibly love that causes an explosion of emotions. My belief is that this only happens when those feelings are mutual. As I sipped my beer from Vigilant Brewing, I thought about this and came to the conclusion that beer gives me fireworks.
Bristol-based Vigilant Brewing recently celebrated their one-year anniversary. I started visiting Vigilant last October and those past 10 months are longer than any romantic relationship I have held in the past five years. Having spent almost every weekend in June at Vigilant, I can say it has easily become my favorite local brewery, not only because of the friendly staff, but also because of the amazing craft beer being produced there by head brewer John Otero with the help of two assistant brewers Chris Drance and Michael Godet.
I had the pleasure of speaking to Otero last year and met him several times over the past month. He is down to earth, with a smile for everyone he meets; he even put up with my pestering him with questions and stayed patient throughout.
Otero’s passion for making beer began with his love of wine. “My journey of craft beer began when I discovered wine tastings.” He said his former boss introduced him to a merlot from Australia and he was “hooked.” This led him down a path of research “to gain a greater understanding of where and how wine was produced.”
“My fascination grew with every sip and pour,” said Otero. “I wanted to be the person behind the making of wine, but quickly realized making world-class wine was not attainable for my skills at the time.”
I can confidently speak on behalf of myself and many locals, that we are thankful Otero’s passion went a different direction. His beer-making journey began when his brother asked him if he was interested in a brotherly project of home brewing. Otero said he “had to research the heck out of it.” It was then he realized the amount of effort involved as well as the funds required. “I was under the impression that making your own beer was cheaper and boy was I grossly incorrect.”
Otero said he gave up the idea until he got an email from Mr. Beer and purchased two of their home brew kits that included malt, yeast, hops, and a brown jug. It was a three-step process of mix, brew, and bottle. John said he purchased the kits and brewed his first beer. His friends loved his first brew, a brown ale, and requested he make more. Determined and dedicated, John went on to brew and brew. He wanted to get better at it. “Hundreds of homebrew gallons later, I find myself at the pro level, developing beers for all to enjoy. It’s a journey to say the least as I strive to make each batch better than the last.”
What does Otero want Motif beer readers to know? “We brew each recipe with passion and love for the craft. Our beers are made to bring folks together and have a great conversation.” Since I have been to Vigilant many times, I can attest that this does happen. The brewery has an open, friendly vibe to it. I have had many conversations with patrons, staff, and musicians playing shows. I also, of course, take advantage of meeting the pint pups that patrons are allowed to bring into the brewery. Otero stated, “Some of my favorite times at the brewery are spent speaking with our customers about our daily journey and the next great idea for a beer.”
Let’s get back to those fireworks I was talking about. Otero stated that each beer he makes is a proud creation drawn from commitment and passion. He is still looking to make the beer. But I believe he already has: Tropical Windward.
My beer of choice is one I have waited to see reappear since last year. Much like a relationship without closure, Tropical Windward made my heart feel heavy when it did not come back. But then it did, and I am happy to say we were reunited like a spark to a firework.
Unlike some former flames, Tropical Windward has gotten better since the last time we were together. From my experience, it is never a mistake to reacquaint with a former beer, but is generally inadvisable to reacquaint with a former relationship partner. Tropical Windward is Vigilant’s Windward with added fruit. Both are DIPAs (double India pale ales). Tropical Windward was brewed this year with roughly 300 pounds of fruit – sweet and tart mangos and pineapples. It pours a hazy, orange color with mango and pineapple on the nose and front-end sip.The mouthfeel is a little more dense than your typical IPA because of the added fruit. The two fruits are present throughout each sip, from the moment it hits your tongue to the end. As it warms, a very slight taste of orange rind peeks through. The ABV is 8.5%. If you had this last year, you won’t be disappointed by the 2023 version.
Did you know that Vigilant Brewing also happens to be a brewery with benefits? Say what?! The most recent beers with benefits from Vigilant include a Dread Red ale release and a fundraiser event to support the Bristol Fire Department Dreadnaught Hook, Ladder and Hose Company, and a Spec-Ops American ale collaboration with Grey Sail Brewing. This collab supported fallen soldier Andrew McKenna Jr’s Memorial Scholarship Fund, which helps high school seniors.
With regard to these collaborations, Otero stated, “Giving back to the community has been a part of our initiative from the inception of the business. We are fortunate to have many Vigilant believers in our corner, who support our business and vision. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to collaborate with our community and create olive branches with every person we meet.”
I have tried most of the beers Vigilant currently has on tap. I have my favorite styles, and although I am not a fan of red ales or seltzers, I find Vigilant’s Dread Red ale, and Green Apple and Blue Hawaiian seltzers to be exceptions. The red ale was refreshing and light, with malt and caramel flavors throughout and a slightly bitter finish on the palate. Both seltzers are flavorful and exactly what you would hope they would taste like based on their names. The Green Apple is sweet then tart, just like the fruit. The Blue Hawaiian has a hint of coconut – the kind of drink that makes you feel like you are on a beach in Hawaii.
If you are looking for fireworks, I suggest getting off social media / dating sites and finding your own. Go to a brewery for a spark that isn’t a temporary or seasonal illusion. Vigilant Brewery is not going to let you down. Grab a glass of sparkling seltzer or a pint of my favorite, Tropical Windward before it’s gone. There are plenty of other beer styles to choose from as well. There’s table seating inside as well as an outside area where you can sip with friends or meet new friends. You may even catch me chatting with Annalise Da Silva, the voice behind Vigilant’s social media. Vigilant is open Thursday thru Sunday and often has local bands and food trucks. As always, live life and love beer!
44 Ballou Blvd