It’s a hard truth that nothing lasts forever. I was saddened when my favorite Irish pub began to tumble downhill until it eventually closed forever. I was crushed when Pete’s Wicked Ale went under, even though it left more options for my future brewery’s name. And I was nothing short of heartbroken when Track 84, the original capital of craft beer in RI announced it was closing its doors for good.
Some of you younger, aspiring beer nerds might not have been to Track 84. If you had, maybe you thought it was a quaint little craft beer dive bar. Maybe you thought it had too few taps, or were turned off by the lack of a full menu of fried goodies. Well, youngster, in MY day we didn’t have your fancy 100+ beers on tap at every new beer bar. We didn’t have craft beer on draft at nearly every pizza place, restaurant and local watering hole. Back in those dark days, Heineken was considered fancy stuff. Bass Ale was all we knew of British style pale ales. Samuel Adams had yet to become a monolithic enterprise and Guinness was the standard for stouts. Track 84 was a bold, brash renegade bar that exposed many of us to a whole new experience with beer. You couldn’t find most of their beers in liquor stores. If you looked at the long selection of tap lines and asked for a Bud, the whole bar would share a quiet smirk, and someone would buy you a Bohemian Pilsner to show you what real beer tasted like. Track 84 was an oasis in a desert of corporate pilsners and watered-down foreign imports deemed too flavorful for American palates.
My first year as a beer writer, before even my first Motif column, I came to know Track 84 as the cream of the crop. Nestled between railroad tracks at the end of Kilvert St and airport traffic, this humble little bar was where you could find every obscure beer there was to be found in Rhody. It was where I first found Delirium Tremens on tap. It was where I tasted my first Newport Storm anniversary brew at a GIBF after-party. Track 84 was where the visiting brewers would come when they visited our humble little state.
Track 84 was, and is, a legend. Its passing may be a sad day in the world of craft beer, but it shall live on in legend. Though time may pass, though it may be sold and shut down, Track 84 is where the craft beer movement in this state held court in those early years. Ask anyone in the industry where they used to go to taste the rare and the obscure, and they will answer with a wistful smile, “Track 84.”
So raise your glasses with me now. Track 84 nursed our revolution, and we shall carry on its spirit. No hop shortage shall deter us, no tax increases shall slow us down, no corporate advertisements shall mock our pride. We drink, brew, sell and promote the beers we love because one little dive bar dared to be different. I propose that on Aug 4, at 8:40pm, we all arrive at our favorite beer bar, brewpub or even local brewery; get a pint of something rare or obscure; and raise our glasses to toast the legacy of Track 84.
Gone, but not forgotten. Bottoms up.
(Note: Dave can still be found regularly at neighboring Sandwich Junction, run by owners Kathy and Craig Ruginski.)