Providence was once but a speck on the map of the craft beer world, with nary a watering hole to be found. Now, however, brewpubs and beer bars are coming out of the woodwork, providing a wealth of opportunities for lite-weights and beer snobs alike. All of Rhode Island is breaking out with craft beer joints, and if it kills me, I’ll visit them all! Join me now, as we briefly highlight all the good, better, and oddly beautiful.
Brutopia in Cranston is our young upstart, but being a purveyor of some of Sean Larkin’s ‘Revival Powered’ brews, one can hardly find fault. The food keeps a very backyard BBQ theme with a nice gourmet twist, and the outdoor seating plus the truly impressive brews on tap make this a must for any beer enthusiast looking for a good meal and impressive brews. They sell growlers, too, so take some home and be the envy of your friends.
Doherty’s Ale House in Warwick is an impressive sight as well. With more tap lines than I can look at and remain sane, Doherty’s features almost anything you could imagine. If it’s even remotely available, Doherty’s will have it on tap. The food is quite impressive as well: gourmet pub fare. It’s right off the highway, but because this is Rhode Island, once you see the sign, you’ve already passed it and need to double back.
The Wild Colonial in Providence is a beautiful brick behemoth that gives off a fantastic old-world vibe while managing to sling all the freshest, newest brews your way. It’s a bit more college-vibe than most beer bars, but there’s nothing wrong with that (especially if you’re in college). Even still, the rustic atmosphere and barrage of brews make this a worthy stop on your tour of the city. Stop by, play some pool or darts and unwind from exams, or, whatever.
Doherty’s East Ave Irish Pub in Pawtucket is big Jack D’s original beer bar. Noted for its dizzying beer selection as well as truly amazing food, the original Doherty’s is the tried and true. It has a comfortable, warm interior with décor that calls back to beer’s colorful past. While it may be out of the way if you’re in Providence, Doherty’s East Ave is worth the trip.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Track 84 in Warwick, an out-of-the-way little gem. Track 84 has been a pinnacle of the RI Beer scene since before I had my first IPA. While they don’t serve food, the overwhelming beer selection makes up for it in spades. It has a very dive bar feel, but don’t let that turn you away. The place positively glows with friendliness. Check it out and see if there’s a rare beer they don’t have. I dare ya!
Trinity Brewhouse in Providence is where famed Sean Larkin got his start. Right in the heart of downtown, Trinity brews a small selection of tasty excellence and serves some of the best pub-grub you could ask for. The lineup is always changing, but if you can get your hands on one of those rare seasonals, don’t let go! They do sell growlers to take home.
Union Station Brewery in Providence is nestled in a little plaza across from the Providence Place Mall, and right by the river, making it an excellent spot to grab a bite and a brew before heading out to Waterfire. The beer is always top-notch, and the food a bit more upscale than the usual pub fare. Just get there early because this place fills up fast!
Julians in Providence is a little ways out of downtown on Broadway, but is more than worth the trip. Not only is Julians one of the go-tos for good upscale beer dinners, but everyday meals are a treat. The selection is magnificent and the place’s eccentric charm always makes me smile. It might be a bit small, but it’s worth fighting the crowds.
Norey’s in Newport bills itself as a craft beer bar and artisinal kitchen. One cannot deny the impressive selection or the quality of the food. Norey’s also sports an impressive tap list, with an equally impressive bottle list if you’re not satisfied with the likes of Super Baladin Zymatore Bourbon or Allagash Curieux. If you catch it on the right night, you’ll enjoy live local artists with your beer. Not bad, Norey’s.
Harry’s Bar and Burger is a bit of a surprise for me. While wandering the streets of Providence one night, some friends and I decided that burgers and beer were, in fact, an excellent idea. Boy did they hit the spot! Unlike most places that plop a giant patty on your plate between a bun and a mélange of unknown sauces and veggies, this joint gives you two big sliders and an impressive beer selection to complement your choice. I tip my glass to you, Harry!
The Avery in Providence is one of the coolest beer joints I’ve ever seen. Not only is the décor amazing in a very warm, art-deco kind of way, the beer selection is wonderful and the food absolutely a delight. Parking is a bit on the impossible side, but this is Providence, so why not get a good walk in? Once again, this gem is a bit out of the way, but well worth it to find. Bonus points for atmosphere with beer!
Fall is also beer festival season! Well, okay, every season is beer festival season, but only fall offers the great conflagration of RI’s most notable libation gatherings.
The Great International Beer Festival at the Rhode Island Convention Center is on November 8, promising a great big gathering in celebration of everyone’s favorite fermented fluid. This event features live music, food, and takes place right in the heart of scenic downtown Providence. With dozens of breweries offering their fine fare, it’s a great chance to try something new or rediscover an old favorite.
Newport Oktoberfest is a little piece of Bavaria by the bay at the Newport Yachting Center. Swing by October 11-12 for beer, tons of food, live German music and more. This event is as close as you can get to being in Munich without leaving the country. Brewers to be featured are Samuel Adams, Magic Hat, Harpoon, Shipyard, Leinenkugel and Angry Orchard hard ciders. If you’re a fan of German food, music, beer, or just girls in dirndls, this is the place to be. Bring your leiderhosen!
October 17, the big boy comes to town. Beervana is widely regarded as the best craft beer event in Rhode Island, and I have to admit, it’s hard to top. With a massive selection of the best craft brews from all over the world (as well as right here at home), Beervana is a festival that knows what’s going on. This fest focuses on the respect for the craft, and offers just about anything a demented beer nerd could dream up. Most breweries bring their special reserves for this show, including, if you’re lucky, some Samuel Adams Utopia.