Got Beer?

Grey Sail SetsSale


Unless you live under a rock, or don’t drink good beer, or don’t care about local business news, you’ll be surprised to know there’s a new brewery in town!

Grey Sail, not to be confused with Grace Ale or Graze Hail, is the new microbrewery on the scene inRhode Island. Whispers have been echoing for months in the craft beer world, and the buzz is surprisingly strong. Run by husband-and-wife team Jennifer Brinton and Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Article-By-Request, this little brewery is a story of passion and really amazingly good luck.


Grey Sail might have slipped under the radar and opened with a whimper instead of a bang had fortune not smiled upon them… a lot. Enough to make aspiring brewers insanely jealous… like ME! With a background in homebrewing, and industrial engineering, the pair had a good foundation to put together their fermenting dreams. However, as most passions do, this one sat on the shelf for many a year while things like jobs, children, and you know, real life got in the way.

When they finally decided enough was enough and it was time to seriously get to work on that life-long dream, they dusted off that old business plan, and started getting to work. One of the first hurdles was finding a location, which they have Hurricane Irene to thank.

The old Napa Auto Parts/Post Office/Macaroni Factory onCanal StreetinWesterlywas going unused after the flooding. Not only a historic building, which originally produced pasta, then progressed to passing postage and finally proceeded to peddlePontiacparts, but also a building the town ofWesterlywas eager to get sold. Though it sat abandoned since the floodwaters receded, and the vast majority of the building needed some work, the obstacles were fairly minor. The Town ofWesterlywas tripping over itself to get new occupants, slashing red tape like a cat after you’ve hung up new drapes. With the help of years of friends and industry contacts who could do the much-needed renovation, the process of purchasing, renovating, and refitting the building went by quickly and, for the most part, smoothly.

Next came the equipment, which was designed and built by the Grey Sail team with the kind of impressive forethought, planning, and attention to detail that only people with real passion can attain. Despite a few minor glitches, which are always predicted and manageable, everything was up and ready to go in a matter of months.

Yes, months. Ask anyone who has, or is trying, to open a brewery, macro, micro, or nano if they think they can get it done in less than a year and you’ll get the kind of look most accountants give you when you ask them if they’re busy around April.

Arguably one of the hardest steps in setting up a microbrewery is finding a distributor. Those unfamiliar with the three-tier system, I shall briefly explain:

The makers of beer are the first tier, the suppliers.

The distributors are the second tier, who buy the beer, ship it, and deliver it to stores and bars for a piece of the action.

Then on the bottom tier — where I usually am — are the stores and bars that sell the beer. This is, by law, how beer, wine, and liquor must be sold in theUnited States.

The legal paperwork alone can send some dedicated brewers howling into the night in fits of absolute madness, let alone spending the time shopping around to find a distributor that is A. looking to carry a new brand, B. willing to take a chance on a new company, and C. will do so for a reasonable cost and with a minimum of hassle. That’s the abbreviated list.

If I’ve just crushed your dreams of opening a microbrewery, fear not, for there is a White Knight in this story. Grey Sail hadn’t even begun making beer yet when a good friend of mine, and to all craft beer drinkers everywhere in RI, stepped in. Chuck Borkoski, who heads Elevated Spirits, a division of Mclaughlin and Moran, heard the same whispers as the rest of us and decided to make contact.

One meeting was all it took. Despite not having any beer to sell, or even sample, and no certainty of when the facility would be even cooking, agreements were made, papers were signed, and promotional merch was ordered. Knowing Chuck myself, and having even interviewed him for this very magazine, I’m not surprised in the least. So, after all that, what is their beer like?

Grey Sail Flagship Ale

While it’s supposedly modeled after a cream ale, this beer puts me in mind more of an English Bitter. It’s a nice, light session beer that isn’t afraid to give you a toasty, hoppy flavor. There’s nothing creamy about it, if you’re worried it might be too heavy, but if you’d like a pint of something with a bit of English on it, this is the brew for you.

Grey Sail Tilted Chimney

Their winter seasonal is a smoked porter, named for the crooked chimney in the middle of their building. Hey, when you’ve got a famous landmark for a headquarters, you might as well roll with it. But how is it? The smoked porter is a roasty, toasty, slightly bitter little malty brew that belongs in a glass by a fireplace. It’ll be available in most places in 22oz bottles.