By Amanda Resch
You might not have noticed yet, but Rhode Island is in the midst of a beer boom. Five new stand-alone breweries have opened this year, bringing the state’s total to seven. One of those new breweries is Bucket Brewery in (where else?) Pawtucket. Founded by close friends Nate Broomfield, Erik Alaksen, T.J. O’ Connor, Drew Powers and Ron Klinger, Bucket is a nano brewery: a one barrel brewhouse. The name is a nod to the brewery’s Pawtucket home at Lorraine Mills, its small scale and the history of brewing: before six packs and glass growlers, beer was brought home in buckets.
The brewery is a direct product of the founders’ love of home brewing. Everyone involved has a day job, and all profit currently goes directly back into the brewery. Bucket Brewery is committed to encouraging the growth of craft brewing in Rhode Island, and is a member of the Rhode Island Brewing Society. Nate and TJ told me they’d like to see even more new breweries, hoping the state will encourage the growth of the industry and remove some of the legal obstacles they’ve had to overcome.
With its small size, Bucket faces unique challenges. Equipment for this scale of brewing, for example, is not readily available. Much of the equipment has been repurposed from something else; as T.J. put it, “Everything we use is a glorified bucket!” The two fermenters are modified 60-gallon soda syrup tanks that T.J. found, and are a large part of the reason Bucket is now a commercial brewery. Too big to legally use for home brewing yet too cool to pass up, the tanks demanded that the friends graduate to a commercial venture.
Keeping with the DIY theme, Bucket’s tap handles are fashioned from upcycled chair legs. The crew is always on the lookout for abandoned chairs to de-leg and mount a small bucket on top.
Now on to the important part – how’s the beer? I’m happy to say it’s delicious, which is not really much of a surprise as the guys brew what they like to drink. The current lineup leads off with the Bucket Pail Ale, a balanced and perfectly hopped ale that’s not at all bitter. Next up is the Rhode Scholar, an ale inspired by the Kolsch style. With a modest 4.6% ABV, Rhode Scholar would make a fantastic lawnmower brew. The Park Loop Porter is a fairly traditional English porter, and is a fantastic representation of the style. The most adventurous of year round offerings is the Thirteenth Original Maple Stout. The maple syrup added in the fermentation process gives the stout a nice maple flavor, without being cloying or too sweet like some other maple beers I’ve tried in the past.
In March, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, the brewery will release the first beer in their seasonal Consistently Inconsistent line, a red rye ale. Expect that to be followed by a saison in the summer and a brown ale in the fall. When I visited the brewery none of the seasonals were available to sample, but Nate and T.J. did let me try one of their experiments: an orange chocolate porter. While a porter flavored with orange zest is something I wouldn’t normally go for, I was really impressed with it – balanced and crisp with a faint tartness from the citrus over a nice chocolate malt backbone.
I can’t wait to see what other tricks these guys have up their sleeves. All of Bucket’s offerings struck me as flavorful yet immensely drinkable, my two favorite qualities in a beer. Bucket is currently available only on draught and only in Rhode Island, making it a truly local brewery. While you can’t tour the brewery, you can find their beer at Chez Pascal, Doherty’s, Track 84 and other bars and restaurants throughout the state. Check their website, bucketbrewery.com, for an updated list. Note: If the Farmer’s Market Beer and Wine Bill passes, you’ll also be able to find Bucket’s beers at the farmer’s market!