On the brink of new legislature regarding brewing regulations, Trinity Brewhouse emerged in late 1994 as one of New England’s first ever brew pubs, serving fresh beer and food to hungry theater guests and entertainment seekers. Adjacent to Trinity Rep, Joshua Miller — the son of two of the iconic theater’s devout employees and current state senator — opened what would become a PVD staple. With deep roots in the theater community, Miller’s original plan was to have the two entities entirely connected, but eventually decided to keep the brew pub separate, though still committed to serving the theater staff, actors and guests alike. In its early days, the pub served as a congregational space for the theater community that Josh called family. To this day, the theater and the brew pub support each other like good neighbors do, but instead of borrowing a cup of sugar, you can find the two exchanging kegs of beer or the occasional cut piece of board, according to head brewer Tommy Tainsh.
Twenty-five years ago, Providence was not exactly the entertainment mecca it is today. While it had its charm, residents of surrounding communities were not yet flocking to the city for nightlife as a daily ritual. Miller knew that in order to survive, his restaurant would need something to make it stand out and become a destination. The most obvious draw was being in walking distance from two of the city’s largest venues, Trinity Rep and the then Civic Center. Miller wanted to cater to the guests who would already be downtown and to be their obvious choice for dinner and a show. So in addition to serving well-crafted, moderately priced food, they wanted to wow guests with a concept they hadn’t likely experienced in the area before: home brewed beer.
Until the ’90s, Rhode Island law did not allow for beer to be brewed and served on the same premises, which is a concept that seems inconceivable now with more than two dozen breweries in Rhode Island — a quarter of them in PVD. But the pioneers at the appropriately named Hope Brewing fought for legislation that was eventually passed, paving the way for some of PVD’s first breweries to open to the public, including Union Station Brewery and, of course, Trinity Brewhouse.
Well-known local brewer Sean Larkin (now the owner of Revival Brewing in Cranston) was one of the first master brewers for Trinity, serving nearly 20 years as the head brewer after helping open the kitchen in 1994. In 1998, Sean brought on board his childhood friend Tommy Tainsh, who he trusted in the kitchen. Larkin shared his knowledge and love of beer with Tainsh to whom he eventually passed the torch in 2013. Commemorative paddles hang in Trinity to represent past employees and the legacy they leave, adorned with messages from friends and the number of “batches” they contributed. Larkin passed the torch at an impressive 1,867 batches, and Tainsh boasts more than 2,600 batches brewed to-date.
Trinity Brewhouse is as loyal to their community as they are to their employees. Miller recalls the joy and pride he has felt serving diverse groups of the PVD community over the years. He enjoys the sense of unity the crowd brings, coming together under one roof to celebrate regardless of their social groupings. Be it hockey fans, college kids, theater actors or working professionals, they all coexist in the coziness of Trinity’s walls, which are adorned with tokens of PVD’s history. With the brewery boom in RI (and all over New England), Trinity has withstood the test of time by staying relentlessly true to their roots and giving the locals what they have come for since the beginning. Trinity rewards the more than 300 members of their signature “Mug Club” for their loyalty with exclusive discounts, refills and even a yearly Christmas party. This year the party will also celebrate their 25th anniversary.
This may be their silver anniversary, but on December 19, they’ll be pouring the sweet golden goodness that has been the blood of this business for the past two and a half decades. This event will celebrate the past and welcome the future with an array of fresh beers on tap, as well as a new anniversary beer; an 11% ABU double IPA that will be served in 12oz snifters branded with the new Trinity Brewhouse logo. In addition to beer, Trinity will be visited by the Ghost of Menus Past and will be serving hits from their original menu … prices included! In the midst of the Christmas season, this party is the perfect way to show appreciation for the love and loyalty received over the years from family, friends and each guest who has stepped through the doors. In the [adapted] words of Tiny Tim (who was played by Miller’s brother Sam in the very first A Christmas Carol production at Trinity Rep)… “Happy Anniversary, everyone!”