Friday, April 8, 2016

Drinking Local at the Great International Beer Fest

Photo courtesy of Revival Brewing's Facebook page
Even though we look all over the world for brews to showcase at the Great International
Beer Fest, we’re lucky to have so many excellent beers right here in our own backyard –  or, as the folks at Pawtucket’s Foolproof Brewing would say, backyahd. Some of the best local suds will be on tap at this year’s event.

 Pawtucket seems to be quietly emerging as the epicenter of craft brewing in Rhode Island. In addition to the aforementioned Foolproof, the city is also home to Crooked Current and Bucket Breweries, all of which will also be featured at the Great International Beer Fest. And the biggest news in local brewing was Narragansett Beer’s recent announcement that they’ll finally be building a brewery in Pawtucket.

Foolproof has emerged as a local favorite over the past few years with their philosophy of “experience-based brewing”: each beer is intended as a tribute to a signature beer-drinking situation. Their Backyahd IPA is meant to be enjoyed by the grill during a summer cookout, their Barstool American golden ale is the preferred choice for bellying up to the bar with friends, and the Raincloud porter is brewed for indoor sipping on a rainy day.

Crooked Current, which boasts of being “the smallest brewery in the smallest state,” sets itself apart in more ways than just its size. Brewmaster Nichole Pelletier is the only female brewer in Rhode Island, staking out a place for herself in what is typically a boys’club. They also craft their brews as a drinkable commentary on their home state’s legacyof corruption and crooked politicians – hence the name Crooked Current. With brews like Immorality Pale Ale, Kickback American Wheat, and Plunderdome Pumpkin Maple Ale, Crooked Current has as much taste for satire as they do for great beer.

Bucket Brewery also pays tribute to the Ocean State with its beers. Its Park Loop Porter was brewed for runners racing around Warwick City Park, Paul & Al’s Hoppy 25th Anniversary Pilsner commemorates the WHJY personalities’ years on the air, and, of course, their 33rd Inning Red Rye Lager is inspired by the famous longest game in baseball history, when our beloved Pawsox defeated the Rochester Red Wings over the course of 33 innings at McCoy Stadium. Perhaps that one is best sipped from one of the stadium’s “longest game” souvenir cups.

Revival Brewing, which recently opened its own brewery and tasting room in Cranston, will also be on tap at the Beer Fest. Presided over by brewmaster Sean Larkin, Revival’s beers are also steeped in local culture and history, from Civil War general and facial hair pioneer Ambrose Burnside (Burnsider Pale Ale), to a suspected vampire (Mercy Brown Imperial Ale), to our dearly missed amusement park (Rocky Point Red Ale), to more current icons, like one of Providence’s favorite coffee shops (White Electric Coffee Stout). Extra “Vo Dilun” points go to anyone who can name the inspiration for the Fanny Session IPA. (The elephant on the label is a hint.)

They’re cranking out great brews in the southern half of the state too. Grey Sail heads up from Westerly for Beer Fest. The inspiration for their beers blows in off the ocean, with a line of nautically inspired brews like Flagship cream ale, Captain’s Daughter imperial IPA, and Hazy Day summer ale. The City by the Sea’s own Newport Storm will also make the journey up Route 1. They were pioneers of the craft brewing movement in Rhode Island, pouring their first beer in 1999. They continue brewing their original Hurricane Amber Ale, along with their popular Rhode Island Blueberry, and a host of seasonal and limited releases. Not content with simply bringing brewing back to the Ocean State, in 2006 they launched Thomas Tew Rum (named for a infamous pirate from
Newport), reviving the long lost art of distilling on the island.

Our local brewpubs will be getting in on the fun, as well. Rhode Island’s original brewpub, Trinity Brewhouse, has been pouring beers brewed on site since 1995. Their signature IPA was one of the most popular local brews long before the India pale ale became the predominant style of craft beer nationwide. Union Station Brewery is another veteran presence on the local beer scene. Located right in the heart of the old train station for which it’s named, Union Station is known for unique twists like their Vanilla Bean Porter.

Local beer is truly having its moment right now, and we’re proud to showcase so many of our hometown brewers at the Great International Beer Fest. To learn more about the Rhode Island brewing renaissance, check out this recent feature from Providence Monthly magazine.