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Rhode Islanders: How can we improve the beer scene in our state?

Discussion in 'US - New England' started by Providence, Feb 25, 2013.

  1. Just got back from Philly and my level of disapointment in the RI beer scene has reached a new level. I know it's not fair to compare a place like RI, specificaly Providence, to places like Philly, Brooklyn, Portland, Sand Fran or other places my friends and I have been to; However, it's not totally apples to oranges. RI and again, specifically Providence, is a major New England location with plenty of people that are into good beer. So what gives, why are we so far behind everyone else and what can we do to change it?

    Tap lists at restaurants (not beer bars, just restaurants) in Philly were just as good as the tap lists at some of our best beer bars. I went to a Mexican joint called Jose Pistola's and I would rank their offerings this past weekend with what I can get at Track 84, our premiere beer bar! My wife and I swung by Mills Tavern in Providence for a drink the other night. Mills Tavern is acclaimed as one of the better restaurants in the state. The most craft offering they had was Allagash White, served in a pilsner glass with an orange slice. Jesus tap dancing Christ. RI needs to step it up.

    And don't get me started on our breweries....

    Truthfully, this is all in good fun. I am not really pissed off, just bringing up something that I think is interesting. This whole thread reeks of first world problems and a sense of entitlement. I do appreciate everything craft contributos are doing in RI. At the end of the day, RI has come a long way with beer. Additionally, it continues to make strides. Sometimes I just wish it would make these strides faster....

    So what can we do BA's? What can we do to better the craft scene in Rhody (besides supporting the businesses that are trying to push the scene along)?
    ShogoKawada likes this.
  2. emannths

    emannths Savant (390) Massachusetts Sep 21, 2007

    Good luck accomplishing something like this in a New England state (damn puritans, though I guess RI's Roger Williams would tell them to butt out), but you have to decrease the hurdles to entering the market. I have no idea what it takes to get a beer into RI, but if I were a brewer and saw a tiny market and pile of forms and fees, I'd move right along to the next state.
  3. I grew up in RI and still have a lot of friends down there, so I'm drinking beer in RI relatively often.

    I think a lot of it starts with good local breweries. Every good beer city has good local breweries to lay the foundation. RI, unfortunately, has struggled mightily in this category for a very long time. There are a couple of new startups, but it's going to take them a while to reach anything close to the level needed, and even then, RI still needs a lot more. Good local breweries almost force non-craft focused restaurants to support the local guy with a tap or two. That kind of exposure is small but grows, and turns people away from BMC and onto the local beers. Eventually this hits a critical mass, and really starts to spark demand in other better beer, and with that demand comes more high-end beer bars.

    All of that said, it's unfair to compare Providence to Philly. Even Boston doesn't hold a candle to Philly's beer scene.

    Providence also has other big challenges. For one, it's incredibly spread out with no real public transportation system. Bar hopping from Wild Colonial to Julian's to Track 84 to Trinity to Doherty's is a DUI (or 3) waiting to happen. You pretty much need to pick a place for the night and be done with it, or have a DD. For two, it's a struggling economy that is having a hard time attracting companies and younger people - good paying jobs and 20-somethings with disposable income are really driving the craft industry forward right now.
    Providence likes this.
  4. I wondered about the lack of quality local breweries ad it's influence....In my opinion, Foolproof brewery, which has been on the scene for all of 3 hours, is the best brewery in the state. Nothing against Foolproof, they trully do have great beers, but I think this says more about the lackluster RI breweries that were already here (honorable mention to Grey Sail. who I think makes good stuff).
  5. But surely other states have hurdles to jump through too? I mean, I can't imagine it's way easier to get a bar or brewery started in Mass. than it is in RI? I don't know maybe it is...
  6. emannths

    emannths Savant (390) Massachusetts Sep 21, 2007

    It's the cost/benefit quotient. Why bother with the paperwork and fees for a smaller market like RI when the same amount of work will get you into a bigger market like MA? Make expanding to RI as easy as dropping off the beer at the border and maybe more breweries consider it higher on their list...?

    cbeer88 makes a great point. Hometown brewers seem to have a much easier time sneaking onto taplists and prying the door open for more craft offerings. Having good local brewers that aggressively push their stuff into every place with a license and a taphandle seems almost essential. If those brewers can build a core following lining up outside their brewery for growler fills every Saturday, even better.
    Providence likes this.
  7. Even if it's identical, you're talking about 1M vs 6.5M people in the two states. And we've yet to see any RI craft brewery with success outside the state. Even Newport Storm, who has been around for an eternity in craft years, has almost zero traction outside the state.

    That said, I think MA has probably tipped the scales of having too many new breweries, so it makes more sense to me to open one in RI right now. But I can see where the decision is difficult.
    Providence likes this.
  8. I guess it's because of posts like this and people like my friends and I that all the paperwork to open a kick ass beer bar in Providence would be worth it. I don't know, I'm no business man, but it seems like there is a demand here. If you build it, they will come type stuff.

    Instead we get shit like "The Apartment" over on Richmond St. Yikes.

    Oh well....a man can dream.
  9. Forget about breweries though. Can't we get one beer bar in Providence? Something that could even sniff at the ankles of Deep Ellum or Lord Hobo?
  10. Well, there is Julian's. I have my issues with the place, but their tap list is on par with a place like Deep Ellum.

    And if you're talking about something more downtown, well, I say the same exact thing about Boston. :) All the great Boston bars are actually outside the city. (Though the downtown area is slowly improving in quantity, if not necessarily quality)
    FrankLloydMike likes this.
  11. I have never considered Julian's a bar. It's a restaurant with awesome beer. I guess people could say that about Ellum and Hobo, but they have so much more actual bar space than Julian's.
  12. I'd say this is the case for most high-end beer bars though. Granted the bar at Julian's is really small, but it's also not that hard to get a table just to drink beer at after the dinner rush. Contrast that with a place like Publick House that has a tiny bar and requires you to get food to have a seat... (speaking of, I really miss American Craft given how much bar space the place had...)
    FrankLloydMike likes this.
  13. I hear what you're saying.
  14. EParry84

    EParry84 Zealot (80) Massachusetts Nov 24, 2010

    I think you're absolutely on to something here. Is it worth the hassle for some of the better New England craft beer brands to sell their stuff in RI? I don't think so if the market is going to be so small and it's going to cost you so much money. Sadly, I drink lots of beer in RI and would love to see them down there but I can understand why it just isn't so.

    As a side note, I grabbed some of the Foolproof IPA the other day and it is isn't half bad. I think I need to have a couple more to get a real accurate assessment though.
  15. I have been impressed with all three of Foolproof's offerings thus far.
  16. surge1311

    surge1311 Savant (305) Rhode Island Oct 10, 2012

    I guess we are just too small to get any love around here beer wise but it does seem to be getting slighly better. More and more bars are carrying quality stuff. Doherty's in pawtucket has like 80 beers on tap and many bottles in coolers as well. Plus you can get samplers as well. Either way this is probably the downfalls of being the smallest state. Agreed on foolproof so far I am enjoying their beers, thinking of doing the tour soon. I really hope they are very successfull to encourage other beer endeavors in the near future, we can only hope. Besides that I think are distribution and being close enough to mass to get their distribution gives us a great opportunity to drink some quality stuff. I find it amazing some of the stuff that sits on shelves as long as it does, maybe we just dont have as many craft beer drinkers as we think.
  17. Jwale73

    Jwale73 Advocate (705) Rhode Island Aug 15, 2007

    Not impressed with the price point though - $9.89 for a sixer of decent IPA isn't my thing.
    ShogoKawada and jedwards like this.
  18. I hear that. It is tough to grab it when Torpedo is cheaper....
    Jwale73 likes this.
  19. You should have went to Dohertys tonight Bucket Brewery was there, always good to support the locals as they are starting up.
    Stahlsturm likes this.
  20. I think having some really solid brewpubs would go a long way towards improving the local scene in general. I am in south county and while there is grey sail making some decent beers, overall there is nowhere that is showcasing a wide variety (something other than an IPA, Pale Ale, and Porter) of beers, decent food, and a good atmosphere. The Mews claims to have 69 beers on tap, but I usually have a hard time finding one on the tap list I am actually interested in trying.

    I was spoiled, living 4 blocks from Jackie O's in OH before moving here, but think that the variety of styles they brew (multiple IPAs, Pale Ales, Porters AND several Stouts, Belgians, Sours, Red Ales, Barleywines etc.) ontop of a pleasant atmosphere and quality local food could be mirrored here to make a hub for a local brew scene which could grow from there. When I first moved to OH, Jakie O's wasn't even brewing and over the course of 5 years they have become one of the best breweries in the country (IMO). They did a great job of growing locally and are now expanding.

    I think that the beer scene needs to grow from here first. I hope some of these new startups (and established breweries) start trying to push the envelope a little, trying new styles, and expanding the local beer scene here first. There is definitely the market for a good brewpub in Wakefield or Narragansett, for sure Providence, and I would assume also in Newport and Westerly (though I am not familiar with those areas so maybe something already exists). The key is good beer and good atmosphere, make me want to stay, try more beers, and eat a meal. Without all three aspects though, I would rather drink at home with friends where I can have good beer (usually brewed in MA or CA), good food, and a pleasant atmosphere
    Providence likes this.
  21. it's also very easy to cross the border into mass to pick up stuff from any of the dozens of breweries that distro. in MA, but not RI.



    as far as the future goes, i think that nikki's moving to broadway will do great things for Providence's beer scene. having nikki's and julian's right across the street from each other (with the avery, loie fullers, nick's, E&O and others right around the corner) will give our scene an epicenter.
  22. benbking

    benbking Savant (275) Massachusetts Dec 11, 2009

  23. The problem with mews, is while they have a lot of offerings and I can always find something I'll like, they rarely have anything im excited about, dohertys usually at least has a couple taps that I havent heard of or that I havent been able to get.
    Providence likes this.
  24. As I said in my earlier post, the Mews generally does an incredible job of filling 69 taps with meh....

    I need to check out Dohertys at some point though
    Providence likes this.
  25. Doherty's is a wonderful dive. My kinda place. I have had my issues with them at times - bad tap lines, funky smelling brews, sometimes the food is a bit off - but I keep going back! It must be the ribs!
  26. benbking

    benbking Savant (275) Massachusetts Dec 11, 2009

    Other than the Italian beer offering's I've never tried, I notice a lot of similarities between Doherty's tap list and the Mews tap list. I bet it has something to do with RI Distro in general. 1 question, has Newport Storm gotten any better in the past 5 years?
  27. In my opinion Newport Storm is still what it has always been: Something different for BMC drinkers to experiment with/a gateway beer into craft. Don't get me wrong, those are good and necessary markets to go after, but at this point, I wouldn't drink their stuff if it were free.
    Horbar and benbking like this.
  28. Doherty's is a solid spot. It's far from my definition of a dive, but it's definitely not fancy. Years ago I posted a thread about how they were short-pouring brews (I got a tulip that was filled like an inch short of the top, it kinds of rubbed me the wrong way). Within two days the owner there had beermailed me with an explanation for why this was. He also asked for my address. After I gave it to him he sent along a $25 gift certificate to me. That incident clearly shows how serious they take their beer. That's big in my book. Love how they always have a cask too!
  29. Pegli

    Pegli Savant (305) Rhode Island Aug 30, 2006

    I think a bit of it has to do with Rhode Islander's perception of distance, our unwillingness to travel, and the lack of public transport. There's not a large enough population of craft beer enthusiasts in any one area to keep a scene thriving (maybe in down "city") and we suburbanites will only venture > 10 miles for a special event or cosmic alignment. I'm in "town" in Coventry. It seems like the local bars change hands/names every six months...they can't even stay in business by slinging BMC. I hear Malted Barley is doing good things but that's all the way down in Westerly. I know some good old man bars in Woonsocket but that's like an overnight trip. Venture over the bridge to Pour Judgement - forgettaboutit.
  30. The lack of ability to even consider traveling more than 3 exits in either direction on Rt. 95 is most definitely a contributing factor. It's pathetic.
    alpaca and FarmingtonRiver like this.
  31. I'd be willing to bet that if the awesome ladies at Craft Beer Cellar really want to expand, the place to do it is in downtown Providence or on Thayer Street.
  32. Interesting. I actually couldn't disagree more. Downtown is a ghost town. No one lives in downtown. There's hustle and bustle during the day, but at night it's filled with nothing but JWU students that are looking for underage bars that will serve them red bull and vodka. Additionally, Thayer St. is dead. It' become corporate. City Sports, urban outfitters, Starbucks, that's not the Thayer St. I fell in love with when I took a bite of a Spike's Junkyard Dog 20 years ago. It's a haven for Brown's super rich kids who want to go to Kartabar (or however you spell it) and drink basil infused gin not because it tastes good, but because it looks cool. A beer bar in either spot would flop. Have you gone to English Cellar Ale House? It's rubbish.

    I agree with what was said above, it's got to be done in the west end. The west end already has the best beer scene and with Nikki's moving across the street from Julian's it's going to make it even more of a beer lovers destination. Truthfully, I don't think opening a new beer bar would be the route. Instead, what I think would be better would be for a place like the Avery to go all out and do it. Find a way to expand the space a bit, double the number of tap lines and start serving some kick ass bites. The owner there cares a ton about beer and knows his shit, I think they could pull it off. Of course, I am sure it's a LOT harder than this armchair restauranteur thinks.
    cbeer88 likes this.
  33. You actually do make some great points, downtown is relatively dead. But I was thinking of ease of getting to the store for folks outside of Providence as well. Right now, Belmont, MA isn't the craft beer mecca of Massachusetts, but it's located within 20-30 minutes of just about anyone in the Boston area that loves craft beer. Locating in downtown Providence, IMO, would provide easy (visible) access for craft beer lovers stretching from Fall River/Taunton (believe it or not, it seems like there's a growing contention there), to Cranston, to Woonsocket and Attleboro.

    That said, you make a good point on making it in the West End, which would still fit my basic point that CBC should expand to Providence next. I'm not a marketing expert, but based on what I see in this thread and what I hear from family and friends in southeastern Mass and all of Rhode Island, as you noted there's certainly plenty of demand for a quality craft beer shop in the area.
    Providence likes this.
  34. Well said. The other thing about the West End that a lot of folks forget about is that there is parking. Downtown parking is very limited. Sure it exists, I can find it for free any day of the week, any day of the year. Nevertheless, it's not as easy as parking on the West End, which is ample and never metered. Also, the West End is easily accessible from all points: north, south, west with ease, east is a little bit more tricky, but don't underestimate the beauty of 195 now allowing exit to the Point st. bridge (bang a left through South Providence for a couple of miles and you're on Broadway). East side isn't accessible. Imagine if you're coming up Rt. 6 and want a brew and you've got to trek it to Thayer, RI mentality will turn you away. Downtown is accessible for sure, but again, parking. CBC in Providence would be sick. While I have never visited them, I respect the praise they get. After one hour of operation they'd be the best brewery in Providence.
  35. Pegli

    Pegli Savant (305) Rhode Island Aug 30, 2006

    Maybe at least one of the new guys will start pressing to get a tap handle in every town. If Flying Jenny was on-tap in the sports bar at the end of my block, I would stop in for a pint or few at least twice a week. For "Jesus tap dancing Christ" can we even get Gansett seasonals on tap ? I've never seen them...
    Providence likes this.
  36. benbking, Providence and Pegli like this.
  37. jedwards

    jedwards Savant (330) California Feb 3, 2009

    Foolproof has been doing a great job with this: http://www.foolproofbrewing.com/find?state=rhode-island

    Agree about asking your local as well!
  38. Pegli

    Pegli Savant (305) Rhode Island Aug 30, 2006

  39. RoninTK3

    RoninTK3 Savant (290) New Hampshire Nov 12, 2012

    I think Grey Sail has been making some great beer. Really enjoy Stargazer, 1st Anni Imperial Pils, Flying Jenny, and Flagship. I enjoyed the Foolproof porter, but not the IPA. No need to look down on Newport Storm either. Vlad was fantastic and India Point Ale is solid. Tastings at the brewery are fun and it's obvious these guys love what they do. Nobody has been dissapointed yet with the local extras I've sent out. There may not be anything worldclass coming out of RI, but there is plenty of good beer being made. I'd love to see RI get some better distribution though.
    malweth likes this.
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