Welcome to “Around R.I.” Every Thursday we’ll highlight an interesting aspect of life in Rhode Island, from dining to parks to museums to shopping and more. Tell us what you’d like us to check out by sending an e-mail to RInews@globe.com.
NEXT WEEK: Dan McGowan sacrifices his cholesterol levels in service of finding great chicken wings you can enjoy while watching the return of NFL games next week.
PROVIDENCE — Devoted craft beer fans will drive many miles and wait in long lines before heading home with fantastic four-packs from microbrew meccas such as the Tree House Brewing Company in Charlton, Mass.
But in Rhode Island, we are lucky to live in a small state that has a big variety of top-notch craft breweries — allowing us to drink quality IPAs while adhering to that ubiquitous bumper sticker “I Never Leave Rhode Island.”
“I stopped going out of state,” said Scott Mason, a Warwick trail runner and mountain biker who founded a Facebook group called “Runners Love Their Beer,” which now has 869 members. “Everybody is making solid product down here, so why waste your gas?”
Plus, he noted that Massachusetts is imposing travel restrictions on people arriving from other states, including Rhode Island. “In the current situation, if you go to Tree House, you might get quarantined,” he joked.
While Vermont leads the way, Mason said he believes Rhode Island ranks second in New England in terms of craft beer. “Everybody is putting out great beer in the state,” he said. “I have had very little bad stuff.”
Unlike Massachusetts, Rhode Island does not require establishments to offer food prepared on-site in order to serve alcoholic beverages.
The Rhode Island Brewers Guild, established in 2013 to support and promote local craft breweries, has an interactive brewery map that lists 30 open breweries in places ranging from Westerly to Woonsocket.
If you want to pretend you are traveling while you’re just driving to Cranston, for example, you can download the Rhode Island Brewery Passport app, which lets you earn rewards for drinking locally.
Mike Radz and Sarah Chapin, a Providence couple devoted to long runs and good beer, have been to 26 of those Rhode Island breweries, often accompanied by their dog, Tuck.
Radz recalled that Newport Storm used to have a billboard near the former Route 195 bridge that said, “One airport, one area code, one beer.”
“We’ve come a long way,” Radz said. “Instead of the billboard and the bridge, we now have a plethora of breweries to visit.”
So how do you decide which are the best breweries in Rhode Island?
In part, that depends on what kind of beer you like — bitter IPAs or sweet stouts, light lagers, or pucker-up sours. Plus, there are factors such as whether breweries allow dogs and offer food.
This particular Top 5 offers a wide variety of beer styles, but reflects the tastes of a group of runners who have shown a strong preference for a solid IPA after a long run.
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Long Live Beerworks, 40R Sprague St., Providence
Long live Long Live. This is the urban choice in Rhode Island. If I could pick one go-to craft beer, it would be The All Seeing Eye double-dry-hopped New England-style double IPA from Long Live. The beer geeks at Beer Advocate give it an “outstanding” score of 93 out of 100. Through These Eyes is nearly as tasty, and Robot Haus is an excellent pilsner.
The brewery, which opened 4½ years ago, moved to a larger location in an old brick factory building on the West End of Providence in 2019. The two-level taproom is a cool, sleek space, but it’s closed amid the pandemic. You can pre-order cans-to-go from the beer window. The outdoor patio, open by reservation, beats the loading dock locales of other makeshift “beer gardens.”
Chapin recommends the Butterfinger Whole Roast stout, saying, “I cried when I drank it because it was so good.”
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Tilted Barn, 1 Hemsley Place, Exeter
This is the rural choice in Rhode Island. You can’t go wrong with The Chosen One double-dry-hopped New England-style double IPA. Beer Advocate gives it a “world class” score of 97.
In March, the brewery began offering only can sales through online pre-orders. But Tilted Barn is building a new barn on a hill “overlooking the sheep and donkeys grazing through the hops and Christmas trees with the original barn in the background,” according to its blog.
The new barn, which will open in the fall, will be 10 times larger than the old barn and provide the brewery with four times as much production capacity, co-owner Matt Richardson said.
CJ Morin, a runner and biker from Cumberland who is a big Tilted Barn fan, recommends the Cactus double-dry-hopped double IPA, which receives an “outstanding” score of 93 from Beer Advocate. “It’s the perfect New England IPA,” he said, “and the one beer I always go out of my way to get.”
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Proclamation Ale Company, 298 Kilvert St., Warwick
Amid the pandemic, Proclamation partnered with the Frog & Toad gift shop in Providence to produce Knock It Off — a double IPA that pays tribute to Governor Gina M. Raimondo’s trademark admonition for those who flout public health protocols such as wearing face masks and staying six feet apart.
But it wasn’t the first time Proclamation blended some humor with hops. Its brews include 2 Legit 2 Frit — a collaboration with Knead Doughnuts that’s brewed with Knead raspberry fritters — and Mouth Bleeder, a blood-orange, dry-hopped IPA.
Founded in 2014, the brewery — near T.F. Green Airport — includes a 3,000-square-foot tasting room and retail area with custom art installations and a small retro video arcade. The tap room had to close because of the pandemic. But to-go cans can be pre-ordered online, with curbside or in-person pickup.
Nick Fox, a Warwick runner who is a Proclamation fan, recommends Penultimate Unicorn, a triple-dry-hopped triple IPA, citing the “juicy, tropical flavors given off by the three different hops in the beer.”
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Shaidzon Beer Company, 141 Fairgrounds Road, West Kingston
The name Shaidzon — as in “The sun is in my eyes so I need my shades on” — was meant as a placeholder until the co-owners could come up with something better. But the name stuck. And now the brewery is heading toward its third anniversary, operating out of an industrial building alongside the Rhode Island Mushroom Company, near the University of Rhode Island.
The “beer garden” out back won’t remind you of Germany — or a garden, for that matter. You step up on a wooden pallet to get to picnic tables near a loading dock, and the passing Amtrak train seems close enough to hand the conductor a beer.
But Ed’s here to tell you that Ed’s Here is an excellent double IPA. The beer isn’t named for me, as much as I might imagine it is. Rather, Ed’s Here is “named for the best plumber in Rhode Island” and is what the brewery owners “cheer every time he arrives,” according to the Shaidzon website.
Also, The Juice Fountain Berliner Weisse sour delivers a refreshing burst of raspberry, peach, and lime. And during our visit, the bartender literally ran to get us beer. So bottom line: The setting is gritty, but the place has hustle and tasty beer.
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Buttonwoods Brewery, 530 Wellington Ave., Cranston
The same can be said for Buttonwoods Brewery, which is located in the middle of an old mill building in Cranston. Like Shaidzon, it’s close to the train tracks and also has a beer garden of sorts near the loading dock.
And like Shaidzon, it offers some delicious beer. On a rainy Saturday, patrons gathered at tables beneath a small tent amid parking lot puddles and a view of some secondhand appliances. But the sun soon emerged as we sipped the Broken Concept double IPA and the Signature Swirl sour.
Fox recommends Hip Hop is Dead, a cloudy New England-style double IPA, because he says it’s “always consistent, always juicy, and like all their IPAs, without lactose.”
Launched in December 2017, Buttonwoods is open for can sales and online order pickups, and it takes reservations for outdoor seating on weekends.
Morin said the outdoor drinking is fine — and a necessary precaution during the pandemic. But he’s eager to return to the inviting tap rooms that you’ll find in every corner of Rhode Island. “Just wait until the day when you can get back inside them,” he said.
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While these five breweries provide a sample of the brews available in Rhode Island, other excellent venues include Ravenous Brewing Company in Cumberland, Beer on Earth in Providence, Grey Sail Brewing of Rhode Island in Westerly, Foolproof Brewing Company in Pawtucket, Trinity Brewhouse in Providence, and the Apponaug Brewing Company in Warwick. And folks are looking forward to the opening of the Origin Beer Project and Moniker Brewery.