PROVIDENCE — Historical documents show that the original Providence Brewery, which wasn’t even located in the city, opened in 1814. Years later, in 1892, brewmaster and engineer Adam C. Wagner and his business partner James Hanley built the American Brewing Company, which was later renamed Providence Brewing Company in 1896.
They moved their brewery from Newport to Providence on Harris Avenue. And the interior technology inside, under Wagner’s leadership, represented the most up-to-date brewery design of the time, including a three-story brick main building operating as an industrial-scale “gravitation brewery,” an ice plant, and a boiler house.
While designing the plant, Wagner, who was also a Philadelphia-based architect, applied for a slew of patents with the United States government. But his most notable design was an improved version of the “mashing apparatus,” which kneads and mixes ingredients. The basic design of this technology has helped usher in modern-day brewing technology that is still used today.
But in 1920, the business of brewing alcoholic beverages came to an end with Prohibition. Providence Brewing closed its doors and the facility was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It’s been 100 years since Wagner ruled the brewing scene in Providence, but Efren Hidalgo, the son of Cuban immigrants who were in the beer business themselves, decided to return the company’s legacy back to Rhode Island’s capital.
This month, Hidalgo, who considers himself a “re-founder” opened Providence Brewing Company on Sims Avenue in the Valley neighborhood.
“It’s a little humbling. You don’t really think about the historical piece while you’re in the middle of it,” Hidalgo said in a recent phone interview. “When I do think about it, it’s when I’m going through some of the branding and voice. That’s when I really think about the significance of returning this company back to the city.”
Hidalgo recently vacated a building on Mineral Spring Avenue in North Providence, which is where he operated PBC since 2018, after he said the landlord came up with new plans for the space. It was in that building, he said, that he was able to grow from being a hobby home brewer into a professional operation.
His father was in the beer business, too: Before immigrating to the US from Cuba in 1962, Hidalgo’s father had started off as a distributor for a brewery and grew to having the exclusive rights to distribution in Havana.
“I want people to come here to sit back and relax and actually feel connected with one another,” he said. “This should be a space where you can get away, connect with the staff, and meet other locals in the area.”
The brewery has four beers on tap, with more coming over the next few months that will be available by the pint and eventually in growlers to fill their 16 taps. “Pound Town” is their juiciest New England-style IPA, which has notes of guava, mango, tropical fruit with an ABV of 7.7. percent.
Their “Tattoo of Blood,” is a double sour ale at 7.4 percent ABV that he said tastes like a “refreshing sour bomb.” “But Not For Me,” a session IPA, is floral with citrus aromas. And it’s crushable, with an ABV of 5.5 percent. Another session IPA, “Everytime We Say Goodbye,” has notes of pine, also at 5.5 percent.
Sometime in the spring, Hidalgo said they will be introducing craft soda. He said he has been experimenting with simple, hopped sodas with various flalvors derived from fresh fruit or pureed juices that will be added to carbonated water.
“But right now, production is 100 percent aimed at beer,” he said. Can offerings will eventually roll out later this year, he said.
Customers will be able to bring in their own food or purchase items off nearby food trucks along Sims Avenue and around their building’s space at Farm Fresh RI.
“We’re really in the perfect location, between Revival Brewing and ISCO down the street. We could really create a destination between all of us in the Valley,” said Hidalgo, who plans on working with nearby businesses on events that will include entertainment with local acts.
“I really wanted to create a little pocket of escape, so the next time people return, I can say again, ‘Welcome home.’”
Providence Brewing Company is located at 10 Sims Ave. in Unit 110 in Providence. They will be open on Thursdays from 4 to 10 p.m., on Fridays from 4 until 11 p.m., on Saturdays from noon to 11 p.m., and on Sundays from noon until 5 p.m. They are closed Monday through Wednesday. pvd.beer. Store updates will be posted on their Instagram.