Rhode Island Beer Report: Newport Storm and Narragansett Creating Buzz

July 1, 2009

Beer is an economic bulwark even with Rhode Island’s increasing unemployment and a legislature’s hostile approach to out-of-state business (ask Amazon). Damn fine beer is associated with the Ocean State,  for value conscious and beer bourgeois alike.

As a moderate locavore, I try to support locally owned and operated companies when possible. As a frequent beer drinker, I like the options of having an affordable, easy drinking brew for light binging and a more complex, robust beer selection to compliment meals. Fortunately, Rhode Island offers both.

Narragansett Beer – “Hey Neighbor, Have a ‘Gansett”


With a rich history dating back to 1890, Narragansett became the largest selling beer in New England with one of the most modern brewing facilities in the country supporting over 850 employees. An unfortunate series of financial and logistical miscues led to the closing of the Cranston, RI factory in 1983. Fortunately, lifelong RI resident Mark Hellendrung bought back the brand in October of 2005 and ‘Gansett is poured from taps in over 750 New England bars.

Despite re-invigorating of the brand, Hellendrung has bigger goals for Narragansett beer, most notably returning the brewery to New England (ideally Rhode Island). With a savvy social media campaign including a blog, twitter feed, Facebook Fan Page and petition, as well as a nostalgic ad campaign, Narragansett is challenging folks in the northeast to drink 1.7 million cases of beer (roughly 1 case per beer drinking New Englander) by the end of the year in order to justify the need for a new brewery.

While beer snobs may turn a sober shoulder to the affordably priced lager, there’s no doubt that bringing the Narragansett brewery back to Rhode Island is the right thing to do. Simultaneously a homecoming and a boon to the state’s economy, (if you’re a beer consumer) please sign the petition, buy a case or ask your local beer vendor to start selling the beer. I bought an 18-pack last weekend and got a sweet free ‘Gansett necktie complimentary, for no cost.

Coastal Extreme Brewing Co. (Newport Storm) – Dedicated to the Craft


A company history of Coastal Extreme Breweing can be found on the website. On a personal note, as a 21 year-old I used to live across the street from the brewery. There was no beer sold, but every Friday evening, a select few dozen were admitted for tours which included, four, and subsequently two bottle caps exchangeable for free beer. The self-made owners have continued their hospitality with daily samplings and weekly/private tours. Newport Storm seasonal drafts drive hardcore loyalty but the flagship Hurricane Amber and a grassroots, events-laden effort led by the founders jockeyed “Storm” into the drinking scene across New England. 

Not surprisingly, the brewery is wrangling with the RI legislature over its right to sell six-packs, cases and spirits to patrons visiting the brewery. The website claims, “Rhode Island is the only such state in New England that prohibits this practice at its breweries and distilleries.” A travesty? Consider protesting or mildy objecting to House bill  6169 and the identical Senate bill 943, you can learn more and send vociferous emails here.

Furthermore, I’ve heard the Coastal Extreme beer factory may be expanding to a new facility, positive news but the Oliphant Ln. home will be missed. 

Drinking beer is not a solution for most, but manufacturing beverages for inevitable consumption is sound economics, especially in the Ocean State.  Just ask Autocrat and Del’s.

Posted by: Nick Brown


Rhode Island, More than just Understaffed Strip Clubs

March 24, 2009

If you managed to avoid reading or hearing about the job fair at Rhode Island’s Foxy Lady gentleman’s club in Providence this past weekend,  you must’ve been hiding in a champagne room somewhere. Aside from local saturation, news outlets including Yahoo, the Boston Herald, and even CNN  decided the human interest angle of strippers at a job fair was too much to ignore, thus “making it rain” with millions of dollars in free promotion for the strip joint.

The overused joke, “No need to buy a new wardrobe.” Guffaw!

Don’t get me wrong, Rhode Island needs the Foxy Lady. Legs and Eggs (every Friday starting at 6 a.m.) is an Ocean State institution on par with political corruption, quahogs and complaining about tourists who support our economy. Myself and nearly every one of my friends has patronized “The Foxy” for a bachelor party or just to whittle away the doldrums of winter one lapdance at a time. Truth be told, I appreciate the moxie of the Foxy co-owner, Thomas Tsoumas, I think he has a little P.T. Barnum in him.  

As “proud” as we are of our lascivious landmark, I feel as though Rhode Island gets pigeon-holed with some of the mainstream stories the national media presents. Forget the fact that we’re the smallest state in the country battling with Michigan for the highest unemployment rate while besieged by some the highest taxes in the nation. Considering our whole state is the size of Houston, Texas, I don’t expect sympathy for our economic plight, but how about some love for our diverse regional foibles and various pop culture contributions?

Included below are a mishmash of Rhody-related morsels to masticate on and broaden your view of the state officially known as Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. If you have visited or live in the state, we welcome your additions in the Comments section.

The Incomplete Guide to why Rhode Island is Wicked Awesome:

1.) Our lexicon embraces “wicked” as an adjective.

2.) My hometown, Portsmouth, laid claim to “Birthplace of American Democracy” and even erected a welcome sign to assert it. Too bad Williamsburg, I guess Virginia is just for lovers in denial.   

3.) Convicted ex-capital city mayors are not only embraced when they get out of jail, they are given a public forum to call out the injustices of others.

4.) Two drinks: Del’s Frozen Lemonade and an Awful Awful from Newport Creamery. Go with Oreo and a choclate base and you might need a change of underclothes.

5.) Ever heard of a little band called Smashmouth? Yeah, my friend’s sister dated the driver of their tour bus.

6.) The first ever Black Regiment, a group of slaves-turned-soldiers from R.I. joined the Continental Army in battling the lecherous redcoats. Battle of Rhode Island, 1778, that’s right.

7.) We have a Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Galilee, Little Compton, and a Wyoming all within our borders. 

8.) One of the funniest shows on TV, Fox’s Family Guy, is set in a made-up town called Quahog, RI. Yes, all of our children speak eloquently with British accents and our dogs talk, drink martinis and smoke cigarettes. 

9.) The Tennis Hall of Fame is located in Newport. We get at least one Martina Navratilova sighting a year.

10.) New England Pest Control’s Big Blue Bug.

11.) Newport’s White Horse Tavern was built in 1673 and is the oldest operating tavern in the United States.

12.) Bristol, RI has the longest running 4th of July Parade in the history of the world, we’ve been flipping the bird to the Brits with fireworks and binge drinking since 1785.  

13.) In Scituate, Rhode Island it is illegal to keep a flock of chickens in your motorhome if you live in a trailer park. No link, but it’s in the town charter, ask Cletus at the town administration shed.

14.) The Cheeky Monkey restaurant in Narragansett, where the cuisine, service and ambiance are so ambrosial that sometimes I question whether chewing the food is doing it an injustice. They’re on Facebook you know.

15.) Waterfire in Providence. It’s summer, visual art, music, food, nightime and a swell date or romance destination. Go when they have a contingency of Brazilian samba dancers, musicians and chuhascaria and you will not be dissapointed.

16.) The Great Chowder Cook-off and St. Patty’s Day in Newport.

 17.) Autocrat – maker of Coffee Syrup. Since 1920, our state has loyally supported the Lincoln, RI based company by drinking coffee milk made with a dark amber-hued, satiny syrup mixed with 2% or whole. The state legislature even named it the Official State Drink of Rhode Island in 1997.  All this despite the fact that virtually no consumers outside our state drink it and we chug to the tune of 31 million glasses a year.

Thanks Rhode Island!

Posted by: Nick