How many craft beers can the Providence area support?
The answer, it seems, depends more on the number of shelves in its liquor stores and taps in its bars than the thirst of drinkers for newer, bolder local ales.
Thirty years since the Ocean State was left without a single commercial brewery, the number of craft beers that call Rhode Island home has reached a healthy baker’s dozen and shows no sign of slowing.
“We are growing and the market out there is great,” said Nate Broomfield, co-founder of Bucket Brewery, in Pawtucket, which opened its 3,400-square-foot brewery in a Pawtucket Avenue mill last summer. “People are receptive, and there is a lot of excitement about new local beers.”
Broomfield’s and Bucket co-founder Erik Aslaksen’s path from dorm-room brews and backyard batches to a tiny pilot facility and now a small 20-barrel-per-week factory is emblematic of the craft-beer industry across the country.
And like their counterparts nationally, Rhode Island craft brewers want to build the infrastructure for a thriving, self-sustaining local brewing ecosystem to serve the growing taste for hyper-local and creative new flavors.
This spring two Providence groups have separate plans for larger breweries in Providence capable of boosting more-established labels to larger markets and providing a platform for new, experimental and so-called “nano” brews to reach customers and gain exposure.
With backing from Narragansett Brewing Co., Isle Brewers Guild LLC, a group led by Jeremy Duffy of Providence public relations firm Duffy & Shanley, wants to build an $8 million contract brewery on Kinsley Avenue in the city’s Valley neighborhood.
Narragansett, the largest brand in Rhode Island and now 49th largest in the country according to the Brewers Association, has been on a long, winding mission to find a local facility.
In addition to Narragansett, which is now primarily brewed on contract at North American Breweries in Rochester, N.Y., the Isle brewery would serve a range of local craft brewers who either don’t have their own production facility or have very small capacity.
And not far from Isle’s proposed Kinsley Avenue site in Providence, Revival Brewing Co. has plans to build its own brewery on Westminster Street.