When the building at 63 Canal Street in Westerly opened in the 1930s, it housed the Westerly Macaroni Manufacturing Co. It also served as a post office. It was a NAPA Auto Parts store when the flood hit two years ago, and NAPA was wiped out. Last April, Jen and Alan Brinton bought the venerable building. Alan, a home brewer for more than 20 years, aspired to become a beer pro; Jen's business acumen made the dream come true (Alan still works full-time as a chemical engineer). And they hit the ground running: demolishing the wood floors, removing steel beams, discovering a leaning chimney (which provided the name for their Smoked Porter), pouring a concrete floor, acquiring fermenters from Japan and other equipment from the US and Canada, ordering kegs, designing a label, and deciding on a name for their new endeavor: Grey Sail Brewing. (And Elevated Spirits signed on to distribute their product — a huge coup for a fledgling brewery.) On November 29, the first glass of their Flagship Ale, a savory Cream Ale, was poured; the next day, the first keg was ready for delivery. In mid-January, the cans arrived. Now Alan and Jen's beer is making its way across the state (and Connecticut), on shelves and on tap. Huzzah!
It's a great (and inspiring) story (dreams do come true — and sometimes they're better than you could have hoped for!), and I heard Alan tell it at a tour and tasting on Saturday. It was cool to listen to a new batch of beer bubbling in the wood-lined fermenter; to see the canning process — the containers are sealed one at a time, it's literally hand-crafted beer; and to get a preview of the excellent Extra Pale Ale, the next year-round offering (which will likely make its debut at the Great International Beer Festival at the Rhode Island Convention Center on April 14 and hit the market in the summer). A summer Belgian wit will be availably on draft in May.
Grey Sail (greysailbrewing.com) is open on Saturday from 4 to 8 pm. When you head to Westerly, make a day of it (or at least a long afternoon). Start right over the border in Pawcatuck, CT, at Cottrell Brewing (cottrellbrewing.com). Take a tour between 1 and 5 pm and sip a Mystic Bridge IPA and an Old Yankee Ale. And definitely hit the Malted Barley (themaltedbarleyri.com) on High Street, an old building with a contemporary feel (and the patio overlooks the Pawcatuck River). There are 35 well-selected beers on tap (have 'em in sampler glasses, pints, or barrels, aka pitchers) and a solid bottle list (all very reasonably priced), plus gourmet pretzels (stuffed cheddar and jalapeño, mmm). Ahh, simple pleasures in a charming town.A NEW TALLBOY
Narragansett Cream Ale has arrived. The brewery's first year-round craft entry bested rye ale in a beer-off last fall, and joins the esteemed ranks of 'Gansett's seasonal craft offerings (Bock, Summer Ale, Fest, and Porter). The Cream Ale is a fine representative of the style: it pours clear and golden with a billowy head; the taste is light but flavorful, with creamy (yep) malt and a trace of hops. This is a truly mild craft beer, and it will be interesting to see if it equals the level of success of the rest of the craft lineup, which Narragansett president Mark Hellendrung told Brewbound.com "accounted for about 25 percent of our volume growth and about 35 percent of our dollar growth" in 2011, while making up about 10 percent of the company's output.