BEHIND THE CURTAIN The Coastal Extreme pot still.
Ever since Narragansett closed its Cranston brewery 30 years ago, Rhode Island's brewing history has been sporadic at best. Contract brewers Hope Brewing and the Great Providence Brewing Company never successfully built a brewery, while Emerald Isle Brew Works' keg-only facility lasted just a few years. Fortunately, with a new brewery up and running and 100-year lease in-hand, Newport Storm appears here to stay.
Coastal Extreme Brewing Company, makers of Newport Storm, was founded in 1999 by a group of four friends from Maine's Colby College. Upon graduation, Brent Ryan, Derek Luke, Mark Sinclair, and Will Rafferty decided that brewing beer all day sounded like a pretty good way to make a living. Equally importantly, they decided that Rhode Island needed a microbrewery.
For their first decade of existence the guys operated out of three small garage bays in Middletown. They had had always dreamed of building a brewery of their own and, after five years of various delays, they finally moved into their new building in Newport last year. So one recent Saturday afternoon I rounded up my wife and a few friends to take a tour of the new facility . . . and maybe taste a couple of their beers too.
While the building itself is a fairly nondescript warehouse, the silo out front indicates that something special is happening inside. The visitor's center is a bright, open room housing both the gift shop and a classy bar setup for tastings. Laura Blackwell, head of public relations, filled our glasses here and then took our tour up to the observation deck overlooking the whole process.
Laura explained that it all begins with the silo out front and the grains stored within. On brewing day, the malts are piped into the building and crushed with Newport Storm's original green mill, before going into the mashtun along with water and hops. A heat exchanger then cools the hot wort enough so that the yeast can work its magic in the fermenter. From there it's into kegs, bottles, and cans and on to your refrigerator.
While the process hasn't changed much with the move, the guys did take the opportunity to implement a long overdue laundry list of changes. A new system that injects carbon dioxide into the bottle ensures that oxygen doesn't degrade the beer over time. Malts can be bulk-ordered from the same batch thanks to the new silo. And where Newport Storm formerly brewed some of its beers at a larger facility in Connecticut, now they're able to control the entire process from start to finish. Add it all together and you have more stable, longer-lasting, and just-plain-better beer. I've been drinking Newport Storm for quite a whole and I can already taste the difference!
But what about the beer? The tasting flight started with Newport Storm's flagship HURRICANE AMBER, a sweet, medium-bodied ale that is a good starter beer for those uninitiated to the world of craft. Next up is a walk on the dark side with their flavorful WINTER ALE Porter and the big, bold NEWPORT STORM '10 Black IPA (my favorite beer of the day). And their RHODE ISLAND BLUEBERRY is hands-down one of my very favorite fruit beers, no doubt thanks to the fresh, local blueberries used.