Monday, May 27, 2013

A Foolproof Brewery

The Rising Star of Rhode Island Beer (*)

As most American beer aficionados know, New England is quickly becoming a beer destination region. Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and my home state of Massachusetts are all overflowing with breweries, and new ones are popping up seemingly everyday. As one brewer explained it: "You can't wave a fish without hitting another brewery in Boston!" And though I found it a rather unusual analogy, he certainly made his point.

Rhode Island, however, seems to be lagging behind it's sister states. At current count, the state has eleven breweries and brewpubs, two of which – though with offices in Rhode Island – are actually brewed out of state. According to the most recent Brewers Association "Capita per Brewery" chart, Rhode Island ranks 35th out of the fifty states.

On a recent visit to the state, I was able to take in one of Rhode Island's newest breweries: Foolproof Brewing Company in Pawtucket. Despite having opened in January 2013 (a mere five months ago), the brewery has an impressive brewing space and has just expanded into the Massachusetts market.

As the brewers explained to me, Rhode Island has very specific laws regarding brewery tasting rooms (something that is currently on the floor of the state legislature and may be changing soon). State law stipulates that a brewery can neither sell nor give free samples on the premises (this includes growlers), yet, a brewery can charge patrons for a "tour," which can then include "samples" (aka pints) of their beer. Foolproof certainly does their best to make the best of the law: for $10 I was given a rather informative 60 minute tour, three pints of their beer, and a glass.

The beers are designed by brewmaster Dammy Olsson. A former chemist and homebrewer of twenty years, he quit his job in 2006 and began training programs in Chicago and Munich. He later went on to be the head brewer of Pennichuck Brewery in New Hampshire before joining forces with Nick Garrison to launch Foolproof.

Foolproof offers three regular beers (both in cans and kegs) and two seasonals. The first of the mainstays is Barstool, an American Golden Ale modeled in the style of a Czech Pils. I didn't get an opportunity to sample that beer, but I did get to try their other three offerings.

Backyahd IPA (no, that's not a typo) is an English-style IPA with Fuggles and Cascade hops. Brewed with Cara Helles, Malted Wheat, and 2-Row, the beer is a solid IPA: a little earthy, mildly sweet, but very drinkable and refreshing at 6% abv.

Next up was Raincloud: a robust English-style Porter with as many as seven different malts (2-row, roasted barley, cara60, Special B, Black Patent, Munich 60, and Munich 120). Also hopped with Fuggles, this was probably my favorite beer they offered and is well worth trying: with a thick, foamy head clinging to the side of the glass down to the last drop, the beer had rich cocoa flavors, as well as a slightly tart coffee character. Inky black in appearance, the beer clocks in at a reasonable 6.5% and is super drinkable: this is a beer I could sip all night.

The final beer I got to sample was their Winter Seasonal, Revery. A 10.5%
Russian Imperial Stout, the beer was smooth and not cloying with absolutely no booziness. Up front flavors of dark caramels, molasses, maple, and vanilla-infused bourbon made this a lovely beer to end my tour session. Though the beer is now discontinued, one may still be able to find a bottle floating around.

[Though I have not tasted it, I have heard great things about their spring seasonal: Le Ferme Urbaine, a Farmhouse Ale.]

As a final aside: the reader may be wondering why all of my photos display glasses bearing the name "High Jinx." This was the originally intended name; however, no more than one week before the official launch date of their beer, they were informed that the name was trademarked by a winery that was not yet even open! Thus, they had one week to find a new name that still used their jester logo. After much internal debate, the team settled on Foolproof. (Now with hundreds of these glasses, the brewery sells them 2 for 1.)

A hearty "Cheers!" to the brewing team at Foolproof. If you find yourself in the Providence/Pawtuckett area, I recommend a visit to the brewery, though you'll have to find a different location to take some home.



(*) So apparently I'm not a very good blogger. Despite having very good intentions of writing a second installment to "The Thirsty Traveler: A London Beer Guide," over two months have elapsed and I haven't written a word. Though part two will come some day, I felt in the meantime it was time to start publishing again. If you're clamoring for more of my opinions on the London beer scene, shoot me a line.