Pint-sized Rhode Island taps into regional craft beer boom

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Vermont produces more craft beer per capita than any other state. Maine ranks third for breweries per capita nationwide. Boston has beer gardens across from City Hall and under an expressway.

But as the high renaissance of craft beer in New England has thrived, Rhode Island has struggled to keep up — until now.

There is cause for hoppy optimism in the nation’s smallest state, where lawmakers in 2016 moved to alleviate a harsh regulatory environment for craft beer manufacturers. The state could see record growth this year.

Rhode Island saw a higher proportional increase in brewery licenses from 2016 to 2017 than any other state besides Oklahoma, according to federal data. The 10 licenses issued are an indication the state’s number of breweries — around 20 — could soon grow rapidly, according to Bart Watson, an economist with the Brewers Association, a group that tracks the craft beer industry.

“In Rhode Island, we have seen some improvements,” Watson said.

Friends Donald Greenwood and Andy Sockol were drinking Thursday at Long Live Beerworks in Providence. They are self-proclaimed beer chasers, travelling around New England to hunt for new brews.

Rhode Island is “no longer the black sheep of New England,” said Greenwood.

Both men agreed Rhode Island has vastly improved its beer scene. “It was a market that was definitely ripe,” Greenwood added.

New England has some of the national leaders in the industry. Vermont leads the nation in number of breweries per capita. Maine makes the top 10 of breweries and gallons produced. And New Hampshire reaches the top 20. Connecticut is in the middle of the pack nationally, but Rhode Island doesn’t crack the top 30 on any list.

Watson said Vermont’s strong history of tourism and artisanal food forms a foundation for a robust craft beer industry. That likely can’t be replicated in Rhode Island, he said, but the Ocean State has the population density and proximity to big cities to support a larger market.

Rhode Island’s relatively strict regulations have hindered the state in the past, according to Watson. But in 2016, the state increased the amount of beer customers could drink and bring home. Armando DeDona, founder of Long Live, said those changes made all the difference. He launched in January 2016, before the new laws were enacted.

“Beforehand, I thought we’d be able to be a sustainable business,” he said, “but it really wasn’t.”

Two years later, Long Live is set to move to a larger facility, where DeDona said he’ll ramp up production and build a larger taproom.

Similarly, Paul DiBiase and Adam Henderson said the looser laws directly inspired them to trade in their home-brewing kits for a three-barrel system. They’ll launch Beer On Earth in North Kingstown soon.

“When the laws changed to make it more doable — that was kind of when the light bulb went on for me,” DiBiase said.

Still, brewers say Rhode Island can do more to spur its burgeoning beer industry.

“Hopefully,” Henderson said, “it’s a good sign of things to come.”

Just Posted

Cannabis facility proposed for Clearwater County

Cannabis production facility proposed south of Caroline would produce 30,000 kg of cannabis a year

Two Central Alberta country singers are finalists in career-launching contest

They will attend music industry ‘boot camp’ this summer

Transit changes to aid Burman University students

An additional evening trip and student bus passes to be in place by fall

WATCH: Province, Maskwacis Cree Nations sign educational agreement

Funding and support will help the First Nations develop a Cree-based curriculum

WATCH: Red Deer celebrates World Refugee Day

The Central Alberta Refugee Effort hosted multiple events around Red Deer Wednesday

New Jersey Devils forward Taylor Hall wins Hart Trophy as NHL MVP

LAS VEGAS — Taylor Hall has won the Hart Trophy as the… Continue reading

Red Deer high school student psyched for SHAD

Lindsay Thurber’s Kaden Nivens will head to Newfoundland for the annual program in July

Red Deer College team tackles lack of Indigneous inclusion in research projects

A local college research team has completed a lengthy project examining the… Continue reading

Officials make case against parents accused of child abuse

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Prosecutors made their case Wednesday against a Southern California… Continue reading

Manitoba educational assistant sentenced to 3 1/5 years for sex with student

WINNIPEG — A former educational assistant in Winnipeg has been sentenced to… Continue reading

Conservatives can ‘win anywhere,’ Scheer says in welcoming Richard Martel

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer welcomed the newest member of his… Continue reading

Fans grieve as detectives search for XXXTentacion’s killers

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — For hours, the fans came in a steady… Continue reading

Canadian steel not a national security threat on its own: US commerce secretary

OTTAWA — The U.S. commerce secretary says Canada is not a national… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month