While Rhode Island has had its share of wineries for quite some time now, it’s breweries that are booming right now. Get a taste of the local beer craze straight from the source – and while you’re at it, visit some vineyards and distilleries along the way. Just remember to bring a designated driver.
The Rhode Island beer industry is booming in Pawtucket, where three breweries have opened in the last few years. Foolproof Brewing (241 Grotto Avenue #1, Pawtucket. 401-721-5970, www.foolproofbrewing.com) makes easily drinkable beer like their Backyahd IPA, and specialized brews like La Ferme Urbaine Farmhouse Ale. Tastings are held Friday evenings.
Bucket Brewery (545 Pawtucket Avenue, Pawtucket. 401-305-0597, www.bucketbrewery.com) went from a basement operation to opening a gorgeous new tasting room this year. Tastings of beers like the Thirteenth Original Maple Stout and Rhode Scholar are offered on Thursday and Saturdays, and on the third Friday of the month, Bucket hosts Sound Check, a Friday night beer and concert series. The most recent addition to Pawtucket’s bourgeoning beer scene, Crooked Current (560 Mineral Spring Avenue, Pawtucket. 401-473-8312, www.crookedcurrent.com) uses their brews to take tongue-in-cheek digs at Rhode Island’s political history, with releases like Kickback American Wheat, Immorality Pale Ale and Plunderdome Pumpkin Maple Ale.
In Woonsocket, Ravenous Brewing (840 Cumberland Hill Road, Woonsocket. www.ravenousbrew.com) is a “nano brewery” serving up quality craft beers like Coffee Milk Stout and Blackstone Pale Ale. Tours and tastings happen on select Saturdays, and you can take home 32oz “howlers” if you like what you sip.
In South County, you have several options for a self-guided beer tour. Whaler’s Brewing (1070 Kingstown Road, Wakefield. 401-284-7785, www.whalersbrewing.com) has been making a splash in Wakefield with brews like Golden Ale, Ginger Wheat and Belgian Tripel. Grey Sail Brewing, (63 Canal Street, Westerly. 401-315-2533, www.greysailbrewing.com) opened in 2011 by husband and wife duo Alan and Jennifer Brinton, is housed in a 1920s building that was once the Westerly Macaroni Factory. Grey Sail offers year-round brews like Flying Jenny IPA and Flagship Cream Ale, and complements those with seasonal offerings like Autumn Winds, an Oktoberfest-style ale. The brewery offers tours on weekends.
While it’s easy to find local suds, mead is an entirely different game, and Greenwich Cove Meadery (579 Washington Street, Coventry. 401-258-8057, www.gcmeadery.com) is the only local player. A honey-based brew, made in part with honey from bees the owners raise themselves, the mead comes in different flavors every week; Greenwich Cove offers tastings on Thursdays and Saturdays.
Sons of Liberty (1425 Kingstown Road, South Kingstown. 401-284-4006, www.solspirits.com) might be relatively new to the booze game, but the distillery is already making a big name for itself, winning gold medals this year at two prestigious international competitions for its Hop Flavored Whiskey. SOL’s flagship is Uprising Single Malt American Whiskey, made from 100% malted barley, aged in American and French oak barrels. Sons of Liberty also produces seasonal whiskeys (get a bottle of the fall release, Pumpkin Spice Whiskey, while you can) and Loyal 9 Vodka (try the Dark Chocolate Vanilla Bean Vodka now and thank us later). Tours and tastings are offered on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Newport Storm (293 JT Connell Road, Newport. 401-849-5232, www.newportstorm.com) made a name for itself as a brewery. While the beers are delicious – if you don’t try their Oktoberfest, you’re crazy – it’s the rum that’s really worth buzzing over. Thomas Tew Single Barrel Rum, is distilled using the same methods Newport’s residents did during the 18th century when the city was integral to the rum trade, at one point operating 22 distilleries. Tour the brewery and distillery to see the process, and get a taste for yourself. Newport Storm is open every afternoon except Tuesday, and offers guided and self-guided tours. Beer geeks should try Fridays@Six, a free beer appreciation evening open to the first 50 people who sign up on Newport Storm’s Facebook page starting at noon every Friday.
Nickle Creek (12 King Road, Foster. 401-369-3694, www.nicklecreekvineyards.com), tucked away in Foster, is worth a visit at harvest time or any time. The boutique, family-owned vineyard produces limited run wines (most are just a few hundred cases) in red, white and fruit varietals. The estate grown Foster White is worth a sip, and is the wine included in their Adopt A Vine program, where you can gift your favorite oenophile a vine on the property and get three years worth of wine with it. The tasting room is open Friday-Sunday through December. The first two tastings are complimentary, but if you’d like to try more (and you definitely will), there’s a fee.
Wind your way down the shady Diamond Hill Road until you see a tiny sign, and follow the path to Diamond Hill Vineyards (3145 Diamond Hill Road, Cumberland. 401-333-2751, www.diamondhillvineyards.com), a hidden gem in Cumberland. The winery has been growing grapes since 1976, and produces an Estate Pinot Noir and an Estate Pinot Noir Rose that are worth a second taste. Diamond Hill also specializes in fruit wines like Spiced Apple and Blackberry. The tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday afternoons.
Chepachet is home to two wineries. Purple Cat Winery (11 Money Hill Road, Chepachet. 401-566-9463, www.purplecatwinery.com) offers inspired releases like Rose, Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Franc, and blends like Betty’s Blush and Trolley Car Red. Their on-site Philanthropy Tea & Coffee Company serves smoothies and lunch. Nearby, Mulberry Vineyards (95 Pound Road, Chepachet. 401-217-9288, www.mulberryvineyards.com) is all about quality over quantity. They offer a bright, crisp American Riesling and a Pinot Noir. Visit the historic Andrew Brown Homestead that the winery calls home, and enjoy a glass or two.
Langworthy Farm (308 Shore Road, Westerly. 401-322-7791, www.langworthyfarm.com) might be South County’s only vineyard, but it’s the only one they need. Housed in a historic farmhouse, Langworthy is part winery and part bed and breakfast – smart marketing on their part, if you ask us. From Labor Day through Christmas Eve, they offer weekend tours of the winery, and reservations are encouraged. On September 19 and 20, Langworthy will be offering an artisan cheese tasting; an Olive Fest happens October 10-11; and a Harvest Soup Fest will warm your bones on November 14-15. We can’t get enough of the local pride that goes into the wines, with names like Misquamicut Merlot, Pawcatuck River Red, Shelter Harbor Chardonnay and Weekapaug White.
It’s a good thing Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard (162 West Main Road, Little Compton. 401-635-8486, www.sakonnetwine.com) is such a pleasant place to be: once you’ve made the drive out to Little Compton, you’re going to want to stay a while. The expansive vines stretch for acres and acres, and are particularly beautiful at harvest time. Buy a bottle – maybe of the deliciously drinkable Rhode Island Red, if you’re feeling a little hometown pride – and take it out into the fields to sip and explore. Daily tours are offered on the hour from 12-3pm. Every day except Tuesday, the Cafe serves lunch.
Don’t let the name fool you: Newport Vineyards (909 East Main Road, Middletown. 401-848-5161, www.newportvineyards.com) is actually in Middletown, but that doesn’t make it any less worthy of a visit. The expansive vineyard has a huge tasting room, befitting its large array of wines and other spirited beverages. In addition to an impressive selection of reds (try the Gemini Red, a peppery medium-bodied blend, or Rochambeau, a fruit-forward Bordeaux-style blend) and whites (we like the In the Buff unoaked Chardonnay), Newport also produces sparkling wines, dessert wines and Rhody Coyote hard cider. Winery tours are offered daily at 1pm and 3pm, and there’s even a wine bus to take you back and forth to downtown Newport. The property is also home to Brix, a restaurant serving wine-inspired dinner daily.
On a sunny autumn afternoon, there’s no more pleasant place to be than Greenvale Vineyards (582 Wapping Road, Portsmouth. 401-847-3777, www.greenvale.com) in Portsmouth. The 24-acre winery is perched on a hill overlooking the Sakonnet River, and the tasting room is housed in a historic barn. On Saturday afternoons, plan to sit and enjoy a bottle of their estate grown wine (when the weather is warm, try the crisp and refreshing Vidal Blanc) while listening to live music. Jazz at Greenvale happens every Saturday afternoon through December, and the whole family – including your four-legged members – are welcome. Greenvale also offers daily tours and tastings at the family-owned vineyard, sometimes even by the owner herself.