There are countless news stories about the terrible condition of our economy, especially here in Rhode Island. Politicians, analysts, specialists, columnists and everyone in between have been trying to find some kind of magic cure for our economic woes. Anything that will put people back to work and inject new life into our comatose economy.
Well, I have the answer: CRAFT BEER!
Okay, stop laughing…this is serious stuff. Over the last two years, during one of the worst economies in decades, the craft beer industry has shown significant growth. No kidding!
In numbers released by the Brewers Association “Growth of the craft brewing industry in 2012 was 15% by volume and 17% by dollars compared to growth in 2011 of 13% by volume and 15% by dollars.”
“Okay, Beer Guy,” you’re probably thinking to yourself (don’t do it out loud…people will wonder) “how is craft beer helping the Rhode Island economy?”
One answer to that question is Foolproof Brewing, one of the newest entries into Rhode Island’s growing craft beer industry. That’s right; Rhode Island has a growing industry! Did you ever think you’d hear those words again?
Thanks to the entrepreneurial initiative of owner Nick Garrison and his brewmaster Damase Olsson, Foolproof Brewing is rapidly becoming one of the most sought-after beers in our little state!
A quick history on the company: founder Nick Garrison’s obsession with brewing craft beer began in his kitchen with his first homebrewing kit. After refining his skills and brewing all the beer for his wedding, it was clear that life held a higher calling for Nick. And so the idea for Foolproof Brewing was hatched.
While developing his idea Nick put out a call for a brewmaster—a call which was answered by Damase Olsson. After 13 years of homebrewing, Damase traveled to Chicago and Munich to study professionally. The two hit it off and the rest is history.
Opening its doors in December of 2012, Foolproof, located in a nondescript building in Pawtucket, began brewing and kegging their three beers for distribution to Rhode Island bars and restaurants. Their Backyahd IPA, Raincloud Robust Porter and Barstool Golden Ale are the three full-time brews being produced.
The ideology behind Foolproof exemplifies what craft beer is all about: Your Life, Your Beer. Each style they brew is geared towards an experience. Backyahd IPA is a delicious India Pale Ale intended for enjoying while grilling up burgers and enjoying the fruits of your back-breaking landscaping work. Raincloud Robust Porter is ideal for sipping on when you’re stuck inside on a rainy day, maybe playing poker with some buddies. Finally, Barstool is a session ale built for quaffing while visiting your local watering hole or enjoying an impromptu garage session with friends.
In February 2013 they fired up their brand-new canning line for retail distribution. Why cans? Portability, recyclability, no light reaches the beer to spoil it and no headspace (as you’d see in a bottle) allows the beer to remain fresher for a longer period of time. Canning is becoming a trend in craft beer for all of the reasons above. The old myth of “canned beer tastes like the can” is quickly being disproven with the new lined cans which never allow the beer to come into contact with the metal.
When first promoting the cans Nick ran into some hesitancy by some retailers who didn’t like the idea. “Think about it,” he said “when you’re drinking beer from a keg where is it from? Essentially a giant can.”
Aside from their three regular offerings Foolproof is also brewing limited-batch specialty beers available in bombers (22oz. bottles). Over the winter they released their Revery, a deceptively smooth Russian Imperial Stout that weighs in at 10.7% ABV. Now that the warm weather is here they’re releasing their La Ferme Urbaine, a Belgian-style farmhouse ale perfect for this time of year.
So how has Foolproof been received by Rhode Islanders? People can’t get enough of it!
The brewery has already had to increase their production capacity to meet the demand of thirsty locals. They recently installed two new fermenters, each with a 60-barrel capacity (one barrel equals two kegs) doubling their production capacity, and they’ve hired a new full-time employee.
On top of four full-time employees Foolproof also operates with many part-time volunteers who fulfill a range of duties from running the canning line (a four-person operation) to guiding tours of the brewery to hosting tastings at local outlets and many other tasks.
When I asked Nick about the growth of the brewery he said he’s been amazed at the response from Rhode Islanders. “We had projections when we started the company, but this being our first time there were a lot of unknowns. The numbers we’re seeing now we didn’t expect to see until October of this year. We had to scramble to get the new [fermentation] tanks in.” In true entrepreneurial spirit, he remains optimistically skeptical. “It’s been great, but like I said there are a lot of unknowns moving forward.”
They will be entering the Massachusetts market within the next two weeks.
One thing is known: Foolproof is putting Rhode Island on the craft brew map with their great beers. Go to their website, www.foolproofbrewing.com, to find out about brewery tours, more info about their beers and where you can score some.
Also look for the Foolproof booth at the East Bay Beer Festival being held at Blount’s Clam Shack in Warren on Saturday, June 15.
Cheers to Local Craft Beers!
Brian “The Beer Guy” handles the Craft Beer selection at Brickyard Wine & Spirits in Barrington and organizes the East Bay Homebrewers Club. For general beer questions and information about the East Bay Beer Festival he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.