After a long winter, spring has sprung.
And local Rhode Island breweries are embracing the warmer weather by opening their outdoor seating – and brewing up a storm.
Now, with the help of the Rhode Island Brewers Guild and its Brewery Passport app, everyone can join in and explore Ocean State’s 30-plus breweries.
“Rhode Island is a beautiful state to travel around and now has a plethora of breweries that offer a wide range of beer styles,” said Matthew Gray, president of Portsmouth’s Ragged Island Brewing Co. and a member of the board of directors for the Brewers Guild. “Some offer ever-changing recipes. Some offer tried-and-true recipes that have been perfected over the years. Some offer new and consistent beers. Every brewery has its own story and its own vibe, feel. We encourage people to explore them all.”
The Brewery Passport is available for iOS and Android services, and can be found through the Guild’s website, ribrewersguild.org.
The app was launched in 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic – “not an ideal time to roll out a travel app,” Gray notes. Nonetheless, there have been over 2,000 downloads and 5,500-plus check-ins.
“We anticipate that number climbing over the next few months as restrictions ease and people start to explore Rhode Island more,” Gray said.
The Brewery Passport app helps people discover new local breweries and plan routes to visit multiple spots. It’s a helpful way to keep track of where you’ve been, and when you visit a brewery, you will be able to virtually “stamp” your passport. Each stamp earns the user a point.
With those points, users can win prizes along the way. Visiting 10 breweries earns a Brewers Guild enamel pin. Visiting 10 more earns a hat of glass.
“We offer a prize package for those that complete the whole passport,” Gray said. “Once the passport is complete, you will be mailed your prize packets. For the first two tiers, the prizes are awarded at the breweries.”
If you forget to “stamp” your passport when you are at the brewery, you can submit a selfie from the brewery to receive the stamp. Needless to say, customers are expected to make a purchase of some kind at the brewery to be eligible for a “stamp.”
The Brewers Guild website features Ryan and Alex, who set a record by completing the Brewery Passport in just five days. Gray issues a word of warning about this, stating that there are no official records, and the Guild does not encourage folks to try to go to too many breweries in one day.
The app also includes information on upcoming events at the featured breweries. New breweries are added to the app immediately.
The Brewers Guild was established in 2013, when five founding breweries and brewpubs came together. At the time, there were only seven breweries in the state.
The Guild is organized and operates exclusively for nonprofit purposes to promote beers made in Rhode Island and the breweries that make them; facilitate technical collaboration between Rhode Island brewers; and be an advocate for Rhode Island Brewers in government and community affairs.
“We work with legislators to create new bills that will benefit breweries,” Gray said. “We have a legislative committee, currently headed by Matt Richardson of Tilted Barn Brewery in Exeter.”
Past Guild president Brent Ryan chimed in on the two key legislative items that have been successful for the organization. Legislation passed in 2013, allowing up to 72 ounces of beer to be sold at retail. It also added terminology to the manufacturer's license allowing for the serving of samples, which we now know as beer tasting.
Later in 2016, the Brewers Guild worked to negotiate with retailers and wholesalers to pass legislation that expanded off-premises sales limits to 288 ounces (12/24 case) and included the first limits for on-premises consumption at 36 ounces.
“These two legislative changes opened the doors for many more smaller Rhode Island breweries to open with a taproom-based model,” Ryan said. “They were no longer reliant on just selling products through distribution.”
Brewers Guild membership is open to any licensed brewery in the state. The vast majority of the state’s breweries are members already. Gray says that the Guild is looking to add a few more before the end of the year. All members get votes to choose the members of the board of directors, which facilitates the work of the Guild.
“Ragged Island joined the guild as soon as we opened,” Gray said. “We have had a great experience with the Guild.”