The breweries of Newport County are a six-pack of sudsy fun waiting to be gulped down, and include some innovative brews and great new places to drink them. “The Newport brewery scene is as good as anywhere in New England right now,” says Brendan O’Donnell, CEO of Newport Craft Brewing & Distilling Co., which is in the process of constructing a multimillion-dollar expansion that will include a new rooftop beer garden and increased brewing and distilling capacity. “Everybody’s doing something different,” O’Donnell says, “and there’s something for everyone.”
Founded in 1999 by four college buddies, Newport Craft helped put Newport on the map as a beer-lover’s destination. That map now stretches from Jamestown to the shadow of the Mount Hope Bridge, with multiple stops along the way. So line up a designated driver and start exploring the ales, IPAs, porters, and other sudsy selections on tap at local breweries.
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Aquidneck’s oldest operating brewery, and the third-longest-tenured in Rhode Island, the Coddington brewpub has been serving beer and food to hungry Newport County residents, visitors and sailors since 1995. Owner William Cristy describes Coddington as a “restaurant with a brewery” and doesn’t sell his beer in stores, so the Coddington Highway eatery — which recently added outdoor seating — is the only place you can sample the seven brews rotating seasonally on the taps (unless you grab a growler to go).
Must-Quaff Brew: The Coddington IPA, a classic, lightly hopped New England–style IPA that the brewpub started serving years before IPAs became a thing.
The original Newport Storm Hurricane Amber Ale may have vanished like a ship lost at sea, but Newport Craft has grown over the decades from its humble basement brewing roots into a powerhouse “brewstillery” producing 15,000 barrels of beer and thousands more barrels of distilled spirits annually. A planned expansion at the JT Connell Highway facility will add vast new production capacity and — more importantly to visitors — a rooftop beer garden and volleyball and bocce courts. (There’s no food service, except from weekend food trucks.) CEO Brendan O’Donnell says the plan is to make the brewery a destination unto itself as part of the renaissance of the city’s North End. Beers on tap include the full range of Newport Craft labels, as well as brewed-on-site brands Radiant Pig and Braven.
Must-Quaff Brew: Coast, a 105-calorie, 4.0 ABV pale ale that’s perfect for Newport beach days and boat parties.
A strong counterculture vibe runs through this Aquidneck Avenue brewery, from the skater punk–inspired labels to a name invoking the favorite beach hangout of cash-poor Newport locals. With a deck overlooking Easton’s Pond, Rejects may not be close to its namesake strand, but still is the Newport County brewery nearest to the sea. “Middletown often takes a second seat to Newport, which made it a perfect spot for Rejects,” says co-owner Greg Martell. “We love our slowly developing strip near the beach, and the fact that you can stare out at Easton’s Pond, sipping an ice-cold beer after a long day of surfing, skating or whatever, without all the craziness of downtown Newport.” There’s no food service, but patrons can bring their own.
Must-Quaff Brew: 12 O’Clock High, a classic New England–style I.P.A. that’s light on the bitterness and easy on the palate.
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Why choose between beer and wine when you can enjoy both? Taproot and Newport Vineyards reside under the same roof amid fields of ripening grapes on East Main Road, meaning that visitors not only have plenty of choices of beer on tap, but can also enjoy a glass of In the Buff unoaked chardonnay or the Rochambeau red blend to accompany the excellent food served by Brix restaurant executive chef Andy Teixeira.
“Our goal is to make one or two super-quality beers each week with the best ingredients we have available,” says Taproot co-owner and brewmaster John Nunes. Locally grown watermelons and strawberries from Quonset View Farm add fresh flavor to seasonal sours, while Taproot takes advantage of its crossover potential with a Belgian Trappist-style Tripel aged in chardonnay barrels from the winery.
Must-Quaff Brew: The F-Bomb, a fruity, unfiltered New England–style IPA with a 6.9% ABV punch.
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With a brewing capacity of just one barrel of beer per day, General’s Crossing “puts the micro in microbrewing,” jokes owner Tom McNiff. Still, this pint-sized brewery on Narragansett Avenue serves up to seven varieties of beer on draft, including a Honey Hibiscus Wit made with Godena Farm honey and locally grown hibiscus flowers. The brewery’s somewhat formal name commemorates Gen. George Washington’s traverse of Jamestown in 1781 on his way to meet Gen. Rochambeau in Newport. But the atmosphere at General’s Crossing is decidedly chill, with pets and kids welcome, and guests invited to bring in tacos from Talullah’s or other local eats. “The only pressure here is in the tanks,” says McNiff.
Must-Quaff Brew: The Caribbean Stout, a lighter tropical twist on the style made with molasses.
The big brewery news from the north end of the island is the much-anticipated opening of Ragged Island’s new farm-based brewery and tap room on the former Van Hof Nurseries property on Bristol Ferry Road. Owners Matt and Katie Gray hope to swing open the doors of their converted barn and farmhouse by September, and in the meantime visitors can sample drafts at an outdoor beer garden alongside food catered by summer favorites McGrath’s Clambakes.
When completed, the farm brewery will include hiking trails through preserved wetlands and orchards growing apples, pears, blueberries and other fruit destined to become beer ingredients. “We’re not going to be the world’s biggest brewery, but we will have fresh products with constant variety all the time,” says Matt.
Must-Quaff Brew: Hydrofoil Double IPA, a rich, heady and hoppy West Coast–style Imperial Pale Ale.