With so many festivals going on in Newport, R.I., every summer, and craft beer festivals themselves experiencing a boom in recent years, it's surprising that it took so long for Newport to get a beer fest of their own. That's exactly what Graham Wilson and Hank Whitin, co-founders of the Newport Craft Beer Festival, were thinking.
"I was sitting at Hank's bar,"?says Wilson about the eureka moment in Pour Judgment Bar and Grill. "I said, 'How come in Newport you've got Jazz Fest, this fest, that fest, why isn't there a craft beer fest?' We both looked at each other and said, 'Let's do it ourselves.'"
The result brings 30 New England and regional breweries together for a showcase of sudsy talent, including co-sponsors Newport Storm Brewers.
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"It's all craft, no imports," explains Wilson. "Almost every brewer in Rhode Island is involved. There's a local and regional kind of tone to the whole thing."
Also setting it apart is the less sloppy presentation.
"It's not one of these festivals where it's run by a bunch of volunteers. Every brewery is sending a rep, so you really get to interact and talk with the brewers,"?he says. "We didn't want to do one where it's a bunch of drunken volunteers drinking with other drunks."
Some of the brewers on hand include Blue Hills, May-flower, Narragansett, Wachu-sett, Clown Shoes, Sebago, and Stone. The new nanobrewery White Birch from New Hampshire, Wilson says, is especially representative of the type of brewer that he loves.
"They're small batch, lots of seasonals, lots of experimenting," he says. "They're the perfect example of the small regional New England brewer doing it right."
What if you don't know anything about beer?
The world of craft beer with its dozens of styles can be intimidating to novices, Wilson admits, but that's who these festivals are really for.
"If anything, a beer festival is an opportunity for you to find other beers. ... There are lots of seasonal beers and lighter beers to try that are obviously much more flavorful than Coors Light or Bud Light or any of that crap."
Brewing made easy
Also on hand at the festival will be The South Shore Home-brew club, who will be actually brewing beer on site. "I think sometimes people ultimately forget how basic and how simple beer is," says Wilson, "and how much history there is to it. It's been around for who knows, tens of thousand of years. Water, malt, hops and yeast, that's all you need to brew an amazing beer."
If you go
The Newport Craft
The Great Friends Meeting House, Newport, R.I.