For 16 years, Newport Storm has billed itself as “Rhode Island’s microbrewery.” In that time, it has churned out nearly 60 different brews. The brewery’s location in the north end of Newport provides easy access for thirsty visitors in one of the state’s most popular tourist cities.
Despite that longevity, Newport Storm beers aren’t ones you typically think about given a little distance from the salt air. For a long time, the brewery distributed only in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, but even in those states, it wasn’t exactly a staple. A recent expansion into Pennsylvania and Maine has been accompanied by a marketing push prompting a fresh look at the brews.
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Newport Storm wanted a bold brew to celebrate its 16th anniversary. Brewer and founder Derek Luke took on a challenge: Brew a beer with as much rye as possible. Rye is a spicy complement to a beer’s usual sweet barley base. The challenge was zeroing in on the exact amount without making the beer unpalatable. The grain bill of a typical rye beer uses 15 to 20 percent of the ingredient. Luke experimented with versions of Rye of the Storm that incorporated 20 percent, 40 percent, 60 percent, and 80 percent rye.
“We tried to make this beer almost all rye, and it was way too spicy,” says Luke. “In our extensive taste testing and test-batching process, we were able to find the balance we wanted, but were still able to accentuate the spice element.”
Many IPAs today are brewed as minimal canvases upon which tropical fruit notes jump off the page. They’re less bitter than fruity, less a punch in the face than a mirror to sticking a spoon in your morning grapefruit.
Pour Rye of the Storm into a glass, however, and you know immediately that this is not one of those beers. It’s intimidating even to look at, toffee-colored (IPAs range in color from sunshine to darker) with barely any head. It looks like a pool you’d be afraid to dip more than a toe in. The beer smells more sweet than hoppy, with a hint of pepper. The first sip confirms the look. It’s syrupy, and bitter. Despite the bitterness, it’s hard to parse the hops. Sweet caramel and toffee are predominant. It’s reminiscent of Stone’s Arrogant Bastard series, which is to say decidedly unbashful. Luke hasn’t had that Stone beer in some time, but he confirms the Newport Storm beer is not one to take lightly.
“What I like best about the beer is that it has a layered bitterness to it,” says Luke. “It’s not in your face.”
‘It’s not in your face.’
Maybe not in your face, but bold nonetheless.
Newport Storm Rye of the Storm retails for around $9.99 a four-pack. Available at Macy’s Beachway Liquors, Weymouth, 781-335-1330, and Gilberts Wine & Spirits, Dedham, 781-326-2090.