By Lisa K. Berton
Guided food and drink tours are captivating travelers and locals alike. For such a small state as Rhode Island is, breweries of every size have emerged throughout The Ocean State. Five years ago, a University of Rhode Island student, Bill Nangle created a business plan to take folks for beer tastings.
One year ago, Nangle sold his business to the owners of Maine Brew Bus. Renamed The Rhode Island Brew Bus, tours are offered year round and routes change seasonally to give over twenty breweries a chance to strut their stout. The tour reviewed here is Friday Night Flights.
A bright turquoise bus stands out on Fountain Street in downtown Providence, awaiting what will be an outgoing assorted lot of strangers who will quickly joke with each other and share personal information. And this is before a single glass, nay sip of beer.
Before departing, our driver Jon and guide Sam gave us a friendly welcome. Asked to introduce ourselves and state our favorite drink, Brian who likes to be called Brain said he enjoys lagers and whiskey while Mike aka Chetta prefers sours. Amy who, like the other women on board, doesn't have a nickname, drinks New England IPAs.
En route to Apponaug Brewing in Warwick, our hosts and fellow patrons keep the conversation going. We learn that Jon has been with Rhode Island Brew Bus since it started five years ago. Sam's experience is two and a half years to date.
Head Brewer, Justin Tisdale, meets us at Apponaug Brewing excited to discuss their process and show us around. Spotless. All of their brewing equipment is spotlessly clean and free of any scent. Not a speck of malt barley grain was found.
Justin supplied three beer tastings including raspberry wheat and weathering steel IPA. Generously, he refilled glasses with frothy beer as requested.
"The raspberry wheat tasted like summer. It wasn't too sweet, and it was pink!", Emily exclaimed when asked for her favorite tasting.
The brewery and restaurant opened on October 6, 2018, occupying the textile mill that was once home to Fruit of the Loom. Brewers have created thirteen types of beer including Russian stouts in just a few short months. The restaurant also serves comfort food so patrons can enjoy lunch or dinner with one of their brews or even a brewski on tap from elsewhere in Rhode Island. Small businesses helping one another seems like a smart choice.
Our second stop on the Friday Night Flights tour was Beer on Earth, which opened July 6, 2018, in North Kingstown. Co-owner Paul DiBiase shares the location with Great Harvest Bread Co. DiBiase and his wife co-own the bakery. Adam Henderson is Beer on Earth's other half.
Lining up at the counter, my fellow tour members carefully studied the six beer tasting choices. Mark liked everything he tried while Sam, our Brew Bus guide, favored the coffee porter. Consequently, because we were in a bakery moonlighting as a brewery, everyone was given delicious salted soft pretzels.
Paul DiBiase said, "Beer reaches all cultures." He and Adam are craft beer fans themselves. In November they released a chocolate stout for Thanksgiving. It quickly sold out. In December they were developing Salut, a very dry champagne-like brute IPA. Salut is available now.
Beer on Earth keeps six to eight beers on tap at all times. Featured image: The guys fill a tasting glass at Beer on Earth.
Circling back to Warwick, the final brewery stop was Proclamation Ale Company. The oldest business on our route, Proclamation opened this location in 2017. The largest and busiest facility on our tour, one would imagine their production would make for an interesting lesson.
Bottled and canned beers are always in stock with cool names and graphics. Visitors can play arcade games, grab a couch or join others at Biergarten style tables. "Weekend at Bernie's" was projected quite well on the wall above a private party. Proclamation doesn't serve food, but you may bring your own. Their website lists which food trucks are scheduled up to five weeks in advance.
Sam poured pitchers of a single-hopped pale ale, a blueberry sour ale, and a Baltic porter. The blueberry sour ale (Oooh! Blueberries) was Brian, err Brain's favorite tasting of the night.
Most noteworthy, if you are late, as two people were that night, you can join the tour in progress. The bus may wait a few minutes, but you shouldn't expect this to happen.
During the tour, it was easy to see how behaviors changed after so many beer tastings. Eating before the tour seems like a good idea or perhaps ordering appetizers to go while at Apponaug Brewing. Fortunately, this was a great group who just got silly and made bad jokes.
Bill Nangle, former owner of Rhode Island Brew Bus and the other past and present Bills covered part of the bus' interior with their name tags. You too can leave your mark by adhering your sticky badge to the ceiling and walls.
Your ticket includes a bottle of water, snack (we got quiche) and branded swag. Drinking alcohol is not permitted on the bus. Your driver can't drink, but your guide is allowed. Everyone must be twenty-one years of age or older. Buses depart from and return to Trinity Brewhouse. No tastings take place at Trinity. Each bus seats thirteen people and can be rented for private parties.
Finally, you can purchase tickets here. Friday Night Flights tickets are $70.00 per person.
Free Time Journal was given a complimentary ticket in order to write this article. I did not consume any alcohol. If you find my name tag on the bus, take a photo and tag @FreeTimeJournal on Instagram. We'll give you an entry into our next contest.