There are plenty of places on island to grab a drink (this is Newport, after all), but only a handful of our bars truly cater to the beer enthusiast. These establishments pride themselves on their carefully curated craft beer selections. To qualify as a “craft” beer, just in case you’re wondering, a brew must meet three main criteria, according to the Brewers Association: It’s brewed in small batches; less than 25 percent of its parent company is owned by a large member of the alcohol industry; and it must be made using traditional methods. These small-batch blends yield one-off seasonal beers and cult favorites alike, with flavors ranging from the hoppiest IPAs to the mellowest Belgian ales. Whatever your preference, here are our favorite places to kick back, relax, and enjoy a cold one. Cheers!
If you’re looking for a fun night out with the full trifecta – music, food, and, of course, great beer – look no further than Norey’s (pictured at top), where they take their beer list seriously. Featuring dozens of regional favorites from breweries in Nantucket, Massachusetts, Vermont, and upstate New York, plus dozens of international specialty beers, the selection is massive and impressive. A few choices worth mentioning include Monk’s Brew by Mikkeller, a Belgian strong ale; Citizen Cellar Dry Spy by Citizen Cider; and Steel Rail Extra Pale Ale by Berkshire Brewing Company. Great deals abound for wine lovers, too: Dinner for two on Mondays and Tuesdays is just $30, including a bottle of vino. And don’t miss the live music every Wednesday – on tap (pun intended) this month: Free Volt, Kevin Connolly, and Dynamic Johnny.
2. Pour Judgement
A go-to spot for craft beers for more than 10 years, Pour Judgement offers a different sipping experience each time you go, with its impressive rotating draft selection and tasty pub fare. The house’s Pour Judgement IPA, a customer favorite, is a hoppy brew with notes of grapefruit and pine. Clown Shoes, a double IPA, is also a regular hit, along with a handful of amber ales and Belgian sours – which have recently spiked in interest among local beer lovers, according to bar manager Joshua Whalen. Plus, Pour Judgement is one of a few local bars to feature Proclamation Ale Company, a real up and comer from Rhode Island. “We don’t make craft beer feel unapproachable or intimidating,” says Joshua. “With 20 draft lines, we have a well-balanced selection with something for everyone. You know you’re going to find something that you like.”
3. Midtown Oyster Bar
Centrally located in the heart of downtown Newport, Midtown Oyster Bar takes great pride in their craft beer menu, which includes their very own Midtown Oyster Stout, produced by Harpoon Brewery. Incredibly hands on its recipe, Midtown’s chef and general manager travel to the Boston beer-makers’ HQ with oysters in tow to help develop taste and flavor. Other notable choices include Abbey Ale, Goose Island’s Honker and Sofie Belgian-style ales, and Dogfish’s Tweason’ale for the discriminating gluten-free beer drinker. “We really try to stay up to date and make it fun,” says bar manager Julie Weeden. Midtown’s Colonial-industrial-chic vibe (think exposed beams, wide-plank wood floors, and brushed metal accents), along with its delicious fare, help make it the perfect place to kick back and enjoy a few.
4. Brick Alley Pub
A longtime staple for locals and tourists alike, Brick Alley Pub does a variety of things well: food, cocktails, and beer. Their massive selection aims to please (yes, of course you can a Bud Light here), but during the past two years owner Matt Plumb has made a huge effort to introduce more craft beers to the list. Brick Alley also shows lots of love for the locals, including Newport Storm Brewery, with three lines dedicated to them. Another two go to Grey Sail Brewing, where Captain’s Daughter Double IPA (Rhode Island’s answer to Heady Topper) remains on tap full-time. “It’s very popular,” says bartender Kim Dwyer. “We rotate in Grey Sail’s Flying Jenny, an extra pale ale, and their Smoked Porter,” she adds. “We also have Goose Island Bourbon County Stout – one of only two places in Rhode Island to have it on draft.”
5. Portsmouth Publick House
Don’t be fooled, Portsmouth Publick House is no longer a coffee shop – though people frequently still wander in expecting a cup of java – then stay for a beer or two. The hospitable owners cook and tend bar, which lends to the homey, laid-back atmosphere here. You’ll find beers from Kona Brewing Company and Heavy Seas’ Loose Cannon (a creamy, hoppy IPA) along with Sam Adams’ harder-to-find Nitro beers, which deliver tiny bubbles for smoother brews. And we’re about to let you in on their best kept secret: a gorgeous patio with a fire pit. Trust us, you’ll want to have a date night here before it’s packed this summer. Head over on a Friday night, when fresh oysters cost just a buck apiece.
Where do you like to drink craft beer? Let us know in the comments!