WAKEFIELD, RHODE ISLAND
Neatly reminiscent of a proper English pub, pine-timbered Country Inn-styled sportsbar, MEWS TAVERN, is rightly claimed southern Rhode Island’s most popular watering hole. Hosting an astounding 69 microbrew taps in its original tree house-like Tavern, this natural wood Colonial-style fort just a few miles west of historic Newport also serves affordable gourmet pizza and juicy burgers.
A well-established mill town hotspot originally making its mark as a gathering place for local fishermen way back in 1947, Mews grew in size after acquiring the property next door. Nowadays, the sylvan Wakefield sanctuary has become the University of Rhode Island’s coolest hangout, appeasing traditionalist-minded locals and Narragansett Bay seafarer as well.
”This whole complex is two different buildings that were constructed then pieced together in ‘98,” trusted controller George Mc Auliffe explains. “The Tavern was the original bar. The stand-alone building next to it was built in the 1800’s and had an outdoor patio. There was a beech tree in the middle of the room that stayed after the roof was put in.”
Christened the Tree Room, the family-friendly main dining space features rustic regalia such as a canoe, kayak, ski lift chair and bicycle amongst its villager decor. When I first visited Mews nearly a decade back, my family sat next to the enclosed beech tree watching TV and enjoying the nacho platter and a few pizzas while some well-chosen local beers were consumed.
On my follow-up April 2012 trip, my wife and I settle in the original Tavern under the bay-windowed booth (where Jagermeister and Knob Creek Bourbon mirrored plaques hang). The side-winding bar (with short ice cream parlor chairs) displays the tap-handled beer assortment and thousands of stapled dollar bills wishing good luck line the walls. One bar-bound TV has a soon-to-be classic Yankees-Red Sox game on (Boston blew a nine-run lead) while the one above our heads is showing Bruins playoff hockey.
As the Kinks’ charmingly melodic “Waterloo Sunset” plays on the jukebox, we dig into Greek Pizza and quaff two previously untried beers. Grey Sail Flagship Ale, a locally crafted cream ale, retains a sugary biscuit malting above wood-toned hop spices and honeyed citrus. Schneider Mein Nelson Sauvin, a hybridized German weizenbock, plies ‘fresh mown grass hops’ to white-peppered gooseberry, grape and passion fruit illusions as well as sweet banana-clove nuances.
“The owners (Danny Rubino and Dave Barns) were commercial fishermen who have now owned Mews since 1990. They became famous for their large tapped beer selection and the rack sampler,” Mc Auliffe boasts.
The 6-ounce, 6-beer sampler can’t be beat. Beer geeks and casual novices could try several semi-popular favorites or take a chance on a few unknown choices. For those into elevated spirits, the mirrored wall shelves hold numerous high-end single malt Scotches, exquisite bourbons and detailed wines.
Upstairs, Mews exquisite mahogany-wooded Celtic Pub brings simple countryside elegance to the fore with its racked wine barrels, private booths and billiard tables.
On March ’13 St. Patrick’s Day sojourn, we got to Mew’s before noon to beat the holiday crowd. I gave newly coined 7-ounce 4-beer sampler a go alongside the pulled pork sandwich, part of my wife’s Greek Pizza and some of my daughter Nicki’s Chicken Taco Salad.
While watching the ACC basketball Championship between Miami and North Carolina and listening to Nirvana, Jane’s Addiction and Soundgarden at the beech tree booth, I consumed four previously untried brews (reviewed in Beer Index). While Third Shift Amber (a Coors-related lager) didn’t suffice and Long Trail Bavarian Smoked Brown Ale got soapy (negating its cherrywood-smoked notion), Cali-based Black Diamond Jagged Edge IPA and Revival Double Black IPA maintained brisk citric-pined bittering and roasted malt stability.
Don’t miss this uniquely antique New England retreat if you’re headed to the Newport mansions, Tennis Hall of Fame, Providence or Cape Cod.