PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND
Right off Route 95 and a rite of passage for any New England traveler, TRINITY BREWHOUSE is the pride of prestigious long-time brewer, Sean Larkin. Packed on Monday night (October ’05) during my first visit and drawing a vivacious college crowd, the wood-paneled restaurant-pub, located blocks from Union Station Brewery, opened to a wide narrow bar with encased brew tanks in backdrop. A nice beer can collection and a few brightly painted canvasses (some boasting beer awards) were scattered across ground level and green-walled cellar area featuring billiards, darts, a secondary dining area, and backside bar.
Inexpensive sandwiches, burgers, and pizza, plus worthier paella, Shepherd’s Pie, and New York Strip Steak, fit alongside easygoing brews such as dry-bodied Saaz-hopped popcorn-like straw-dried grapefruit-slacked Patriot’s Pilsner, sullen toffee-based Papi’s Mild Ale and middling phenol-hopped German-lagered Octoberfest.
Better were expressive dark fruit-embittered pine-needled spruce-sapped Rhode Island Pale Ale, soft quince-peach-pear-kiwi-clipped molasses-sapped Tommy’s Red and thin Kahlua-tinged coffee-dried black cherry-dabbed People’s Porter.
My wife and I settled at central bar around noon during wintry February 2011 trip up from Jersey home front. The Cure and sundry indie rock luminaries played in the background as I dove into six previously untried libations.
Starting with the lightest offering, maize-dried Kolsch layered soured fig, orange rot, bruised lemon, pink grapefruit and pineapple pleasantries into soft earthen wood tones trailed by pumpernickel-breaded alfalfa, horsehair, barnyard and hay parch. Hells Bock placed candied apple, sugared fig, cocoa nibs, pecan, and vanilla inside mocha-dried Vienna malting. Earthen compost waft and dry marble rye entry confirm rigorously English-styled Extra Special Bitter, a leathery fungi- tinged vegetal-coarsened iodine-addled changeup with only the mildest citron splash.
These were nice warm-ups for the following three expressive brews.
Resinous wood-dried spice hops contacted floral-draped orange-apricot tartness and alcohol-burnt grapefruit rind bittering for exquisite Rhode Island IPA (supposedly the first IPA available in the state since Ballantine’s).
Representing the dark side well were two ‘treated’ stouts, one soaked in oak and the other raised in the cask. Oaken vanilla, bourbon, and burgundy lead the way for eloquently noir Oak Aged Russian Imperial Stout, a superb after dinner treat with cedar-chipped hop char raiding black chocolate, espresso, cappuccino, and gingerbread subsidy to toasted oats backbone. Soft-toned Cask Conditioned Irish Stout flattened mild brewed coffee entry into ashen walnut-shelled black chocolate, black cherry, black grape, and unrefined cocoa conflux.
After settling daughter, Nicki, into Roger Williams University, headed north fifteen miles to Providence once more, August 2011. On a Friday prior to Providence College and Brown University opening for fall semester, got to try two complex Imperial dark ales, one fruited strong ale, and a Czech pils at Trinity (just prior to Hurricane Irene).
Bold Baltic-styled Imperial Porter retained a peat-y black lager/ schwarzbier likeness reinforced by hop-smoked grain roasting, creamed coffee curdling, chocolate rye malting, and sticky anise bittering. Better still, Barrel Aged Belgian Imperial Stout worked initiatory bourbon-burgundy-port wining into chewy vanilla, brown chocolate, cocoa and blackstrap molasses creaming as black cherry-pureed anise, Kahlua, and currant illusions fill the gaps.
Dry alcohol-burnt bourbon soaked tart strawberry motif of Barrel Aged Belgian Strawberry Tripel, picking up softly hop-fizzed mango, kiwi and passion fruit tropicalia over sinewy sugared malting and fungi-like yeast funk.
Pungent Czech-styled Providence Pils maintained a woody Saaz-hopped earthiness magnifying leathery straw wheat, barnyard, maize and hay musk.
Got to sojourn once more to Trinity ’round noon on a Friday in mid-December ’12, tasting another four previously untried libations, including two efficient Belgian knockoffs, one Russian full body and a casked strong ale.
Tart orange-bruised Belgian Saison brought musky red cherry, banana puree and soured prune as well as dewy minerality to a rampant ethanol burn.
Better still, sour fig-juiced Belgian Quad layered prune-dried plum, date and Muscat grape dried fruiting above coarse spice-hopped sharpness, leaving bruised banana, buttered pecan and butternut squash illusions in its creamy toffee malted path.
Cask conditioned Redrum softened its musky perfume-hopped red and orange fruiting with wheat-sugared crystal malting.
For mid-afternoon dessert, mild Russian Imperial Stout provided black coffee bittering, dark chocolate creaming and sweet molasses sapping for the dark-roasted oats cushion.
On January ’13 lunchtime day trip, I finally got to try heralded Larkin’s Irish Stout (previously consumed offsite at Malted Barley under Revival Brewery banner). Its cascading Guinness-like head, soft eggshell creaming and freshwater crisping serenaded the bittersweet black chocolate signature as well as brisk black coffee, vanilla and dark nut illusions.
Alongside Greek Pizza (a five-cheesed herb-oiled delight), enjoyed Milk Stout, a bitterer-than-expected coffee bean-roasted medium body gaining milky dark chocolate persistence over acrid oats-charred vanilla extract and peat-smoked hops.
During September ’13 dinnertime stopover, watched Michigan play Notre Dame in college football while imbibing two previously untried beers alongside Zuppa di Brew black-shelled mussels (with chorizo sausage, roasted garlic, onions and pilsner) at windowed right corner table.
Dryer-than-expected Hefeweizen brought lemon-seeded orange rot and compost-wafted spelt graining to scaled back banana-clove-bubblegum tartness, temptingly recalling soured Berliner weiss style by green apple-skewed citric-hopped finish.
For dessert, lovely mocha-embittered White Electric Coffee Stout sufficed. Its barley-roasted hop char seeped into stove-burnt coffee, espresso, cocoa powder, vanilla bean and charcoal illusions. Two years hence, this dark ale was brewed by Larkin under his Revival banner.
Since long-time brewer Sean Larkin took up residency at nearby Cranston’s Brutopia, Tommy Taish has taken over chores as of 2014. During Labor Day ’14 excursion, my wife and I tried three of the burly red-headed brewmeister’s brand new elixirs prior to Trinity’s 20th Anniversary.
First up, dry summertime moderation, Captain America Pale Ale, brought wood-dried citra hop bittering to zesty lemon spicing, brisk grapefruit-seeded orange juiciness and floral perfumed wafts, leaving grassy residue at the mineral grained bottom.
Next, easygoing Lynn’s Porter hid hop-charred earthen soil beneath Baker’s chocolate, powdered cocoa and maple molasses conflux.
Better still, cask-conditioned barrel-aged Red Rum soaked its perfumed galaxy-hopped citrus niceties with Woodford Reserve Kentucky bourbon, allowing oaken vanilla and cherry subtleties to underscore its soothing caramel buttering.
During September ’15, got in Saturday at noon to try ambitious Belgian Strawberry, a well-balanced 11.5% ABV strong pale ale cramming sweet-tart strawberry jam into candi-sugared Belgian yeast, orange marmalade, lemon basil, white-peppered hops and just a hint of chocolate mint. Its heavy alcohol concentration is so well-hidden several imbibers reportedly got dazed and confused without warning.
On a warm Sunday evening in September ’16, discovered silken eclair-headed Coffee Milk Stout. Subtle espresso-vanilla bean flourish picks up fluffy milk-sugared coffee creaminess as fudgy black chocolate, chalky cocoa and walnut nuances drape the earthen peat backdrop.
During May ’17 trip for son Christopher’s graduation from Johnson & Wales at nearby Dunkin’ Donut Center, tried mild Belgian Wit, an easygoing citric-perfumed delight with delicate orange-peeled coriander spicing contrasting lemon-rotted lemongrass bittering.
Better still, Screaming Viking Wheat Beer splendidly utilized gregarious ginger and cardamom spicing to sweeten its wildflower honey astringency and wafting cologne perfumed hop base.