WARWICK, RHODE ISLAND
FOREWARD: This ultimate dive bar closed August 2015. RIP
In a gray shanty-like roadhouse with maroon trim, Warwick, Rhode Island’s rustic TRACK 84 most certainly does serve “World Class Beers at Small Town Prices.” Parking in the rear lot on a rainy Friday afternoon, October 2012, a large smoke pit and a plaque with varied beer insignias (Bear Republic, Mayflower, Peak Organic, Sebago, Stoudt’s and Wachusetts) welcome my wife, son Christopher and I into the comfy one-room wood-furnished bar.
At the 12-seat left side bar, there are a Baker’s dozen tap handles plus one dedicated pink elephant-emblazed Delirium Tremens center tap and one gargoyle-handled Gulden Draak tap. Many beer banners and signs plus various license plates line the walls alongside several cool hard-to-find emptied beer bottles. We sit at one of the six tables across from the bar and enjoy two meatball-eggplant sandwiches while I quaff four previously untried libations.
As a train passes by, I dip into Newport Storm India Point IPA, a dry woody-hopped medium body with grapefruit rind, lemon peel and leathery floral illusions. That was bettered by Shmaltz He’Brew Hop Manna IPA, a soothingly medium-bodied alacrity gathering peach, pear and pineapple sweetness to contrast pine-needled grapefruit bittering.
After downing the soft-tongued, black chocolate-spiced Breckenridge Thunder Stout Nitro, I discover the absolute splendor of Grey Sail Stargazer Russian Imperial Stout. Its up-front chocolate-vanilla malting, roasted coffee bitterness and bourbon-whiskey snip informed the hop-charred nutty bottom. (Full beer reviews are in Beer Index).
Just off the beaten track, Track 84 must be Warwick’s best craft beer joint. Before leaving, two sojourning couples drinking Grey Sail Stargazer and Newport Storm IPA’s boasted about this dingy hole in the wall while playing darts prior to flying out of nearby T.F. Green Airport, proving Track 84′s definitely a destination hotspot.
The last thing I thought possible was getting into Rhode Island’s highly respected craft beer haven, TRACK 84, on Monday at noon considering the wooden railroad-bound roadhouse doesn’t open ’til 4 PM (and was closed for St. Patrick’s Day while the rest of Warwick’s drinking populace partied up the street at Shannon View Inn or a mile down at Dave’s Bar & Grill).
Nevertheless, through sheer persistence I kept calling the shanty-styled shack until owner Dave Longiaru finally was caught off-guard and made a mistake and forgot Monday’s are the only weekday he starts serving beverages at 4. So as my wife and I head up the few stairs leading to Track 84′s entrance, Longiaru is there to unlock the door and let us in as the noon whistle blew.
Always one step ahead of the local competition, Track 84′s limited edition ales, hard-to-find seasonals and indigenous nanobrews have piqued the interest of craft brew aficionados for most of the last decade.
“I had 3 Floyds beers on tap when the closest place serving it was Chicago,” Longiaru proudly boasts. “Then we got Loose Cannon from Heavy Seas in Maryland eight years ago when they were Clipper City. Whereas some brewers think they’re rock stars, their owner never forgot where he came from.”
As Longiaru pours me Black Diamond Fracas (an elegant California-based Imperial Red Ale placing grapefruit-pined stewed prune, ripe raisin, black cherry and nectar fruiting above delicate caramel-malted hop spicing), he relishes the fact Budweiser no longer gets served at his fine establishment.
“My father bought this building in ’81 and opened in ’82. He had no beers I wanted to drink. It was a Bud bar. He liked beer but I doubt he’d understand bringing in Belgian kegs. He might’ve liked them, but he’d wonder who’d buy ‘em,” he says.
As the popcorn maker churns out buttered kernels for my wife to snack on while we talk, Dave’s sister, who runs Sandwich Junction next door, stops by for a sec. She supplies hungry beer enthusiasts with very affordable subs, deli meats and homemade desserts. It’s strictly a family business in this little corner of New England.
“My father passed away before I started doing craft beers,” Longiaru recalls. “I was one of the first guys to send back my Budweiser tap handle. I gave it to the salesman and he asked how I’d make a living. I said if I have to make a living selling Bud, I’d rather be out of business. My taste profile had matured.”
Next up, the cordial entrepreneurial barman pours Stone Enjoy By 04-01 IPA, another subtly strong citrus-pined California brew draping grapefruit-peeled orange, peach, pear, apple, watermelon and honeydew illusions across dry-wooded hops to contrast the sugary caramel malt backend.
“I started Track 84 out of selfishness. But that being said, it was good timing since I met someone who had a beer distributorship selling obtuse beer, wine and liquor – all this ethnic stuff from overseas. He grabbed as much stuff as he could find in Massachusetts and I said whatever you grab I’ll put on tap.”
His loose strategy and firm conviction have served Track 84 well as its everchanging tapped selection gets rave reviews by fellow beer geeks. And with the competition nipping at his heels, Longiaru appears to be one of the Ocean State’s premier elder statesman in the revolutionary craft beer industry.