WESTERLY, RHODE ISLAND
Tucked away in a rustic industrial section at an old red brick warehouse that served as a macaroni packager ’til World War II and a Post Office thereafter, GREY SAIL BREWING COMPANY came into existence November 11, 2011 (following a 2010 flood that wiped out Napa Auto Parts). Making consistent midrange beers for mainstream and highbrow drinkers alike, the Connecticut-bordered Rhode Island brewery hopes to do 1,200 barrels per year.
Owned by passionate home brewing enthusiast, Alan Brinton, and his hands-on Jersey-bred wife, Jennifer, a fruit and pumpkin ale fan, Grey Sail has gained the attention of the li’l Ocean State with its rock solid selections.
At the front windowed tasting room, brewer Josh Letourneau (former Mayflower associate) graciously poured Grey Sail’s best-known suds for me, August 2012. Adorned by a beautiful brewroom mural, the oak-floored space has a cozy living room feel backed by insulated silver kettles and thousands of empty cans readied for filling.
Much like nearby Connecticut competitor, New England Brewery, Letourneau prefers cans over bottles. A huge fan of Maine-based Allagash White and Belgium’s Wittekerk Wit, his brews ‘play well into the surrounding coastal beach area.’
Letourneau claims, “Cans are better for packaging. There’s zero light exposure and caps on bottles will allow oxygen ingress over time. Plus, freight costs are lower and recyclability is easier. Also, the artwork envelops the whole can.”
Though I’d miss his darkest offering, Leaning Chimney Smoked Porter, two easygoing year-round offerings, one neat Belgian-styled knockoff, a surefire autumnal seasonal and a trusty bitter proved to be one nifty step beyond stylistic parameters on tap.
The highly approachable fare included scintillating lightweight, Flagship Ale, a winning cream ale with a misty Long Island Sound crispness. Its silken pale-caramel malting, soft citric-hopped bittering, recessive lemony orange spritz and honeyed wheat base reached the salty bottom with casual aplomb. Equally impressive, medium-bodied IPA crossover, Flying Jenny Extra Pale Ale placed orange-peeled grapefruit pith bittering above bark-dried Columbus hops and fruited Cascade hops, finishing with a sassy lemon-seeded twinge. (Canned versions are reviewed in the Beer Index).
Summery pleasantry, Hazy Day Belgian Wit, spliced softly-spiced lemony orange peel bittering with sugary crystal malts to its unmalted white wheat base, picking up a slight juniper boozing at its delicate citrus finish.
Since September’s right around the corner, Letourneau brought out busy fall seasonal, Fest, to close out my initial visit. Its autumnal foliage and leafy Noble hops set the stage for orange-oiled apple-peach-pumpkin fruiting, caramel-roasted Vienna malting and honeyed tea sedation.