Union Station Brewery in Providence, Rhode Island - Best Breweries


Initially visited harbor-bound state capitol October ’05, finding contrasting upscale brewpub and blue collar watering hole within walking distance. Opened in ’93, below-street level pub, UNION STATION BREWERY, situated in the foreground of ritzy Marriott Hotel, was converted from an old train station cellar.

A subsidy of John Harvard’s Brewhouse, its large courtyard deck fronts the side door entrance. The homey brick walled interior features prominent bar with glass-encased copper kettle brew tanks, green leather-seated wood chairs, a mid-size left side dining area, and exposed ceiling pipes. Burgers, pizza, filet mignon, hickory-smoked ribs, and crabmeat-stuffed Atlantic cod were fab menu choices.

Lighter beers on ’05 stopover included mainstream Family Guy-inspired namesake Pawtucket Patriot Pilsner (a lemony wheat-straw-backed phenol fizzy) as well as grapefruit-embittered dank-grained wheat-dried Golden Spike Pale Ale.

Soft-tongued piney-hopped dark-fruited Ripple IPA, dry sour-fruited wheat-husked Oktoberfest, and musky hickory-smoked coffee-softened black cherry-tinged cask conditioned Espresso Stout were firmer choices. Sipped the latter with Pumpkin Tiramisu dessert.

While driving through Rhode Island’s capital June ’11, spent a few hours at Union Station watching Boston Bruins defeat Vancouver Canucks in Game 6 of Stanley Cup championship. Venturing from mildest light hued fare to heavier dark-bodied fare, I enjoying six wide-ranging, previously untried libations with wife.

A pair of Belgian-styled ales got perused first. Light-bodied, orange-peeled, coriander-spiced Belgian Wit retained a hard-candied sweetness while medium-bodied, fig-spiced, prune-stewed Abbey Ale received a latent orange-spiced courvoisier kick that also befit caramel-drudged, lemon-rotted, fungi-dried Dunkelweizen.

Bittersweet blueberry-perfumed Brew Berry Ale lost up-front blueberry-seeded essence to soapy lemon Seltzer fizzing. A woody Pine Sol lacquering and wafting cologne musk fluttered through buttery citric respite to alcohol-burnt finish of sharp hop-headed bitter, J.K.’s Simcoe IPA. Soft-textured Jay’s Breakfast Stout blended Vermont maple syrup into oily hop-charred coffee bean bittering, oats-toasted black chocolate serenade, and acrid charcoal singe.

Stayed at Marriott Hotel October ’11, sampling several untried libations and one improved year-round staple. Brewmaster Aaron Croffit, a spirited homebrewer originally from Grass Lake, Michigan, has been at Union Station for nine years, continuously improving his recipes. Standard fare such as dry, perfume-hopped, grapefruit-peeled Golden Spike American Pale Ale boasted a brisker lemon-soaped apricot-apple-pear fruiting that’s nearly as bitter as bolder, juniper-pined, spruce-tipped Simcoe IPA (with its tangy grapefruit-peeled peach-apricot swerve).

Providence Pale Ale brought an earthen-grained ESB-like musk to pale-malted toffee and woody Chinook hops. Just a tad richer, River Otter Red draped dried-fruited fig sugaring atop fungi yeast must. Unassuming Blueberry Ale lost its ripe blueberry tartness and wheat-crackered backdrop to metallic hop astringency and soapy oiliness.

On cask, College Hill Porter provided an oily coffee bittering to charcoal-smoked pipe tobacco, walnut, peat and cocoa bean nuances, contrasting wavered cherry-bruised blackberry tartness.

Seasonal dessert treat, Pumpkin Spice, maintained a pilsner-malted, brown-sugared pumpkin pie spicing, pleating cinnamon-nutmeg-allspice-clove niceties with vegetal gourd astringency and light lemon rind wisps.

My wife and I stayed at the 4-star Rennaissance Providence Hotel so we’d be within walking distance of Union Station to have dinner and a few previously untried brews, December ’12. We split the moist Fungus Burger (with bleu-cheesed shiitake and portobello mushrooms) and fabulous goat-cheesed Arugala Pizza while consuming two pleasant dark ales, one Belgian ale and a light pilsner.
Though nebulous Northern Light merely sufficed with its maize-dried citric mist and phenolic grassy-hopped celery backend, lightly fruit-spiced Belgian Abbey benefited from bruised banana, peach and tangerine ripeness.
Easygoing Lights Out Stout brought mildly creamed dark chocolate and vanilla overtones to dry bourbon-burgundy wining and molasses-sapped oats roasting. Not dissimilar to Lights Out, Vanilla Bean Porter increased the vanilla bean influence over subtle black chocolate roast, astringent hop bittering and bourbon-soaked toffee malts.
Dropped by for dinner, November ’16, consuming newest version of smoothly maple-syruped, milk-sugared, coffee-chocolate-laden Breakfast Stout and musky yellow-fruited Golden Spike Pale Ale. Previously untried Large Marge IPA boasted about its “big, bold, bitter” profile, but even the hefty 8.5% ABV couldn’t disguise the easy feel of Belgian candi-sugared spruce-fruited sweetness contrasting piney citric hops. Pleasant peach, pineapple, orange and tangerine tang outdoes grapefruit-peeled bittering and fresh-cut grass astringency, gaining splendid sugar-spiced relief.
Revisited Providence on the way to Boston, September ’17, to quaff five more previously untried Union Station brews.
Mild Pale Ale with Lemondrops featured zesty Lemondrop hops that gained a grassy edge, herbal snip and grapefruit lick. Light lactic acidity grazed You’re Going To Louvre This Grisette, a sessionable saison-like dry body with yellow grapefruit tartness and candied mandarin orange sweetness picking up herbal lemongrass snips and dry barnyard acridity.
On the dark side, feisty Ryeway To Hell IPA spread toasty rye malts across spicy orange-peeled grapefruit rind, pineapple and lemon tanginess as well as dry wood tones. Hazelnut-spiced brown ale, Ecru, retained a deep hop roast and mild caramel malting. Dry Shout Shout Let It All Out left Bakers chocolate and smoked molasses upon its bitter nutty center.
True beer connoisseurs should check out varied selection at Barrington, Rhode Island’s Grapes & Grains, where I purchased fine local brews by Foolproof, Just Beer, Maine Beer Co., Buzzards Bay and Narragansett on St. Patrick’s Day ’13. Also, Chris Gasbarro’s Fine Wine & Spirits has craft beer locations in nearby Seekonk, Swansea and North Attleborough, Massachusetts. Those going southbound into nearby Bristol, Rhode Island, ought to try 1776 Liquors.


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