Newburyport Brewing Company Visit


Earlier today I took the afternoon off so I could make a trip up to Newburyport and visit a couple of breweries. First on my list was Newburyport Brewing. My hosts were none other than co-founders Chris Webb and Bill Fisher, accompanied by brewmaster Mike Robinson.

Chris and Bill’s story is quite fascinating. To summarize, in 2011 the two noted a lack of craft beer in the Newburyport area and decided to start a brewery. In 2012 equipment started rolling in and by spring 2013 brewing operations were in full swing. In it’s first year, Newburyport brewed 5000 barrels, making it one of the fastest growing breweries. Today, despite the recent significant addition of equipment, the brewery can’t keep beer on shelves. Further expansion is planned.

I got a can of Plum Island Belgian White RIGHT off the line.
I got a can of Plum Island Belgian White RIGHT off the line.

Some of the success can be attributed to amazing foresight. For example, one of the first investments the two made was in a canning line. Even earlier than that, long before beer was being brewed on premise, they purchased rights to relatively rare strains of hops.

Bill spoke fondly of Brewmaster Mike Robinson, saying that “Mike was a huge part of the success we have seen”. Robinson, has quite a resume including New England Home Brewer of the Year and Samuel Adams Longshot winner. An original bottle of his Old Ale that won the award is pictured in the gallery below.

Left to Right: Bill Fisher, Me, Mike Robinson, Chris Webb
Left to Right: Bill Fisher, Me, Mike Robinson, Chris Webb

In addition to beer, Chris and Bill have a passion for music. The two play in a funk band together (Chris is lead vocals, while Bill is on horns) and the brewery regularly hosts local bands, who are featured in the Live from Newburyport Brewing series of shows. The brewery also supports local artists, featuring and selling art out of the tasting room. Fisher explained how important it is for Newburyport Brewing to invest in the local community, saying “We wanted this space to be a community place.”

If you’re in the North Shore area, I HIGHLY recommend swinging by the brewery!


Newport Storm Brewery Tour

On day 2 of our Newport Rhode Island trip I hit up the Newport Storm Brewery. The plan was to meet Derek, head brewer and one of the original founders of the brewery. Unfortunately Derek had an emergency and wasn’t able to meet up with me. The tap lines exploded at a local bar or something like that…that’s the life of a relatively small brewer; Derek is the head brewer, a sales guy, the bottling line setter-upper-guy, a welder, and emergency repairman.

It was all good though because Laura (head of PR) was able to show me around and answer some questions I had.

The visitor center always shows what’s brewing, which is a nice touch. I haven’t seen this at other breweries I have visited.

For $7 you get a souvenir glass and tasting of what they have on tap in the visitor center. The day I was there they had their flagship Hurricane Amber, the blueberry, the Summer IPA, and the Spring Ale. My favorite is probably the Spring Ale – an Irish red with big-time roasted flavors.

In addition to their year-round beers and seasonals, Newport Storm brews a limited edition Cyclone series. These special batches are brewed only once and when the batch is gone…it’s gone. Fear not though, as soon as the last of the beer is distributed, the next beer in the Cyclone series is queued up and ready to roll. At the time of writing, “Quinn“, a rum-barrel aged porter is the Cyclone beer on the shelves. I brought some home and will be reviewing it later this week!

Newport Storm also does a special annual beer. The brew is different each year and has very limited availability. This year’s batch sounds pretty cool, as all of the Rhode Island breweries collaborated by each adding some ingredient or unique element to the brewing process. You can look for the 14% ABV monster this November.

The brewery also runs a rum distillery under the label Thomas Tew. Above is a picture of the equipment used to make the rum.

I’m always curious about how head brewers make test batches. The pictures above and below show how Derek at Newport Storm goes about it. He has Jerry-rigged a homebrew-like system that allows him to brew mini batches at the brewery. Every beer that comes out of the brewery was probably born in this contraption.

Newport Storm beers are only available in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. They recently expanded into a space that will allow 3 times the previous production, so I suppose it is possible they will eventually expand their distribution.

I’ll leave you with one final fun-fact. Mike Rowe and Dirty Jobs did a show at the brewery. Mike worked on distilling the rum and managed to get pretty grimy as you would expect. He signed a shirt which is displayed at the brewery.