MIDDLETOWN — Newport Vineyards is branching out. The local winery, which includes a cafe and Brix restaurant, has added Taproot Brewing Co., which will open to the public with a sold-out tasting on Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Newport Vineyards owner John Nunes said his inspiration for the brewery is simply his “love of fresh beer.”
“I wanted to add one more element, on a small scale, to complement everything we do in the food and wine world,” Nunes said. “Now we can make some really cool beverages that can be paired with chef Andy Teixeira’s farm-to-table menu.”
“We’ve always talked a lot about making beer, but after tasting fresh beers over the past few years, I was ready to have something,” Nunes said.
Though Nunes has been home brewing for about 20 years, Taproot was planned about a year ago. Nunes explained that the seven-barrel brewing system has involved “a learning curve.”
“We weren’t trying to do big monster beers right off the bat,” Nunes said. “We had to learn some equipment.”
The brewery will have anywhere between five to nine beers on tap at any given time, with an additional seven or eight “in the pipeline,” Nunes said. The plan is to maintain a turnover of about half the offerings being traditional brews and the other half being more experimental.
“We’ll have some big bombs at 8 or 9 percent [alcohol by volume], and more drinkable ones at 4.5 to 5.5 percent.”
Taproot’s beers will not only be available at the taproom, but also on the beverage menu at Brix restaurant. Teixeira said he’s even tweaked the restaurant’s menu a bit to complement the beers with items like empanadas, charcuterie, mustards, pickled vegetables and Narragansett Creamery cheeses. Some of these were offered at a media tasting on June 13, and they indeed paired beautifully with the four beers offered in a flight.
Kevin Beachem, 26, moved to Rhode Island from his job at Kane Brewing in Ocean Township, New Jersey, just to take the position of head brewer for Taproot.
“It’s very akin with my ideals,” Beachem said, referring to Newport Vineyard’s dedication to sustainability, procuring ingredients from local growers as much as possible and making everything in-house. He added that he plans to seek out local malts and perhaps grow hops on the vineyard property at some point in the future. For now, he obtains the lemon balm for his IPAs from Garman Farm in Middletown.
“I’m super stoked to have this opportunity, making beers for Rhode Island,” Beachem said. “I got into beer from food. I originally wanted to be a chef. Brewing is creating recipes no one’s ever tried before.”
“We’re really happy with these first introductory beers,” Nunes said.
The beers served on June 13 were a dry-hopped pale ale featuring Galaxy and Amarillo hops, another pale ale dry-hopped with Azacca, an IPA with Mosaic and Galaxy hops and a London brown porter. For the public opening, another ale and two additional “fruit-forward” IPAs will be ready, Nunes said.
Nunes is also working toward two more New England-style IPAs, a double IPA, a witbier, an altbier and a blonde ale, he said.
Kathleen Troost-Cramer writes Straight to the Pint, a monthly beer column in The Daily News.