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New year, new beer

Meet Proclamation Ale and more
By LOU PAPINEAU  |  January 15, 2014

A FORMIDABLE IPA Proclamation's Tendril.

The flow of ambitious Rhode Island brewers is continuing unabated in the new year. The new kids on the taps, Proclamation Ale and Whaler’s Brewing Company — which got its license on Tuesday — are ready to roll. And Brutopia Brewery , a brewpub which will specialize in hickory-smoked BBQ, will open in the spring. You’ll never guess who their brewmaster is. . . OK, it’s Sean Larkin. (It’s official: he never sleeps.)

To get a jump on the new crews, we made the trip to West Kingston to visit with Proclamation prez/brewmaster Dave Witham, whose compact setup is in an industrial building near the Kingston Railroad Station. He has the standard beer guy story — homebrewer gone pro — with a wrinkle: after a decade or so as a music teacher/musician, he’s now a stay-at-home dad/beermaker. Dave’s spartan space has a few shiny new kettles with the capacity for 3.5 barrels per batch (about 105 gallons). His beer-making philosophy is explained by his statement-making brand name and its motto: “Big Beer From a Small State.”

“I didn’t want to make middle of the road beers that one would sit and idly drink,” Witham said. “I wanted to make beers that grab one’s attention with more extreme flavor profiles and complexity, all while maintaining some sense of balance.” There are only two brews in the portfolio so far: Tendril, “not quite an imperial IPA,” and zzzlumber, a “Dutch imperial stout.” We had a sample of that one, and it’s damn good. Dave also has a few whiskey and wine barrels ready for future aged ales.

Proclamation will introduce its two beers at the Rhode Island Brew Fest; they will be open soon for tastings and growler sales. Hit for updates and Dave’s blog posts.

It’s pouring in Pawtucket

The Rhode Island Brew Fest has quickly become a standout on the local beer calendar. The second annual winter event will feature more than 50 breweries — 11 from RI (!), most of New England’s best beerists, and some notables from the other 44 states (Oskar Blues, Green Flash, Founders, Uinta, Finch’s, Sixpoint, Heavy Seas), pouring more than 150 different beers. Proclamation and Whaler’s will make their official debuts, and Narragansett will bust out its new Private Stock offering, a Russian Imperial Stout. There will be two sessions (1-4 and 5-8 pm) on Saturday, February 1 at the Pawtucket Armory (172 Exchange St); tix are $55, which includes a Spiegelau IPA glass designed by Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head. Word to the wise: last year’s fest sold out, so wait not.

There will also be a RI Brewers Guild Banquet on Friday, January 31 at the Armory, with food catered by McGrath Clambake and pairings of special beers from our esteemed local brewers. Tickets are $95 available in advance at

Going, going . . . gone!

It’s an understatement to say that the Narragansett/Autocrat Coffee Milk Stout was certainly a big hit. Three thousand cases hit stores in mid-December and they all disappeared before Santa got the reindeers hitched to his sleigh. ’Gansett prez Mark Hellendrung told us, “The Coffee Milk Stout was really unbelievable. Everyone loved the beer and we basically sold out in a week. Unfortunately, we all seriously underestimated how well it would be received, and RI’s love for Autocrat. It will be back in November and we’ll obviously make a heck of a lot more.”

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