Move into our first location on Oliphant Lane
+ First production craft brewery in Rhode Island
First Annual Release
+ One of the first of early craft brewers to introduce an annual release
+ First distillery license in Rhode Island in 135 years
Founder Brent Ryan succeeds in introducing and encouraging new legislation (passed in 2013) to allow breweries in RI to sell out of their facilities.
+ This was after trying and failing every year up to 2013 #nevergiveup
Move into our current home at 293 JT Connell Highway in Newport
CEO Brendan O’Donnell joins us and the rebranded Newport Craft is born
+ In just over a year, ten new brews and three new spirits are added to the portfolio
2019 marks 20 years of craft brewing in RI!
Newport Craft acquires Brooklyn, NY’s Braven brand
Our story is a long one.
Got a couple of decades? We do.
We’ll try to keep this short-ish. After all, we’ve got beer to brew and spirits to distill and you’ve got a 1639 Pale Ale that isn’t going to drink itself.
In the beginning…
It all starts with a love of beer. Our founders Derek Luke (Master Brewer) and Brent Ryan (Master Distiller) cut their teeth on the beers of Maine’s early craft brewing pioneers while college-ing in Waterville. Derek had already been experimenting with home brewing and by his junior year had managed to strike up a formative relationship with nearby brewery, Oak Pond Brewing Co. He’d frequently cycle the 25 miles up the road just to haunt their production floor until they figured he may as well lend a hand. Short bottles would make their way back to Colby and this early fascination and excitement about craft brewing began to thrive.
There will be beer
Through a combined spirit of curiosity, entrepreneurship, naive optimism and thrill seeking the decision to start a brewery (née Coastal Extreme Brewing Co.) was planted in 1999 on Aquidneck Island in Rhode Island. Of course, we’re skipping detours through years of more home brewing, house painting, aerial skiing, cycling, North Carolina, sailboats, Ocean City, teaching physics, restaurants, British Columbia, and ice cream trucks, but that’s for another time.
We brought our craft beer wagon to Rhode Island at a time when beer was mostly yellow fizzy. Everybody loved the “idea” of an amber ale as long as we didn’t bump their national favorites off the taps.
In those days it was brew, beg, bargain, and brew again.
Alongside navigating the slow rise of craft beer in America, RI laws at that time prohibited us from selling out of our Brewery. There’s a well-worn path between our facility and the RI State House carved out by Brent during four consecutive annual attempts to garner enough support for legislation that would allow us and future fellow brewers and distillers the option to have a tasting room. So, today when we invite folks to enjoy a sunny afternoon in our backyard Pavilion around a game of cornhole and over a pint of Rhode Trip, we’ve got Brent to thank for that.
Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum
Our long history has had its share of challenges but we’ve been lucky to have Aquidneck Island and Newport, RI as our playground throughout.
Newport has a U.S. history-sized reputation for rebellion, innovation, and resilience and it’s infectious. Over the course of our first few years we really got ourselves ‘dug in’ here. The town’s pre-revolutionary history inspired us to explore rum distilling. In 2006, we launched our Distillery using centuries-old recipes pulled from the archives of the local historical society. Having a fully functioning Brewery allowed us to start aging rum and whiskey right out of the gate.
No good tale is without a plot twist. Fast forward to years later when we’re settled into our Newport home brewing and distilling...
Meanwhile, in New York City a recent college grad working his way up the ladder of the financial industry—stops short of a life-changing promotion, up-ends his life and takes a job in social work in South Africa. After our CEO, Brendan O’Donnell took that time off to recalibrate his life priorities he joined forces with a group of friends and launched a downtown NYC bar that went on to become a top ten grossing bar in Manhattan. Brendan had found his niche in all things hospitality, experience building, craft beer and spirits, and branding. After moving on and relocating with his wife to Newport, RI he was looking for an adventure and a way to contribute to his new community. He found both here.
At the time that Brendan joined the Newport Craft team the craft beer industry was in full swing. He immediately implemented a rebranding (introducing Newport Craft Brewing + Distilling Co.), and restructuring which now frees up Brent and Derek to focus fully on their distilling and brewing. In just over a year the Brewery added ten new brews, and the Distillery expanded its portfolio with gin, vodka, and moonshine.