This medium-sized Rhode Island city proves more than a worthy overnight, with plenty of epicurean options and one of the oldest brewpubs in New England.
For most people in CNY, the city of Providence — maybe even Rhode Island itself — lies somewhat sleepily at the back of the mind. For beer drinkers, in particular, there hasn’t been much buzz coming from this coastal corner, aside from praise for “Captain’s Daughter,” a DIPA from Grey Sail Brewing. I hadn’t been in years, but leave it to guitar legend John McLaughlin to get me there. Despite only one night in town, it did not take long to discover great options.
Founded in 1636 by Roger Williams (an early advocate for secularism who had been run out of Massachusetts by religious extremists), Providence Plantation was a refuge for persecuted religious dissenters. (The official name of the state is still the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.) The tradition of immigration continues to bolster Rhode Island, and Providence, with the prominent Federal Hill neighborhood being renowned for Italian immigrant influence.
Since I was just a few blocks away, Federal Hill and a bar called Harry’s seemed a good place to start. (Of course, before I ducked into Harry’s Bar & Burger, I randomly bumped into a South Utica legend, which, oddly enough, happens most places I go.) The bar specialized in burgers, and I quickly tucked into a couple of Harry’s sliders and a Lagunitas “Born Yesterday,” and eased into a well-adjusted frame of mind.
Following this, I popped into Trinity Brewhouse downtown, one of the oldest brewpubs in New England (not to be confused with Trinity Brewing of Colorado). In addition to a collection of awards that includes medals from GABF (Great American Beer Festival), Trinity has an exceptional Russian Imperial Stout (on nitro), and an outstanding Kolsch. And, like much of Providence’s culinary scene, the food also is on point. What really stood out, however, was a “Batch Series” New England IPA brewed with Nelson Sauvin and Lemondrop hops — one of the best I’ve had on tap.
Not many locals could pinpoint a specific regional food dish when asked, but apparently it is the “Hot Weiner,” a pork or veal hotdog with meat sauce, onions, mustard, and celery salt. Providence directed me to one at the Haven Brothers stand, where I was provided a little finale of sorts to my brief jaunt.
This medium-sized city proved more than a worthy overnight, with enough epicurean options to excite the deadest of palates, and plenty of intriguing architectural sights to impel wandering. I hope to be back soon for a walking pub tour, because sometimes scratching the surface just isn’t enough.
This week’s recommendation: Trinity Brewhouse “Darkness,” a creamy Russian Imperial Stout with dark, roasted malt character and smooth chocolate and dark fruit notes. 9.5 percent ABV. Providence, Rhode Island.
— Colin Hubbell is co-owner of the Green Onion Pub and The Beer Hub in South Utica. His column appears weekly.