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OF PROVIDENCE AND ENVIRONS BY THE ACCOMPLISHED PHOTOGRAPHER;
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Island by Richard Benjamin
|CLAIBORNE PELL BRIDGE ACROSS THE
first encounter with something beyond the boundaries of America’s
northeast and Midwestern brewing tradition was Watney’s Red Barrel. I
remember the first sip as if it were yesterday. It occurred on a
Saturday afternoon in late September of 1972 at Pooh’s Pub, a decent
jazz venue on Kenmore Square in Boston. I still possess the glass
vessel that delivered the amber nectar over the lips of a young man
that had mainly found satisfaction and solace in Scotch whisky and
robust red wines. But here was clearly another case of the prophet not
being welcomed in the homeland.
Because Watney’s was pasteurized and served somewhat chilled from a keg
pressurized by carbon dioxide, it was given little quarter from the
traditional English bitters drinking crowd. To further infuriate the
Brits, it also had a nasty habit of forming a bit of froth at the top
of the glass. Only their less civilized American cousins would tolerate
and actually embrace such nonsense. But for a colonist such as me that
had only experienced the timidity of American lagers and pilsners –
Watneys was a bold step in the right direction.
|As I continued my
walk down the beer garden path with Mr. Barleycorn, I
encountered many fine offerings from the British brew masters. And with
the emergence of domestic craft brewing in the early nineteen eighties,
one no longer needed to shop only the import shelves in order to
experience a world class ale or stout. It was during one of those “keep
the dollars onshore moments” that I discovered Ballantine IPA. Here in
the green bottle with the beige clipper ship on the label was 60
International Bittering Units and 7.5% abv of hop perfection.
1980 article for the British beer journal, “What’s Brewing,”
author and respected beer advocate, the late Michael Jackson had this
to say about Ballantine India Pale Ale, “ wonderfully distinctive…an
outstanding American ale unique in its fidelity to the East Coast
tradition of Colonial Ales.” In the February-March 2000 edition of “Celebrator Beer News,” Fred
Eckhardt wrote, “Ballantine IPA would be a
good choice for the greatest and most enduring American brewing triumph
of the early and mid-20th century.” From a more personal perspective,
Ballantine IPA continues to this day to be the most memorable and
pleasant beer drinking experience of my life.
Sadly though that experience ended in 1983, when Falstaff, which had
and brewed the Ballantine brands since 1972, closed their Cranston,
Rhode Island brewery, the sole producer of the much lauded
IPA. In keeping with the vagaries of the beer industry, Pabst attempted
to reintroduce the product in 1995; but the competition from the many
now seasoned microbrewers quickly proved to be insurmountable.
|THE FRESHLY BREWED BEER IS OF THE ESSENCE
MAIN BAR . . .
|. . . AND IN THE BASEMENT
BAR AS WELL
past summer, my wife and I journeyed up to the Rhode Island
capital via the high speed water ferry, which conducts regular
passenger service between Newport and Providence.
The trip along
Narragansett Bay is one of the most stunning passages on the eastern
seaboard. After a leisurely downtown stretch of the gams we
to familiar barstools on Fountain Street.
|ADORN THE WALLS
|It was our
second time at the TRINITY
BREWHOUSE; but this was the first
time my eyes caught site of the sign concerning their own Rhode Island
I.P.A. and its relationship to Ballantine’s ill-fated India Pale Ale.
This kicked off a lengthy conversation about the brewing of big beers
in “Little Rhody” with Tommy Tainsh, who shares the brewing
responsibilities along with Sean Larkin at Trinity.
During that afternoon I
switched off between the IPA and Tommy’s Red
Ale. The rich mix of East Kent Goldings and Tettnanger hops put me in
somewhat philosophical state of mind. I thought back to my first walk
through the streets of Providence
It was during a trek up to Boston on a very hot, July day in 1970 that
I decided to
abandon my hitchhiking post on Route I-95 in search of a cold drink.
What little I saw of the city was
most unimpressive. Providence
, like so many other
New England towns at
that time, was suffering from economic obsolescence. It was a city rife
with poverty, despair and political corruption.
Today all that has changed. Providence
has become a beacon of cultural,
civic and urban revitalization and a much celebrated New England
destination. The city is a microcosm of what America has been and what
she can become.
find it sublimely ironic that Trinity Brewhouse was founded by Joshua
Miller, a respected and hard working state senator who just happens to
now represent the good people of Cranston, Rhode Island. And while he
hasn’t been able to resurrect Ballantine India Pale – here at Trinity,
they’ve come pretty damn close!