Beer lovers would enjoy a road called “Coddington Highway” in Newport Rhode Island. It isn’t much of a highway. Just a little single-lane road, less than two miles long, connecting one town road to another. But on that road, within 0.8 miles of each other, are two small breweries quietly going about their business. Not bad for a little town that is known purely for beaches, boating, and mansions.
My wife and I found ourselves in Newport RI this past weekend and decided to knock those two breweries off of our to-do list. One is Coastal Extreme (aka Newport Storm), and the other is Coddington Brewing.
We hit Coastal Extreme first. To be honest, I’ve never given Newport Storm the time of day. I naturally group the brand with Rhode Island’s other primary brewery – Narragansett – and subconsciously consider them both to kitschy Rhode Island fare alongside Del’s Lemonade. It was nice to get a closer look at something I never took quite seriously.
Finished in the spring of 2011, a new facility houses the Newport Storm brewery, distillery (they also make rum), and visitor’s center. I got the sense the new facility was built to encourage visitation and to use tours/tastings as an additional source of income. $7 gets you a tour, a souvenir tasting glass, and four beer samples. You also get a card describing the four beers you will taste. If you pay a couple dollars more, you can taste the rum. I didn’t, however. Somebody has to drive.
I will say, the souvenir glass is the best one I’ve ever received from a brewery tour. It’s a tulip glass; my favorite, go-to beer vessel. What I love more about it is its size. My wife and I often split 22-ounce bottled beers at home and when we use regular tulips, or other glasses, they’re either too small or too large. These two Newport Storm glasses are the perfect size to split bombers. I’m sure I’ll use them often.
Newport Storm’s facility was hopping with activity. The tour group was large, and it was given by an enthusiastic man in his thirties. Before the tour started, the guide ensured that everyone had beer in their glass. So we went ahead and got our first sample – the “Rhode Island Blueberry Beer”. I didn’t, and never do, have high expectations for a blueberry beer. But I say with all honesty, that I think it may be the best blueberry beer I’ve ever had. I don’t try many, and avoid most. But I’ve had a few in my time. Unlike what you see at a place like Beer Works, this version does not have blueberries floating in it (thank god). It’s a Kolsch ale made with juice from hand-pressed, local Rhode Island blueberries. The authenticity is noticeable. It tastes like the skin of the berry, without extra sugar or flavoring added. It’s earthy and pleasantly bittersweet.
As the tour began, everyone climbed up to a wooden balcony about fifteen feet off the ground that looked down onto the brewery floor. Our tour guide stood on the floor and bellowed his spiel up to us like Romeo wooing Juliet. He knew his stuff, cracked jokes, and spoke for twenty minutes without taking a single breath. Impressive. Back to the tasting room…
Sample # 2 of 4 was Newport Storm’s flagship. The Hurricane Amber Ale. Neither my wife or I were impressed. I was fairly certain I had it before and now I knew why I couldn’t quite remember much of it. It’s not exactly memorable. The caramel malt profile is weak for the style, and the spicey hop character it claims to have must be on hiatus. It’s dry, and a bit too watery.
Next was the Regenschauer Oktoberfest. This is the brewery’s only lager, and is supposed to be brewed true to Marzen style. After tasting this, I thought the brewery should create a different fall seasonal beer next year, or just avoid lagers altogether. A Marzen shouldn’t smell and taste like eggs. It was unpleasant and disappointing. I choked it down just to get to my final tasting.
The last beer was a pale ale made with rye, and is part of the brewery’s limited-release “Cyclone” series of bigger beers. This particular beer was called “Ryan”. I was eager to try it because I have a soft spot for beers brewed with rye grain. Thankfully, Ryan catapulted me out from the horrible depths of the Oktoberfest and dropped me in an oasis of beer deliciousness. Tons of earthy rye malt and Amarillo hops danced on my tongue. Big, balanced, and delicious. At 8.0% it had a little punch and was easily the highpoint of my tasting.
In the end, I found it funny that my second favorite beer of the visit was the blueberry ale. I didn’t see that coming.
Although Newport Storm didn’t impress me with A+ beers across the board, I did find the visit fun and worthwhile for any beer fan in the area.
Coddington Brewing Company
That night, my wife and I had dinner at the Coddington Brewing Company. Picture an Applebee’s that happens to make their own beer. That’s what this place is like.
It was busy there, and I didn’t get the chance to chat with the bartender about the beers. I started with their pumpkin ale and found it a bit thin. The typical fall spices I expect in a pumpkin beer were extremely faint in this one. Its description claimed that vanilla beans were added to the kettle. I tried, but couldn’t find any trace of them. It is session brew at 4.5%.
Next I had an “oatmeal porter” which was utilitarian. Roasty grain, faint bakers chocolate, and oatmeal were all noticeable, yet faint. The oatmeal did not have the same effect on its mouthfeel as it typically does with an oatmeal stout. Unfortunately, its carbonation was a bit too absent for a beer that didn’t pour from a cask.
My wife found her Oktoberfest flat in character, thin, and uninspiring. Not offensive, but not spectacular by any means.
I did get a small taste of their “Irish Stout” which, at just 3.8%, was delicious. Its frothy head gave off a big coffee aroma which carried through on its flavor profile. Bittersweet chocolate was also noticeable. I could have drank a lot of this one. But it was a long day of beer tasting, and I had to draw the line somewhere.
Do I recommend a visit to Coddington? If you’re visiting Newport Storm and have another twenty minutes to kill, the Irish Stout alone is worth your time. Otherwise, keep driving down to the beach.
Coastal Extreme Brewing (aka “Newport Storm”)
293 JT Connel Rd
Newport Rhode Island
Coddington Brewing Company
210 Coddington highway
Middletown, Rhode Island