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Brewery marks discovery of shipwreck with new beer

By Joe Wojtas

Publication: The Day

Published December 01. 2011 4:00AM
Label from the new beer from Cottrell Brewing Co.

Stonington - Eleven months after he and his diving partner announced they had found the wreck of famed Capt. Oliver Hazard Perry's 19th century ship the Revenge off Watch Hill, Cottrell Brewing Co. owner Charles Buffum has created a new beer to celebrate the find.

Called Perry's Revenge Ale, the dark Scottish-style ale with an 8.5 percent alcohol content will be sold on tap for the first time this weekend at C.C. O'Brien's, which is just down Mechanic Street from the Pawcatuck brewery.

The Daniel Packer Inne will soon follow, as will the Ocean House in Watch Hill, which overlooks the wreck site.

Revenge Ale will also be sold in 22-ounce bottles in package stores within a month.

"As the marketing guy, I said, this is a great opportunity to marry a real historical accomplishment with a beer," said Chris Kepple, Cottrell's sales and marketing manager. "We have a brewer who is also a discoverer, so we talked about how to celebrate the discovery with a beer."

Buffum, who spent five years looking for the Revenge with Craig Harger of Colchester, agreed.

"I got thinking about it and thought it would be a great idea to commemorate the wreck and Oliver Hazard Perry with a beer," he said.

Kepple described Revenge Ale as dark mahogany in color and full-bodied with a hint of chocolate and raisins. It will be sold on tap in 10- to 12-ounce glasses as opposed to the more standard 16-ounce glass because of its high alcohol content.

"It's more of a sipping beer for the cooler months," said Buffum, who added that a Scotch ale made sense in part because Perry's mother was Scottish.

The label features the artwork of Clem Poole of Groton, a Robert E. Fitch High School graduate now attending Cooper Union in New York City. He also designed the label for Mystic Bridge IPA, also made by Cottrell.

"It's awesome. He's incredibly talented," Buffum said of Poole and his two designs. "The image really evokes a kind of emotion, seeing this guy rowing against the wind and the tide and Perry looking back at the wreck."

The Revenge was a 14-gun schooner that sank on the reefs off Watch Hill on Jan. 8, 1811, while surveying southern New England harbors, including New London.

Perry faced a court martial over the wreck but was eventually exonerated as blame fell on the ship's pilot. Because of the incident, however, the formerly fast-rising captain could not get command of a ship battling the British along the Eastern seaboard. He had to settle for the less glamorous position of commanding a fleet of warships in the Great Lakes.

Under his command in 1813, that fleet defeated the British in the Battle of Lake Erie, a major naval confrontation during the War of 1812.

Aboard Perry's ship, the USS Lawrence in Lake Erie, was a battle flag bearing the now-famous saying, "Don't give up the ship." The battle is seen as a turning point in the war and helped change the course of U.S. history.

In his post-battle report to his superiors, Perry wrote another saying that is now famous: "We have met the enemy and they are ours."

This is the third new beer produced this year by Cottrell, which will celebrate its 15th anniversary in February.

In addition to Revenge Ale, Cottrell made a summer beer and an Oktoberfest beer. They join the brewery's first product, Old Yankee Ale, and Mystic Bridge IPA.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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