Grey Sail Tap Room a new tack for brewery
Westerly — Grey Sail Brewing of Rhode Island has been such a success over the past four and a half years that the Canal Street beer maker has now bought a stately 1934 Italianate Colonial home next door to turn into a taproom with beautiful murals and an outdoor garden for revelers to relax and even take in a bocce game.
Grey Sail Tap Room, a 1,600-square-foot space that just opened Sunday, is owned by a completely different legal entity than the microbrewery, per Rhode Island law. Jennifer Brinton, who manages the taproom and owns the brewery, said Rhode Island has much stricter laws about taprooms than Connecticut, rules that so far have handicapped small beer makers who rely on tastings to spread the word about their brew.
"It allows us to take the tasting room out of the brewery," said Brinton, who runs the the so-called Grey Sail companies in partnership with husband Alan, the owner of the taproom and manager of the microbrewery.
The Brintons currently have plans to double the size of the current brewery and cannery operation by building an addition with a masonry exterior that will provide storage and packing space. The addition will allow Grey Sail to reach the maximum capacity for a microbrewer of producing 15,000 barrels of beer annually, but Brinton said the company would never expand further.
"We're in a neighborhood, and that's something we keep very near and dear," Brinton said.
The home and property where the taproom is located was once owned by the proprietor of the contiguous Westerly Macaroni Manufacturing Co. building, the structure now occupied by Grey Sail brewery. The brewery building later was bought by the U.S. Postal Service and spent time as a NAPA Auto Parts store, Brinton said.
The yellow taproom building, previously painted white, had been for sale as a residence for a time without success despite the stunning murals that dot the walls of the rambling building. The Brintons bought the building last November, doing only a minimum of renovations to set up a bar area, handicapped-access ramp and bathrooms.
The taproom will serve patrons various year-round and seasonal Grey Sail beers on tap as well as a choice selection of seldom-tasted Belgian brews, beers from other microbreweries in the area such as Cottrell Brewing Co. in Pawcatuck and wine from Jonathan Edwards Winery in North Stonington.
"We don't want to be a bar," Brinton said. "We don't do mixed drinks."
Instead, the parlor next to the beer taps is set up with farm tables, and there are a few other areas to lounge throughout the building's downstairs, which has two marble fireplaces.
"We want it to be relaxed ... like you are just hanging out in your own living room," Brinton said. "People do find it an interesting place."
Just as alluring is the outside, which includes more tables and a fountain near a full-size bocce court that the Brintons had installed in deference to Westerly's Italian tradition. The Brintons believe a fair number of people will stop by after a long day at the beach, enjoying hours that run from 3 to 8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, with Fridays and Saturdays ranging from noon to 8 p.m. and Sundays going from noon to 5 p.m.
The taproom by Rhode Island law lets Grey Sail serve larger portions of beer than the tasting area in the brewery allowed, and a full flight of 20 ounces will go for $10, with pints ranging from $5 to $7. Brinton said it is the only such brewery-taproom setup in Rhode Island, though measures in the state legislature have been introduced to make state laws less stringent.
"Rhode Island laws are a little more stringent than Connecticut laws," she said.
The brewery currently has eight full-time employees and one part-timer, but the taproom will require two new workers, Brinton said. The Brintons hope to begin expansion of the brewery in the fall, essentially tripling the space of the current building while ensuring that Grey Sail can continue to supply its ever-growing list of customers.
The tap room's upstairs will be used for office space.
Brinton said the brewery recently had to stop its deliveries to Massachusetts because it can't keep up with demand in its main territories of Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York City.
"We can't make enough beer," Brinton said.
WHAT: Grey Sail Tap Room
WHERE: 65 Canal St., Westerly
WHO: Alan Brinton, owner; Jennifer Brinton, manager
OPEN: Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays from 3 to 8 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 8 p.m. and Sundays noon to 5 p.m.