2017-01-19 / Front Page

Brew-Ha-Ha in Portsmouth

By Betsy Sherman Walker


Brewmaster John Almeida with Rugged Island partners Matt and Katie Gray. Their goal is to grow in popularity so that they can eventually brew 10-barrel batches. “Right now we’re a one-barrel operation,” Gray says. “If they like it, it will grow.” (Photo by Jen Carter) Brewmaster John Almeida with Rugged Island partners Matt and Katie Gray. Their goal is to grow in popularity so that they can eventually brew 10-barrel batches. “Right now we’re a one-barrel operation,” Gray says. “If they like it, it will grow.” (Photo by Jen Carter) When the 2016 General Assembly approved legislation last July easing restrictions for Rhode Island microbreweries, distilleries and wineries, it was a heady day for a group of six good friends who had long been waiting for the opportunity to take their beloved IPA out of the living room and into the tap room.

The official word at the time was that the law was intended to be a major assist for area microbreweries wanting to get into the beer tourism industry. Unlike local wineries, the smaller breweries had previously been “banned from selling their products at retail at their plants.”

The six-pack of entrepreneurs – Newporters Matt and Katie Gray and Patrick and Liz Donovan, and long-time friends John and Margo Almeida, who live in Maine – have named their brewery Ragged Island, and are waiting for the OK from the state that will permit them to brew, give samples, and sell, which is imminent. Matt Gray is president of Gray Matter Marketing. John Almeida is the undisputed brewmaster.

“We decided collectively a year ago to do this,” said Katie Gray. If all goes well, Ragged Island Brewery will open its doors, and its beer taps, at the beginning of February. The brew-partners will be able to sell up to three 12-ounce portions per customer in the taproom where, much like their sister wineries on the island, visitors will be able to sample the brew. People can also come in with growlers – or purchase the containers there – and leave with 64 ounces of Ragged Island’s finest.

Almeida’s signature brew is an IPA collectively – and fondly – named TwoTree. The name is not a reflection of anything found in the forest, but instead a reflection of the way words often become abbreviated or strung together in familiar circumstances. “Two or three,” as in, we were all enjoying “two-three” glasses of beer, eventually began rolling off the tongue as “twotree.”

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