In 1769, Newport, Rhode Island was home to 22 distilleries, was one of the five most frequented ports in the New World, and was a safe haven for pirates. The era of rebels and rum didn't last forever, and after the sugar tax and the British occupation, the distilleries all closed their doors by 1872. Today, after seven years of brewing beer, Coastal Extreme Brewing Company & Distillery is returning to it's roots to save the rum! Rum Barrels at the Thomas Tew Distillery — Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan
It all started with a group of college friends who liked beer a little too much and decided to open a brewery. As the legend goes, after visiting Newport and taking in a few pints, Derek Luke made a late-night call to his friend Brent Ryan declaring that the brewery should be built in Newport.
In January, 2010 the new batch of Hurricane Amber Ale went into the tanks and the visitor center was opened daily. Ask a local what their take is on Newport Storm (Rhode Island's only microbrewery), and you may get differing opinions. They have unique flavors such as blueberry and peach, as well as classical wheat beers and amber ale - not to mention a constantly changing "featured" brew. In 2007 the company received a license to begin distilling rum - and you may be pleasantly surprised with the results.
The rum is made with traditional techniques using blackstrap molasses and yeast. It is twice distilled to increase the flavor and left in oak barrels to age, mimicking methods of the 18th and 19th centuries. The result is Thomas Tew, an 82-proof rum with a smooth finish and sharp - yet sweet - caramel-infused flavor that is named after Newport's famous pirate who was shot from a cannonball.Thomas Tew rum — Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan
Tours and tastings of the Coastal Extreme Brewing Company & Distillery take place at 3pm, and be sure to get there on time! This is no Guiness factory; it is a small facility with information about how the business got started, the brewing and distilling process, and tastings of the beer and rum. Sample Thomas Tew before and after it is distilled, as well as samples of seasonal beers and old favorites. There is also a small gift shop, making it an easy way to spend a few hours on a rainy day weekend in Newport and learn a little history of the area to boot. You can also catch a bit of the excitement on the Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs" where the distillery is featured.