By Sanne Kure-Jensen
When four college friends started planning their brewery in 1997, they never guessed how strong their business would be nearly two decades later. Using local ingredients when possible, responding to customer requests and fun marketing efforts all helped Coastal Extreme Brewing Company (locally known as Newport Storm Brewery) grow distribution to five states.
College friends Brent Ryan, Derek Luke, Mark Sinclair and Will Rafferty opened Coastal Extreme Brewing Company in 1999. The team brewed with used equipment in a 2,500-foot space at the Middletown Tradesman Center in Rhode Island. The brewery released its first batch of Hurricane Amber Ale under the Newport Storm label in July 1999. Sales growth supported their first expansion in 2002.
In 2006, Brett started Newport Distilling Company to produce Thomas Tew Single Barrel Rum with a traditional Newport recipe in honor of Newport’s role in the Triangle Trade. Selling out each year has led to steady expansion of the rum business.
In 2010, the partners expanded again, building a new 10,000-foot facility in Newport’s North End. This site has a Visitor Center and viewing deck overlooking the brewing and distilling operation. In 2014, another 10,000 feet was added to accommodate additional barrels for aging rum.
As the company expanded, so did the staff list. Another brewer and distiller were hired to help manage production. Additional staffers pour samples in the Tasting Room, host tastings in local and regional restaurants and bars as well as package stores. Other employees handle event planning, communications and merchandising. The brewery currently employs 10 people.
Responding to demand from the local sailing community, they have offered beer in cans since 2004. Glass bottles and kegs continue to sell well to retailers and restaurants through distributors. In 15 years, the brewery has produced nearly 60 varieties of craft brews including limited release beers. Each year, Newport Storm Brewery releases four small batch beers in their Cyclone Series until finishing the series with Cyclone Zach in March of 2014.
New specialty beers include a collection of 4-pack beers: Rye of the Storm, Sourpuss and more will follow. Utilizing their oak barrels after aging their Thomas Tew Single Barrel Rum, Newport Storm Brewery uses barrel aging to produce Belgian, sour, hoppy and dark beers. The latest release called “RIèzes” is a copper hued Belgian-style ale.
“Rhode Island Blueberry Beer” is available year-round. It is especially popular with summer visitors. This beer is made with blueberries from a local farm in Exeter, RI. Juice is squeezed from the blueberries using a traditional wooden press borrowed from nearby Newport Vineyards.
The annual Newport Storm Luau at Fort Adams State Park draws a larger crowd every year. In 2015, about 2000 people attended the 17th annual Luau. Guests enjoyed Polynesian music, fire dancing, local food vendors and a game pavilion. Beverages include seasonal, limited release and year-round Newport Storm Brewery’s beers, “Newport Stormies” (a local version of a “Dark & Stormy” made with Thomas Tew Single Barrel Rum and ginger beer) and Mai Tais (also made with their rum).
The Newport Storm Brewery supports their community by regularly participating in regional Craft Brew Festivals and local events like the Ocean State Brew Fest. In addition, Newport Storm is an official beer at the Newport Folk Festival and they generously donate beer to numerous non-profit events.
Two of the four founders of Coastal Extreme Brewery have become silent partners and two are still active in the company. Brent Ryan is co-founder and Master Distiller of Thomas Tew Single Barrel Rum. Derek Luke, Brewmaster and co-founder is the brewery’s resident plumber, electrician, mechanical engineer, welder, refrigeration tech and fixer of the bottling line.
Expanding cautiously has kept the partnership strong and the business sound. With a focus on freshness and quality, the brewery team expanded slowly recognizing there is more to growth than just sending beer into neighboring states. “A great deal of planning goes into expansion; shipping needs, beer allocation, promotions and licensing to name a few,” says Public Relations Coordinator, Clare Simpson-Daniel, “to do it right takes a great deal of commitment, not only by our crew, but by the wholesaler we partner with.” Newport Storm Brewery’s beers are now available across Rhode Island and in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
Brett and Derek, along with other members of the Rhode Island Brewers Guild, worked tirelessly to update Rhode Island brewery and brew pub laws. They finally succeeded in May 2014. Breweries with tasting rooms may now sell bottled beer and fill growlers.
Creativity at Newport Storm Brewery leads to steady growth
By Sanne Kure-Jensen