Sipping the Suds with Proclamation Ale Company
A Change in Legislation Allows a Small Brewery to Make the Big Move
It has been said that the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary. It’s a familiar sentiment for the owners of the newly expanded brewing enterprise, Proclamation Ale Company.
From humble beginnings at a rented warehouse space in West Kingston to the brand new state-of-the-art facility in Warwick, one element remains constant, and that is hard work. Co-owners Joshua Karten and Dave Whitham opened for business in February 2013 and for the next three-and-one-half years, they developed recipes, built a business and plotted their next move.
“We wanted to be in the geographical center of the state,” said Karten on a busy Wednesday afternoon at the new location. “We chose Warwick because 80% of the state lives within 20 minutes of here,” he added.
However, there was more to the move than that—they now have more than five times the space than they had in West Kingston. The new facility features a 2,000-square-foot wood-sided barrel aging cellar for sour and wild ales, as well as a 3,000-square-foot tasting room. The tasting room includes a retail space for Proclamation swag, a bar with a sleek new tap system for pours of the day, picnic tables and a retro-style gaming area set against a giant graphic wall mural recently completed by Providence Painted Signs. Behind all of that is nearly 10,000 square feet of brewing space capable of producing 6,000 barrels (186,000 gallons) annually.
This was made possible by a recent change in Rhode Island law pertaining to over-the-counter beer sales. On June 28, 2016, Governor Gina Raimondo signed House Bill 8100 Substitute B, and Senate Bill 3053 Substitute A, which allows micro-breweries to sell up to 288 ounces of beer for off-premise consumption (the previous limit was 78 ounces). This means that now small craft breweries can sell more beer in cans, bottles and growlers to take home, and up to 36 ounces for consumption on site.
“Before this, our hands were tied,” said Karten. “Who was going to drive across the state for a tasting and not be able to take more than a six-pack home?” said Whitham. Prior to the law change, Rhode Island’s craft breweries had long been at a competitive disadvantage. The previous laws featured a strict separation of alcohol manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors. Nearby states such as Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York have updated laws surrounding craft brewing. It left Rhode Island in a difficult spot.
“We couldn’t have done this [expansion] before,” said Karten. “It might sound like an exaggeration, but it is not—without the changes to the laws, the numbers simply did not work.”
It has worked indeed. With the relocation came expansion, and the need for more help. Proclamation went from a crew of three to a growing business with 14 employees. One needs only to look at New York State to see the benefits of laws that encourage craft beverage manufacturing. In the years since the passage of the Craft New York legislation enacted in 2014, the state has seen a 50% growth in the sector. Of the 340 new businesses that have opened since then, 260 are farm-based producers that use local ingredients in their production, creating a ripple effect throughout the economy.
Proclamation Ale experienced pushback in the form of an anonymous letter from a package store owner who felt that it was unfair for craft breweries to sell direct to customers. Proclamation teamed up with other craft brewers in the state under the banner of the Rhode Island Brewer’s Guild (RIBG) and went to the Statehouse.
RIBG’s position is that, by allowing the craft sector to flourish, retailers will have ready-built brand recognition for locally made products. The logic has worked elsewhere, and the RIBG reasons that it will work here as well.
The brewery’s location on Kilvert Street, just off Jefferson Boulevard adjacent to T.F. Green International Airport, means that it is situated in the midst of what is known as City Centre Warwick—a 95-acre site that is slated for redevelopment as a major hub with intermodal connections by air, rail and interstate highway.
“Proclamation Brewery has been a welcome addition to the City of Warwick,” said Mayor Scott Avedisian. “We are always excited when businesses make the move to Warwick, but even more so when they are as one-of-a kind as Proclamation. The brewery isn’t just a place to buy your favorite beer; it’s an experience. From the massive aging cellar and tasting room to the retro mini-arcade, Proclamation has quickly become another reason to visit the city,” added the mayor.
Multiple parcels in and around City Centre Warwick are being developed, including an Intermodal Business Center, fully permitted for 500,000 square feet of office space. Phase I calls for an initial 120,000 square feet of office space; future phases plan for a parking garage, a 320-room hotel and 420,000 square feet of additional office space. Proclamation sits squarely in the midst of this.
When asked about the future, Whitham replied, “You’re looking at it.”
There are still small construction projects that will affect the tasting room and other parts of the facility. This spring, they will add an outdoor patio, but, for the immediate future, the plan is to settle in and continue to develop. The experience of the tasting room, the ever-changing beer menu and the rotation of food trucks make this centrally located spot in our state a destination that merits repeat visits. Every week there is a new beer on tap for in-house pours. The selection of 16-ounce beers offered for sale varies from week to week.
Lovers of India Pale Ales (IPA) will find what they seek with Tendril, Stalk, Ethereous, Process/Progress #14 and others. Broze, a full-bodied oatmeal stout, is in the rotation, along with pale ale and Belgian ale. Sampling the beers at Proclamation provides a friendly atmosphere for beer enthusiasts and those just getting to know their craft beers. Regardless of which camp you’re in, be sure to ask about the wild ales aging in the oak barrels.
For more information, visit ProclamationAleCo.com