A lot has changed over the past few months for the company that produces Newport Storm beer and Thomas Tew rums. In March, it was announced that a private equity group had purchased a controlling interest in the company. Along with renovations to the brewery, Newport Storm’s packaging was rebranded with modern, clean and crisp labeling. The company announced a release calendar for new products, including a double IPA called “Rhode Rage,” a moonshine, a gin and an American amaro.
With a revamped look and many exciting changes ahead for Rhode Island’s first craft brewery, one thing that has not changed is Brent Ryan’s passion for what he does each day.
Brent Ryan is one of the founders of Newport Craft Brewing and Distilling and currently its President and Master Distiller. He developed a passion for beer while enjoying products from Maine’s burgeoning craft brewers while attending college there in the mid-1990s. With degrees in biochemistry and mathematical economics, Ryan spent the year after graduation writing a business plan for the brewery while working for a large pharmaceutical company.
In 2006, the company acquired Rhode Island’s first distilling license since 1872 and Ryan began distilling their Thomas Tew Rum. Previously Ryan was named as the Rhode Island SBA’s young entrepreneur of the year and he and his company have received numerous awards and been featured in a variety of local and national media including Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, The New York Times, anappearancearane in the Vineyard Vines catalog.
Ryan has spent 20 years in Newport, the last 11 with his wife Claire who is a Scientist at NUWC. They have two children, Sabrina and Sebastian, who were both born at Newport Hospital. Friends in the area easily spot him on area thoroughfares driving his old BMW that he refuses to give up. In the summer he can be found wearing a, generally, ridiculous Hawaiian shirt and drinking Newport Storm and Thomas Tew around Newport. In the winter he spends many of his weekends on the ski slopes of Vermont with his family (sometimes reluctantly).
Co-Founder and Master Distiller at Newport Craft Brewing and Distilling
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I have a wife and two kids, so whatever it is, it better have already happened.
The best thing you ever drank?
The Mai Tai at the Halekulani in Hawaii – classic Tiki
The worst thing you ever drank?
Shot of Avalanche (peppermint liqueur) in a Newport Storm Amber Ale. It was called a Snowstorm. It was a S..tstorm
Proudest accomplishment in life?
My family (but the brewery and distillery is pretty cool, too)
The Dark Knight
You’re offered a shot, what are you shooting?
Whatever my bartender is recommending. That’s why we have them, right?
Most embarrassing moment?
Being told I mistook my girlfriend’s sister for her.
Place you’d like to visit the most?
Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later
Favorite ice cream flavor?
Pralines and Cream
Favorite bar in town?
You know I can’t answer that….
Favorite bar out of town?
Taproom on 19th (South Philadelphia) – The owner plays in a hair metal band
Weirdest 7/11 purchase?
Half Acre IPA in Chicago, who would have thought?
Last book you’ve read or recommend?
I’m stuck in an endless loop of the Harry Potter books with my two children
If you could be on any game show, what would it be?
The Running Man
Empire Strikes Back
If you had to listen to one album on loop for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Grateful Dead From The Mars Hotel
What’s a hobby you’ve had or currently have?
The brewery and distillery has been my hobby for the last 20 years
Ideal Newport meal. (Combination of restaurants around town)
Favorite App, Entree, Dessert, Drink?
The Local Mai Tai at Diego’s, Stuffies at Brick Alley Pub, Smoked Combo Platter at the Smokehouse, Key Lime Pie at Midtown Oyster
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?
Being outdoors with family and friends
Best meal you’ve ever had?
Mom’s Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner
Preferred hangover regime?
Anything that doesn’t involve being responsible for anything or anyone.
Biggest pet-peeve while working?
Things that aren’t put away.
If you had to drink only one alcoholic beverage for the rest of your life what would it be?
Newport Storm Hurricane Amber Ale
*See the best meal ever had
If you could change one thing about Newport, what would it be?
The curmudgeon who has the summer home behind me. She’s gotta go.
Weirdest request you’ve ever been asked while working?
A woman asked me for my shirt once and then attempted to pull it off. Actually, that’s happened more than once.
If you had one superpower what would it be?
What’s your spirit animal?
Two words that describe you?
Irritatingly Precise (Repetitive Storyteller is a close second)
What do you know now that you wish you’d known ten years ago?
Visiting breweries and buying $15 4-packs of beer were going to be a thing.
Newport Craft Brewing & Distilling Co. is located at 293 JT Connell Hwy in Newport and online at www.newportcraft.com
Shift Drinks is a new weekly column on WhatsUpNewp that hopes to highlight local hospitality professionals around town. With so many unique, talented and passionate individuals working in the service industry, this series aims to introduce some new faces, feature some familiar ones and give you an insight into their lives outside the workplace. To see more in this series, visit http://whatsupnewp.com/category/shift-drinks/.
Tyler Bernadyn is a local hospitality professional, bartending at Midtown Oyster Bar Wednesday through Sunday nights on the Burgee Bar and at Caleb&Broad on Monday nights for their award-winning $10 entree dinner special.
Tyler is a graduate of Providence College and a true Rhode Islander, born and bred.
Email him at TylerBernadyn@gmail.com and follow him on Instagram at @tylerbernadyn.