Matt Gray of Ragged Island Brewing

Rhode Island Craft Beer Week begins this Friday. That means it’s time to celebrate the 35+ breweries around the state!

Dozens of events, from Cupcake Flight Pairings (Linesider, March 6) to PINTendo Games Night (Narragansett, March 11) are happening at participating breweries statewide between March 3-12, click here for the complete list.

To learn more about the festivities, we spoke with Matt Gray, President of the RI Brewers Guild and owner and co-founder with his wife Katie, of Ragged Island Brewing in Portsmouth.

“It’s our second year doing it, good to see it picking up, it’s grown a little bit,” Gray says of the week-plus-long celebration. “Last year was our first year organizing it as the Rhode Island Brewers Guild. It was an initiative that started the previous year, there was a lot of work behind the scenes getting everyone on the same page, including the breweries, the distributors, and all the bars and restaurants who participate.”

The RI Brewers Guild is “an association that has been around since about 2017,” says Gray. “It goes back to the original five founding members, the first five breweries in the state, now there are 37 breweries operating, 35 are members of the Rhode Island Brewers Guild.”

March is an especially good month to run the event as breweries are beginning to ramp up for the Spring and Summer seasons. “It’s a little slower time of the year for everybody so a good time to band together and promote together and get behind it. The vast majority of Rhode Island brewery guild members are hosting events,” adds Gray.

Gray shared that business at most breweries is back to pre-pandemic levels. As for his brewery, change has been dramatic. Ragged Island closed its small tasting room and moved to its current location, the farm in Portsmouth in 2021. “Things have certainly improved for us,” he notes. “In general, I think people are back into going out and enjoying local craft beer at the source where it’s made.”

Photo Credit: Ragged Island Brewing Company

For the celebration, Ragged Island is introducing a new beer in collaboration with Tilted Barn Brewery, described by Gray as “a wonderful farmhouse Saison that will be coming out with a little bit of cracked pepper and local honey.” Other highlights for the week include a chili cook-off at Linesider Brewery, a new event this year. “There’s a Saugy eating contest there as well. There will be two contests, one for brewery industry folks, another for the general public.”

Gray is also excited about the “Road Map” challenge, where you can use the RI Brewers Passport app to check in at the various breweries. “If you check in on the app we can track who’s participating and be able to choose a couple of winners, people who go to the most breweries during the entire week, which is really more than a week, as it includes two weekends. You can visit every brewery if you plan properly and use a designated driver, of course. Last year, I think three people completed the entire Rhode Island Brewery list in a week, which is very impressive,” shared Gray. “Rhode Island is probably the only state in the country where you can do that.”

For a complete list of events during Craft Beer Week, click here.