Brewery of the Month: Ragged Island Turns Two on St. Patrick’s Day

We continue our “Brewery of the Month” series with a profile of Ragged Island Brewery in Portsmouth.

A chilly winter breeze steered us toward Ragged Island Brewery on a recent Saturday afternoon. We found it warm and toasty in the Portsmouth taproom where customers enjoyed samples, some even bringing their dogs in for a pit stop. (Sorry, no tastings for the pups.)

Ragged Island is a relatively new member to the larger family of RI micro-breweries, now numbering around 30, with more popping up regularly. Ragged turns two years old this weekend and is celebrating with the release of a new beer, 5th Ward Stout, which honors St. Patrick’s Day and all things Newport.

We were welcomed by co-founder Matt Gray, who showed us around the cozy taproom and described expansion plans for the upstart brewery. Ragged, named for the island where it stands, is in the process of purchasing the 37 acre Van Hof Nursery just down the road in Portsmouth, a location that will house a new brewery and tasting room. Plans call for a 20 barrel brewhouse on the property and they even expect to grow their own hops on the site of the former family farm.

Ragged Island Brewery co-Founder Matt Gray with WURI publisher Ryan Belmore
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The mission at Ragged Island highlights commitment to community; in the brews they produce, the art they display, and the direction they are going. The decision to expand the business while preserving the rural nature of the former nursery is an example, as is their commitment to local and national charitable organizations. They support numerous initiatives including the annual Pell Bride Run, a special edition ALS beer, and fundraising for hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.

While there, we sampled a few from the tap, enjoying the locally christened Aquidneck IPA as well as a sturdy potent Five Tsar Imperial Stout. They both ranked high in taste and quality. The variety of beers available is an indication that this brewery pays close attention to evolving tastes, with around a dozen pours offered on tap.  

You can sample what the brewery has to offer this weekend at numerous events around Aquidneck Island including the 5th Ward Launch Party Friday at Midtown Oyster Bar in Newport. For more, check their Facebook page here.