Food News

Beers with a Wild Side

Ragged Island Brewing, Portsmouth's first brewery in nearly 400 years, celebrates Rhode Island's spirited heritage

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I’d like to be able to say that the long-awaited Ragged Island Brewing Co. is Portsmouth’s very first brewery. But that distinction belongs to William Baulston, who had the state’s first license to brew in the 1630s. Ragged Island Brewing co-owner Matt Gray discovered this after doing some digging, and named his freshly brewed porter after him.

Matt is one of six friends who own Ragged Island. The sextet have been drinking brewmaster John Almeida’s beer for years, especially his TwoTree IPA. It’s named for the Mainer’s way of describing how many beers he’d like to have with his friends: two to three, shortened to TwoTree.

After countless pints to themselves, the group decided to take the leap and open a brewery using John’s recipes. For Matt, there was no question that it would be located on Aquidneck Island. “We have a lot of connections to this island.”

Since John lives up in Maine on Orr’s Island, Matt’s wife Katie has taken up the brewing duties here in Rhode Island. She painstakingly follows John’s recipes, as he continues to produce new ones. At the time of the interview, three IPAs (TwoTree, TwoTree Mosaic and Indivisible), a porter (Baulston Porter) and a traditional pale ale (Coggeshall Pale Ale) were on tap. And because Ragged Island is a small operation, growlers aren’t currently available, which means beer geeks will just have to try the beer in person at the tasting room.

The tasting room is enormous. When you first walk in you’re greeted by Ragged Island’s huge logo next to a painting of a rocky shoreline complete with tall pine trees – a ragged island. “We wanted to have an adventurous feel, and we thought the name ‘Ragged Island’ encompassed that,” Matt says. “We love being in the wilderness and it’s who we are as people.” 200 High Point Avenue, Unit 6B, Portsmouth. 401-318-2991