On a late-summer Thursday afternoon at Pivotal Brewing Company, not only did it feel like the weekend had arrived early – but also the promise of fall, with many of the season’s trademark flavors maturing in tanks even as we spoke with Rebecca Ernst, who runs the Bristol brewery with Todd Nicholson. Moxie, a four-legged honorary member of the team, sat at our feet modeling perfect brewery pup behavior at the dog-friendly establishment.
Housed inside a historic mill building in Unity Park, it’s hard to miss the brick stack towering outside Pivotal, but the inside is anything but antiquated – the cavernous industrial space oozes relaxed, mellow vibes with colorful mismatching chairs, string lights crisscrossing overhead, verdant ferns, and plenty of natural lighting beaming in through sweeping windows. Guests have their choice of cozy nooks with funky tables and armchairs or long beerhall-style seating to accommodate the whole gang.
My partner and I are regulars at many breweries in our Providence neighborhood, so I brought him along on this sojourn to see how Bristol stacks up against some of our usual haunts. Ernst curated a muffin tin of flight glasses filled with frothy brews in golden amber to coffee brown, and we talked shop over first sips.
Sharing a complex with Brick Pizza Co. (which we visited afterwards for a buffalo chicken pie), vegan eatery Basil & Bunny, O’Brien & Brough distillery, and Borealis Coffee, it’s no surprise the Unity Park culinary scene overlaps – with menus at the door to order takeout to the brewery on days they aren’t hosting local food trucks – and collaborates. Ernst explained that August’s Ocean State Brewers Fest saw several businesses turn up in the shared Unity patio. Pivotal worked on a special limited-release
fest beer, which was fermented in an O’Brien & Brough barrel that once housed a Summer Rye whiskey; then the brew was aged in coffee beans from Borealis – which had been aged in whiskey barrels from the distillery before being roasted.
Letting Ernst and Moxie get back to work, my partner and I brought our flights over to an orange couch and started by sampling their flagship: Hello My Name is Pivotal. We agreed this double dry-hopped (DDH) IPA brought the strongest pine aromatics while still residing firmly in the porch sipper category with a bright finish of stone fruit.
On the juicier end of things is the Bomb Cyclone, a DDH IPA for folks who think they don’t like IPAs – the bitterness is balanced with a fruity explosion of flavor from citra hops. Danker and hazier than the Bomb, and with a satisfying velvety mouthfeel and complexity, the single-hop Shakedown Street may have been my favorite IPA.
I’m a sucker for a good fruited sour, and the Lovely Rita, a light (only 4.3 percent alcohol by volume) margarita-inspired gose, was refreshing without tasting artificial like some fruited beers; the lime and salt didn’t overpower the experience of drinking a high-quality wheat beer.
The color palette – and flavor palate – took a shift with Sir Completely. This creamy, malty red extra special bitter (ESB) ale is a foray into fall, without being so on the nose about it as a pumpkin ale served with spiced rim. No, this serious ale may trick you into thinking it’s a basic dad beer if not for the delightful twist of also pouring as a nitro, with a lingering frothy head, and a lot of character beneath the malt. Last, and certainly not least, was my partner’s favorite, the Midnight Bryter – a clean, balanced dark lager that’s flavorful with just a hint of malt sweetness and not too heavy.
Creativity and dedication to the process are trademarks of Pivotal, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find plenty of approachable, crushable ales on tap, too. I bought a four-pack to bring a little bit of the experience home. Cracking open a Truth Serum session IPA to finish penning this account, I can’t lie – Pivotal has easily risen to the ranks as one of my favorite Rhody breweries.
500 Wood Street, Building 111, Bristol
401-638-1100 • PivotalBrewing.com
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