Richard Branson dropped out of school at 16 and launched Student, a magazine which highlighted the youth culture of Britain in the swinging sixties. Not only is the swinging sixties the best nickname to any decade ever, it was also a wonderful time to challenge the status quo. Branson sold £8000 worth of advertising in his first issue and found early success in the career that he believed he wanted to follow — journalism. While running Student and fulfilling his goal of writing, he quickly acquired the entrepreneurial skills necessary to keep that magazine afloat, which eventually led to the creation of a mail-order record company—Virgin — in 1970, which grew into Virgin Records by 1973. The rest, as they say, is history.
Life doesn’t always play out the way we plan, but more often than not if you follow a passion — something that you both love and can excel at — opportunities arise that would be difficult to imagine. Matt and Kara Richardson opened Ocean State Hops in 2007, a commercial hop farm with the aim to provide fresh hops to local breweries and homebrewers alike. Less than a decade later, they would open up their own brewery — Tilted Barn Brewery — and immediately produce some of the most sought after beer in New England. Did they predict in 2007 that within ten years of Ocean State Hop’s inception that they’d transition from a hop operation to a craft brewery — one that’s mentioned in the same breath as Tree House and Trillium? Probably not. Yet this is who they are in 2018 and beer lovers across America, not just New England, can rejoice — another world-class brewery has sprouted from this nation’s soil.
The sky might be cobalt blue, but good luck finding sun on the dirt road that leads to Tilted Barn brewery. A canopy of dense forest and jagged rock comprise the Exeter, Rhode Island beer-makers entrance — it’s width too narrow to fit two cars comfortably. Yet once that road opens up, and the sun reveals itself, you’re greeted with a pastoral paradise. Donkeys, green tractors, and faded red barns dot the expansive landscape. On your walk up to the Tilted Barn you’d be hard-pressed not to cross paths with a friendly canine or two after, of course, you pay homage to the two donkeys that greet each visitor in Tilted Barn’s makeshift parking lot. Children run endlessly around the farm too. If you have a heart, these features will hook you to the grounds quickly. See you aren’t really visiting a brewery on a farm, you’re just visiting a farm that that houses first-rate beer. As such, you will not find rows of picnic tables for seating, nor a wide wooden bar to post-up at. You will be sold a pint, a flight, or some cans to-go, and then its up to you. Picnic blankets and lawn chairs work, but so does the grass on the sprawling field across from the Tap Room, or strolls through the back groves teaming with hops and sheep. If you love beer and aren’t a goddamned shut-in, this place is Elysium.
My friend traveled to Kazan for the World Cup this summer. Kazan is 800 kilometers east of Moscow and closer to Russia’s Kazak border in the east than it is the Ukrainian one in the west. On the menu at a duel dance club and karaoke bar — a monstrosity of a venue if there ever was one — there was a New England IPA on tap. This is insane. Yet it only doubles down on the notion that NEIPAs are eating the world. It is to Tilted Barn’s great prestige then, that in the epicenter of NEIPAs, where competition for the style is unmatched, they still stand tall — mountains above the majority of their competition. And it’s not just my word you have to rely on —their Beer Advocate and Untapped ratings are off the charts.
It seems obvious and oversimplified, but of course a hop farm would produce exquisite hop-forward beer. Tilted Barn does produce other styles, but over half of their archived offerings are a derivative of an IPA. This might be a slighting statement to some brewers, but those beer-makers don’t have The Chosen One or The Other One’s recipes in their repertoire. The Chosen One is Tilted Barn’s highest rated beer, their flagship, and holds the quality that one would expect from a brewery whose made their name on haze and juice. The nose of the beer screams pineapple and mango, with the taste following suit. Tons of pineapple, cantaloupe, and orange fill each sip, with small hits of grapefruit and lemon throughout, which ends with a resiny lingering finish. What’s remarkable about this beer is that it looks like a pineapple milkshake — a light gold complexion that is visibly silky and dense — all while weighing in at a staggering 8.5% ABV. There’s almost no alcohol in the tasting, which is incredible, with subtle hops complementing, not overpowering the beer. The Other One, Tilted Barn’s other flagship, is also an NEDIPA that I’d argue is nearly as epic as The Chosen One. It holds many of the same characteristics in composition, mouthfeel, and alcohol as it’s big brother, but with a few key differences. The color of the beer has a distinct orange hue, markedly more than The Chosen One with a few flavor variations — namely a ripe mango profile. Either can be your favorite. Both are world-class.
Milo’s Phoenix was another awesome offering and their representative of a traditional NEIPA, clocking in at 6.8%. The pour was a milky straw yellow and with a pilsner malt-bill — it had an exceptionally soft mouthfeel. I got pineapple and guava throughout, but Milo’s Phoenix stands-out with strong elements of grass, pine, and resin too. It’s still a massively fruit forward IPA, but the earthy characteristics here are a winner. The list goes on. Violet is great, sharing that pilsner-malt base with Milo’s Phoenix, but is markedly more floral than much of Tilted Barn’s IPA fleet. Waterlemon Cay, another DIPA, was pleasant and light, with pineapple and grass flowing through each sip.
One of my formative beer experiences was traveling to a Munich suburb and witnessing an authentic German beer garten in action. What struck me was how familial the atmosphere was and the stark contrast between how that culture handled beer, compared to what I knew back home. Tilted Barn would be on the map whether or not they were located on a family farm — the hype is real, their beer is decidedly world-class. Yet it’s their open, animal and kid friendly grounds, that made me fall in love. You want to spend time on the farm, you want to be a part of that brewery’s culture. It’s what makes Tilted Barn not just a great New England brewery, but one of the most unique beer-makers in the country.
Strengths: Top Tier NEIPA Producer / Pastoral Setting / Kid Friendly / Donkeys
Weaknesses: Beer Sells Out Fast / Tricky to Find on First Visit
Tips: While Tilted Barn is incredibly kid friendly and has their own animals gloriously running around, don’t bring pooch to their farm, that GOOD BOY isn’t allowed.
FEAST: Rotating food trucks.
FROTH: The Other One — a truly remarkable DIPA or Milo’s Phoenix for stamina.
FEAST: 4/10 – FROTH: 10/10 – BREWERY: 10/10