Foolproof Brewing Company
“It’s great to run a brewery, and I get to do what I love, but it’s the polar opposite of relaxing.” -Nick Garrison, owner Foolproof Brewing Company
Craft beer and New England—one of this country’s oldest brewing areas—are one in the same. Being a Vermonter myself, I love to see good ole fashioned Yankee hard work turn into a success. I had a chance to chat with Nick Garrison, owner of Foolproof Brewing Company, so he could tell us why he chose to start his brewery in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and how success has treated him so far.
Hey Nick. Tell us about yourself.
I’m originally from Needham, Ma. I went to school in Boston at Tufts University. I was always into and intrigued by good beer, even in my college days. Like many people in the industry, I started as a homebrewer. I got a brewing kit one year from my folks for Christmas—two buckets, some hoses a few books—and that pretty much changed my life. I started off extract brewing, and I just needed to know more, so I quickly moved into all-grain, kegging, etc.
My wife and I actually got married the same year that I started brewing. I brewed all the beer for my wedding, which was a great personal touch to add to that special day. I had a few people jokingly mention that I should really think about doing this full time, and that was sort of the proverbial “light bulb moment” for me. This was June 2008.
A few days later, my wife and I were at brewpub in Quebec City, and she mentioned, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a place like this for ourselves?” This was the exact moment when I knew that one way or another I was going to open a brewery. At that time, I really didn’t know anything about the beer business, so I started reading books about running a business and opening a brewery.
I quit my job in the spring of 2012, and my brewmaster, Damase Olsson, and I started building out the brewery. It only took us eight months to build out the brewery in Pawtucket. We brewed our first batch on December 7, 2012, and opened in January, 2013. Since then, we’ve added distribution to Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire.
Looks like you’ve got New England covered. Why did you choose Pawtucket for your brewery?
A lot of people don’t realize it, but it’s really where the American industrial revolution started. We were immediately drawn to the character of the city. The city was also very eager to see a new brewery open in their backyard, and the fact that Pawtucket had invested so much in their water treatment facility was another obvious plus.
Editor’s note: I had been mispronouncing “Pawtucket” for the entire conversation up to this point, and I was politely informed that it’s pronounced “Puh-tuck-it”. Mea Culpa.
What’s the feedback so far on your beer?
I’ve been really happy with the response from our customers. It’s a hugely competitive market, and with a new brewery opening up every week, it’s hard to stay top of mind. It’s easy to dump a ton of hops into a kettle, but it’s much more nuanced and challenging to produce a balanced beer. As an example, we are really proud of Barstool, which hits all the right notes for a full-flavored, sessionable golden ale.
Talk to us about your branding.
Our way of marketing the beer is around the experience. Beer is about bringing people together and hanging out. That concept is reflected in the names and symbols of the beers. It’s a concept that anyone can relate to: the rainy day beer, the backyard barbecue beer, etc. We love one-off, original beers and local collaborations, don’t get me wrong, but for us, it’s about being innovative and challenging yourself, while still not losing site of your core portfolio.
What are you biggest challenges right now?
We certainly don’t have a ton of money, and in the early formative years, cashflow is critical. You can write a business plan, but you never know what you need until you actually get going. The constant surprises keep coming, as far as expenses. It’s great to run a brewery, and I get to do what I love, but it’s the polar opposite of relaxing.
What are you drinking right now that isn’t Foolproof?
I’m always drinking a beer I’ve never had before, or a local beer—preferably from Rhode Island. “Local” is not just a trendy marketing concept, you also get the freshest beer drinking that way. In Rhode Island alone, we’ve had a huge surge of breweries opening, and as a result, there are a lot of great new beers popping up around the state.
Chris McClellan is an avid craft beer fan and founder of The Brew Enthusiast. A native Vermonter currently moving to NYC, Chris loves a great concert and an equally compelling conversation. You can find him on twitter @brewenthusiast or feel free to shoot him an old fashioned email at email@example.com.