Number of Employees - 11-25
Founding Date - December 7th, 2012
Distribution - Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Texas (Dallas area)
Taproom/Tasting Hours - Fridays from 5:00-7:00 p.m. (tastings only); Saturdays 1:00-5:00 p.m. (tours and tastings)
In one of our most enjoyable and candid conversations to date, we got a chance to sit down with Nick Garrison to chat about his small, but growing, Rhode Island brewery. Being native New Englanders ourselves, we love to see this small New England state flexing its craft muscles.
This is Nick and the Foolproof Crew.
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, and 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 in 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 8 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 spread our distribution from RI to MA, CT, VT, and NH.
Looks like you’ve got New England covered. Why did you choose Pawtucket as the place to get your brewery going?
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.
Looks like you expanded your distribution pretty quickly. How is that going?
RI is a pretty small beer market. We have a certain capacity of beer we can make. If we were based in VT, it might be a different story, but we can make more beer than RI can buy right now. It was a business decision to enter other markets.
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. We have our core brands and a nice portfolio. I feel that we have a beer for everyone. Golden Ale, IPA, Russian Imperial Stout, porter, farmhouse ale. 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. We’ve got a great collaboration coming up in the next year (Spoiler alert – It’s going to be a killer chocolate oyster stout). For us, it’s about being innovative and challenging yourself, while still not losing site of your core beers...does that make sense?
Perfect sense. What are you biggest challenges right now?
We certainly don’t have a ton of money, and 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.
You weren’t always called “Foolproof” right?
Formerly we were called High Jinx Brewing Company, but we couldn’t get a federal trademark for that name. We didn’t want to live in fear of getting a cease and desist, so we decided to avoid any potential legal problems by changing the name. Sometimes these things work out for the best – I like our new name even more. Why pick Foolproof? The jester is the fool. The proof is the beer.
I’m assuming your local community is grooving on your beer too?
We frequently donate beer to local events and causes, and we show up to most of these events. We have a real sense of pride for Pawtucket and the business community. The growth of craft beer in RI is great, and folks really like it. Out-of-staters really seem to enjoy the beer and our brewery as well.
Anything else you want to tell us?
We get a lot of compliments on our brewery tours. Please come check them out! We host tastings on Fridays from 5:00 to 7:00 and tours on Saturdays from 1:00 to 5:00.
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 RI 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.
Thanks Nick. We just cracked a Backyahd and we're looking forward to seeing your continued success!
Take a minute to check out this great episode from American Brewed on Foolproof Brewing company!
Article published January, 2015.
Are you a brewery who'd like to be featured? Whether you're nano, micro, macro, or still fermenting, we'd love to hear from you. Reach out and we'll try to get back to you as soon as possible!