Buttonwoods Brewery is among the handful of Rhode Island breweries slotted to open its doors to the public in 2017. Named for the neighborhood in Warwick, RI where his parents live, Buttonwoods is the brainchild of Morgan Clark Snyder Jr. who, after five years of homebrewing, as well as working for both a distributor and small brewery in New York City, saw an opportunity to open a brewery in Rhode Island where the craft beer movement is still very much on the rise. Teaming up with his father, who moved to the state three years earlier and is the business side of the brewery, Morgan plans to brew a wide array of beers to satisfy any beer drinker who walks into his brewery. As a homebrewer and all around beer nerd, I was very excited to talk to Morgan about his beer, brewing, and craft beer perspective.
I visited Morgan at his still-under-construction brewery to find out more about his plans.
Rich: What types of beer do you plan to have on tap?
Morgan: Everything. Part of this whole project is that it’s literally a science experiment for me. I’m coming in with two years of experience as a professional brewer, and I want to do all those things that I wanted to do (but couldn’t do) at the Bronx Brewery. I always wanted to be more creative, but they already had set expectations for what their beers should be. So coming out of the gate, I hope to always have four different styles on tap: Saison (because that’s my favorite beer), IPA, Kölsch, and some kind of mixed fermentation. We are going to have berliner weisses and goses. We are going to have some barrel aged sours (though obviously it’s going to take a lot of time to get to those). I plan to brew some of those barrel aged sours now so that I can put them straight into barrels.
R:Will you have any “flagship” beers that you will build your brand around? Or are you planning more towards a model of all “one-off” beers?
M: That’s all part of the experiment right there. Truth be told, with the exception of working at the Bronx Brewery, there has only been one recipe that I have ever rebrewed a second time in five years of homebrewing. Everything else has been a one-off. Year one I am planning on doing all one-offs. Year two I will repeat some recipes that did exceptionally well from year one and mix in some new recipes as well. As we grow, we will refine the core beers that we keep around as often as possible, and also do a bunch of crazy one-offs. I was reading this morning that 36% of the beers consumed on the market (not manufactured) are IPAs. So we are going to brew a lot of IPAs, while the saisons, kölsches, berliner weisses, and goses are what will make us unique.
Our conversation then turned to New England-style IPAs, how Morgan brews them, and the consumer buzz surrounding them. He poured me a pilot batch that was his take on the New England IPA and told me that he brewed it with 75% Maris Otter malt , 25% Flaked Oats, and a homebrewer yeast that is called “The Juice”. He used 100% Chinook hops, and the beer didn’t receive its first hop addition until there were 15 minutes left in the boil- lending itself to a profile that focuses more on hop flavor than hop bitterness. The beer was a very pale straw color (he says he has an obsession with making the palest beers ever), had very distinguished fruity and piny flavors from the hops, and a very dry finish. It was quite tasty! Buttonwoods plans to satisfy the part of the craft beer market that seeks New England IPAs. But not every person will be happy with that.
R: There are some who argue that brewing an IPA with this type of turbidity is flawed brewing, that the yeast shouldn’t be present. It sounds like you disagree with that when it comes to the New England IPA?
M: Just look at Belgian witbier and German hefeweizens- it’s the same thing. It tastes great. Or a zwickelbier- they’re fantastic. [Zwickelbier is] an unfiltered lager with a yeast that has very poor flocculation. The yeast adds its own lemony character- not quite tart, but like the sweeter side of a lemon, like the lemon head. The yeast can add some good things to beer… some bad things too, but as far as the New England IPA is concerned there is nothing bad going on here- if you’re doing it right.
Our conversation then turned to the local community and the Rhode Island craft beer scene at large.
R: A lot has changed in the Rhode Island beer scene in the past few years. You are one of a few new breweries that are slotted to open their doors this year. How does it feel to be part of that growth?
M: It’s great. When I first came up with the idea to do it here, there wasn’t anything here. So it’s great to see other things happening here. Last year Long Live opened…that’s it. The year before that I don’t think anything opened. Everywhere I’ve lived since college has had a new brewery opening up every couple of months. It’s exploded, it’s great. But here there hasn’t been as much.
R: So you think that there’s still lots more room to grow? More room for more breweries?
M: There’s so much more room to grow. It’s a very friendly environment among the local breweries. I hang out with the guys at Proclamation pretty often, I talk to Armando at Long Live about once a month, and Matt down at Tilted Barn has let me pick his brain a few times. It seems like everybody wants the local craft beer scene in Rhode Island to grow.
R: So it sounds like there’s a common interest amongst breweries in this state to both improve and grow the local beer scene?
M: We kind of get tied in together. So if someone has a bad beer from Rhode Island, then all of Rhode Island beer hurts as a result. So it helps to work together. A high tide raises all boats. I want this to be a very open and welcoming community.
R: Have many locals taken notice to you working on the brewery? Have people been welcoming?
M: It’s been great! People have been so receptive and so kind. People stop by all the time and ask how are you doing and when are you going to be open? It’s great, people are excited. For me to be adopted into a community- it’s worked out way better than I expected.
R: Do you plan to collaborate/cooperate with local businesses?
M: My big things is that I want to work with as many local people as possible. Whether it’s my electrician or the guy who makes my tap handles, I want to work with as many locals as I possibly can. I talked with a guy who is growing his own hops in his back yard, and we are talking about potentially using some of his stuff.
R: One thing that I don’t think I’ve seen in Rhode Island that much (if at all) is collaboration beers between breweries within the state. Do you see yourself doing commercial collaborations ?
M: I knew you were going to ask that question! In my head, I will have done a collaboration with every single brewery here. Realistically, I don’t know if I’ll get to every brewery, but I’ll try.
R: Do you have an idea about when you might be ready to open your doors and start selling beer to the public?
M: I’m still waiting on some licensing from the Federal Government. But we should be open before the end of April. I have a strong feeling it’ll be April 4th– a lot of people in my life were born on April 4th and a lot of things have happened in my life on April 4th, so I have a strong feeling…
Morgan has designed his business with the probability for growth in mind. He has a large space with more space in units adjacent to his that he would love to move into in the future. At the start, the vast majority of Buttonwoods’ offerings will only be available in the tap room, but he hinted that he was in the process of working with distributors to get his beer out to local bars. Morgan told me that the quality of the beer should speak for itself, and if Morgan comes out swinging like he plans to, it sounds like his beer will sell itself (though him being a good salesman helps too). Keep an eye out for Buttonwoods, Rhode Island! The beer tastes good and it’s something to get excited about!