Jeremy Duffy, left, and Devin Kelly say they are pumped about The Guild’s growth in 2019, and expect even bigger things in 2020. The Pawtucket brewery on Main Street brews beers on behalf of partner breweries but also makes its own beers on its destination campus. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)
PAWTUCKET – Last year was a banner one even for a brewery that was already putting out more beer than all other Rhode Island breweries combined, as The Guild on Main Street in Pawtucket produced 63,000 barrels for its partner breweries.
Perhaps even more impressive than the 45 percent growth in brewing operations, the brewing cooperative co-owned by Jeremy Duffy and Devin Kelly achieved 96 percent growth in its retail operations.
Last year saw 85,000 visitors, easily beating the owners’ projection of 80,000 people made last September and building on the 52,000 visitors who came in 2018 and 40,000 who came through the doors in 2017. That high volume of visitors was driven in part by 202 events, many in the new Barn event space, Beer Garden, and Beer Hall.
And while most of the breweries represented at The Guild are officially based in other New England locales, there’s no doubt that these out-of-state breweries are helping to drive local, regional and even national tourism to the Ocean State.
The Guild owners are expecting to soon launch a new small-batch beer hall at a soon-to-be-announced spot in Rhode Island. By comparison, that brewery will have up to a seven-barrel system while the Pawtucket brewery has a 100-barrel system.
“Pawtucket’s always going to be the mother ship,” said Duffy.
The Guild is still kind of a startup business, says Duffy, so it won’t see 2019 growth levels again, but he said “we’re really happy” with how the retail component of the business went last year. The exciting aspect here is what a “community-based place” it’s becoming, said Duffy, whether people are coming for a date night or just to hang out with friends, often with their children and pets in tow.
The Guild, now that things have “really started popping,” said Duffy, has 48 full-time and part-time staffers.
“We want a place where you can come in and feel comfortable,” he said.
That “no-stress” environment includes games, including cornhole, and an extended menu now including flatbread pizza regularly and popup restaurants on Saturdays. Live music is on the menu for Fridays and Saturdays.
The sense of community is seen in all sorts of events, from galas for United Way or Crossroads, to birthday parties and weddings. Last year there were 15 total weddings held here, while 19 had already been booked for 2020 after the first week of the year.
“The Barn has turned into something really nice,” said Duffy.
The key in the brewing industry is to understand who you are, said Kelly and Duffy, and what all breweries in this area understand is what they are is a community.
Partner brewery Narragansett Beer is now spreading its Rhode Island wings a bit and planning an experimental brewery in Providence. The Guild could never be “the Narragansett spot” because of its brewing partners, and ’Gansett needs a spot to showcase its brand more, said Duffy. The company still has a year left on its lease here and could end up keeping some operations in Pawtucket.
The Guild’s craft beer consortium, founded to help build capacity for smaller breweries looking to grow, now produces beer for Night Shift Brewing, Sons of Liberty, Willie’s Superbrew, Narragansett, Wash Ashore and Devil’s Purse, among others.
The Guild, with its own new house brews being added all the time, “is becoming a brand” in itself, said the owners.
“I think what you’re seeing is breweries almost becoming the hometown bar and community spot,” said Duffy.
Many people feel there’s greater freedom in going to a brewery, where they can bring their family and their dog and try something new.
“It’s much more a community location than anything else,” he said. “It almost feels a little bit like Europe. It’s almost like the European model where the pub was the community gathering place.”
On a recent week in January, The Guild hosted events on four straight nights, including a holiday party, a planning association meeting, a Blackstone Valley Prep teacher appreciation event, and a 30th birthday party.
Resolutions for 2020 include continuing to improve the 130,000-square-foot campus on Main Street, including creating more beer garden seating, deciding the future of an 18,000-square-foot vacant space, and increasing capacity for a brew house that now holds 15 tanks. Other projects are also in the works, say Duffy and Kelly, but details will have to wait.
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