Newport Craft Brewing & Distilling Brings Pours, Tours, and Jobs to the City’s North End

The new state-of-the-art facility also serves as an event space and science lab


Behind the approachable lagers and IPAs and creative new beers on tap, Newport Craft Brewing & Distilling’s new location serves many functions, including that of a science lab. “A lot of people who aren’t in the brewing and distilling space don’t realize how much science is really behind what we do,” says CEO Brendan O’Donnell.

More than four years in the making, the state-of-the-art facility opened in the North End of Newport this past April and not only boasts a microbiology lab to finesse and ensure consistency in the well-known brands they distribute, but also an expansive gathering space welcoming neighbors and tourists alike.

“It’s really a hospitality experience more than anything else,” explains an enthusiastic O’Donnell. With four distinct hospitality spaces, the venue can host everything from a 200-person Magic the Gathering game tournament to farmers markets and film festivals, while simultaneously welcoming everyday guests for a frothy pour and snacks from food trucks. Bands are lined up for weekends, and summer will see many sunny days on the lawn, where a repurposed shipping container serves as a bar area. “We can say ‘yes’ a lot more, which is really exciting.”

And naturally their brewing game has leveled up. “We were able to revamp our entire product offerings over the past eight months while we’ve been through construction,” says O’Donnell of the well-known flagships they distribute and serve in the taproom. The new space also includes limited-edition beers on draft that they’re piloting, like the Neighborhood Juice blood orange IPA. For non-beer drinkers, there’s cocktails, cider, and non-alcoholic offerings like hopped water. 

O’Donnell purchased Newport Craft Brewing and Distillery in 2017, following a visit to Rhode Island with his family that turned them into full-time residents. What started as curiosity about the art of craft beer spurred by a visit to Prague in the Czech Republic – and following a Wall Street career and other entrepreneurial ventures – has blossomed into a fortuitous opportunity to build out the unique “brewstillery” concept.

“We’re looking at the long-term plan for RI in general where hopefully we become a hub for innovation but also science,” shares O’Donnell. Building an in-house lab not only lets the brewery test products for oxygen levels and to ensure alcohol levels are accurately indicated (a process most small operations rely on outside labs to perform), but also to showcase career possibilities right here in the state, hosting high school and college students for hands-on experiences at the facility. “You don’t have to be a brewer or a distiller; you can be a scientist, a salesperson, a hospitality professional. There’s several different avenues you can go down.”

Though O’Donnell had a lot to learn about Newport since his former visits as a 21-year-old college student, now, as a resident, he’s all ears when it comes to input from the community, often handing out his cell phone number. On the site that once hosted the Newport Folk Fest, “where Bob Dylan went electric in 1965,” O’Donnell notes the North End’s vibrant history, as well as the poverty the neighborhood sees today. He acknowledges the business’ position as a big player in the ongoing revitalization of the area, and his goal is to make sure their presence is a positive force for the families who’ve lived in the North End for decades. 

“I’m going to do a quarterly meeting with our neighbors to make sure we’re not only being a good neighbor but listening to what’s important to them,” says O’Donnell. So far, he’s hearing “greenspace” and “more public parks.” As a dad of two young kids, he understands this concern and plans to section off the 5,000-square-foot grassy area of the brewery one day every other week in the summer to set up slip-and-slides and family-friendly activities.

“I think it’s going to be an evolving process on how we all live together and make the North End great,” relays O’Donnell. Recalling a moment standing on the balcony of the brewery when it was first built, it dawned on him and his wife that it was so rare to see a photo of the Newport Bridge from that angle. “This brewery is literally another view of the city in a lot of ways. Newport isn’t just the Gilded Age mansions; there’s so much more than that.”


Newport Craft Brewing & Distilling

293 JT Connell Highway, Newport



On Tap and In Cans

Newport Craft Brewing & Distilling has a handful of can offerings that are household names. With a few different families, or series, of products, the brewery takes an inclusive approach to flavor profiles. Here’s the ins and outs of their popular brands: 



The classic trio of Rhode Trip (a New England IPA), Rhode Rage (double IPA), and Rhode Runner (a lager, and O’Donnell’s favorite) certainly aren’t going anywhere.


Radiant Pig

Their art- and hop-forward brand, which includes top-selling East Coast IPA Save the Robots.



The Amber Ale and Blueberry Ale are throwbacks to the brewery’s early days.



Aged in whiskey and rum barrels, these stouts and wild ales are strong brews rich in flavor.



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