Neatly reminiscent of a proper English pub, pine-timbered Country Inn-styled sports bar, Mews Tavern is rightly claimed Southern Rhode Island’s best and most popular watering hole. Hosting an astounding 69 microbrew taps in its original tree house-like tavern, this natural wood Colonial-style fort just a few miles west of historic Newport also serves affordable gourmet pizza and juicy burgers.
A well-established mill town hotspot originally making its mark as a gathering place for local fishermen way back in 1947, Mews grew in size after acquiring the property next door. Nowadays, the sylvan Wakefield sanctuary has become the University of Rhode Island’s coolest hangout, appeasing traditionalist-minded locals and Narragansett Bay seafarer as well.
“This whole complex is two different buildings that were constructed then pieced together in ‘98,” trusted controller George McAuliffe explains. “The Tavern was the original bar. The stand-alone building next to it was built in the 1800’s and had an outdoor patio. There was a beech tree in the middle of the room that stayed after the roof was put in.”
Christened the Tree Room, the family-friendly main dining space features rustic regalia such as a canoe, kayak, ski lift chair and bicycle amongst its villager decor. When I first visited Mews nearly a decade back, my family sat next to the enclosed beech tree watching tv and enjoying the nacho platter and a few pizzas while some well-chosen local beers were consumed.
On my follow-up April 2012 trip, my wife and I settle in the original Tavern under the bay-windowed booth (where Jägermeister and Knob Creek Bourbon mirrored plaques hang). The side-winding bar (with short ice cream parlor chairs) displays the tap-handled beer assortment and thousands of stapled dollar bills wishing good luck line the walls. One bar-bound tv has a soon-to-be classic Yankees-Red Sox game on (Boston blew a nine-run lead) while the one above our heads is showing Bruins playoff hockey.
As the Kinks’ charmingly melodic “Waterloo Sunset” plays on the jukebox, we dig into Greek pizza and quaff two previously untried beers. Grey Sail Flagship Ale, a locally crafted cream ale, retains a sugary biscuit malting above wood-toned hop spices and honeyed citrus. Schneider Mein Nelson Sauvin, a hybridized German Weizenbock, plies ‘fresh mown grass hops’ to white-peppered gooseberry, grape and passion fruit illusions as well as sweet banana-clove nuances.
“The owners (Danny Rubino and Dave Barns) were commercial fishermen who have now owned Mews since 1990. They became famous for their large tapped beer selection and the rack sampler,” McAuliffe boasts.
The six-ounce, six-beer sampler can’t be beat. Beer geeks and casual novices could try several semi-popular favorites or take a chance on a few unknown choices. For those into elevated spirits, the mirrored wall shelves hold numerous high-end single malt Scotches, exquisite bourbons and detailed wines.
Upstairs, Mews’ exquisite mahogany-wooded Celtic Pub brings simple countryside elegance to the fore with its racked wine barrels, private booths and billiard tables.
Don’t miss this uniquely antique New England retreat if you’re headed to the Newport mansions, Tennis Hall Of Fame, Providence or Cape Cod.
Since May’s spring flowers have now bloomed, I decided to once again check out Caldwell’s historic Cloverleaf Tavern. This time, it’s to experience MBA night—a Masters Of Beer Appreciation program hosted every first Tuesday of the month to honor graduates from hosting owner Ryan Dorchak’s stylistically diversified 45-beer curriculum.
Seated next to Mario, a card-carrying MBA grad who’s now a three-time Ph.D. major (having consumed the requisite 45 beers thrice over and earning a sturdy 26-ounce Cloverleaf-engraved stein for pint-priced beers), I decide to become a Clover Card member for $5. It’ll earn me Frequency Dollars and bonus points (check out cloverleaftavern.com for details) while consuming terrifically multifarious craft beers.
Today, the red-shirted Dorchak celebrates his 37th birthday and the place is packed to the hilt for Tröegs Night. I grab a sampler tray of Tröegs Dreamweaver (a grassy-hopped American wheat with German weiss-like banana-clove character), Nugget Nectar (a heightened amber ale showcasing honey-malted tropical fruits), Mighty Moose Mild (an English-styled session beer with mint-y herbal citrus spicing) and Spring Fest Helles Bock (a honey nut-grained and tart-fruited balm).
Cinco De Mayo was just around the corner, so the bar area was decorated with hanging piñatas, a confetti-filled Modelo can, a papier-mâché green cactus with Jose Cuervo insignia and various red-green-white streamers. To commemorate the upcoming Mexican holiday, I dig into the special-priced Taco Salad while consuming a Jalapeno Margarita (with its immense peppery burn outlasting the sweet coconut frontage).
But soon I dabble with a few previously untried pale ales with noticeable biscuit-y malt spines. Fegley’s Always Sunny Pale Ale gathered dry-wooded tinder for sharp grapefruit-peeled lemon rind bittering and 21st Amendment Bitter American spread soft-hopped apricot fruiting across buttery almond nuances. Belgium’s Bockor Omer Traditional Blond retained sourdough and baguette illusions above delicate hop-spiced crystal malts.
As for Tröegs Night, the packed minions showed major respect for spicy chocolate-fruited double bock, Troegenator. Plus, the 6:30 promotional raffle got everyone’s attention, especially since a 22-ounce bottle of Tröegs’ rum-spiced, candi-sugared, pine-fruited Flying Mouflan Barleywine was one of the prizes.
There are now over 1,300 MBA graduates from Cloverleaf, each one having consumed the prerequisite pilsner-lagers, weiss beers, IPA’s, specialty and seasonal offerings alongside pale, brown and Belgian ales. But you don’t have to be a skilled craft beer denizen to relish the rotating line of brews convivial host Dorchak has picked to click. Besides, those who feel pinned in at the front bar could settle in at the sun-glazed back deck or private left side dining area for family or business occasions.
So I’d advise Jersey’s homeward bound New England travelers to try Mews for lunch before heading South for dinner and drinks at Cloverleaf. Not a bad way to spend the day while driving back from America’s most historically rustic Atlantic Coast hideaway.