An 18-year friendship that began over a bonfire on Matunuck Beach birthed West Kingston’s Shaidzon Beer Company, one of the newest entries in Rhode Island’s ever-growing craft beer movement. Co-owners Josh Letourneau and Chip Samson took over the seven-barrel brewery left behind when Proclamation Ale Company moved north. Letourneau and Samson dished on Rhode Island’s craft beer culture, their brewing process, and shared their no-fail hangover cures.
How did you get into brewing?
Josh Letourneau: My now-wife gave me a home brewing kit for my twenty-first birthday. I enjoyed it so much, I ended up graduating from the American Brewers Guild. I was head brewer at Grey Sail for six years.
Chip Samson: I spent 12 years in Colorado, where small breweries are a way of life. When my wife and I decided to move back to Rhode Island, Josh connected me to a job at Grey Sail.
Have you always had a love for beer?
CS: For drinking it, definitely.
JL: I was drinking the usual commercial beers. One day, a guy handed me an oatmeal stout and it blew my mind.
How long is the brewing process?
CS: It depends on what we’re making. It can take anywhere from two weeks to several months.
JL: We’ve been aging a sour since April. It’s just about ready to pour.
What’s the most difficult part of brewing?
JL: The fermentation is the trickiest part because it’s the hardest to control. When you are working with the grains, the hot water will boil off what you don’t want. But once you get to fermentation, you are at the mercy of the process.
Is it true you have a hops farm?
CS: Yes! We started Hope Hops Yard to include more local ingredients in our beer. We just had a harvest and brewed with it right away.
JL: The beer is called Hoped Up. It’s a pale ale that uses freshly-picked wet hops instead of dry. Keeping the oil in the hops gives the beer a richer, more robust flavor. The mouth-feel is incredible.
What are your most popular beers?
CS: The Buffalo Czech Pilsner is the most popular, but our fastest selling beers are our IPAs: Never Tomorrow and For No One.
JL: The IPAs aren’t brewed as often, so they go fast.
What’s driving the craft beer momentum in the state?
CS: The food culture of Rhode Island has really brought craft brewing to a whole different level. The number of restaurants in the state who are interested in craft beer has exploded and the support for it continues to grow.
What’s your most unexpected beer and food pairing?
JL: Okay, this is a weird one. An IPA is not my go-to beer and I am not a big canned tuna eater. But I made a tuna melt for lunch one day and cracked open an IPA. There was something about the tuna with paired with the hoppiness of the beer that made it one of the best meals I’d ever eaten.
What’s your go-to hangover cure?
CS: I have two. One is to drink more. The other is pickle juice.
JL: Tilly’s, which is right down the way, has a sandwich called the Bruce Almighty that is a burger with bacon and a fried egg. It is perfect for hangovers.
CS: And you can add a pickle.
Shaidzon Beer Company
141 Fairgrounds Rd.
West Kingston, RI 02892