No Fooling, Foolproof Brewing Co. is the Real Deal
As you first step foot into the taproom at Foolproof Brewing in Pawtucket, RI, you’re met with a giant wooden cutout of the company's iconic jester mask. The jester, as well as the name, all play a part in the business model behind this young and growing brewery: having fun.
When we brew each beer, we think about specific life experiences and what style of beer would be absolutely perfect for that particular occasion.
Nick Garrison, founder and owner of Foolproof, explained the name as a play on words: the “fool” paying homage to the jester and representing fun, while “proof” represents the alcohol content in their growing variety of craft beers.
Nick Garrison set out to create what has now become Foolproof Brewing back in 2008. An avid homebrewer, his wedding took place right around the peak of his homebrewing interest. He served his own brews to family and friends at the reception, and many encouraged him to take the next step into professional brewing once they found out he was the mastermind behind the ales.
Garrison took the idea to heart, and while visiting a brewpub in Canada while on his honeymoon, a passing comment from his wife caused the epiphany that started it all. He hit the ground running upon returned home and never looked back.
Garrison left his previous life in marketing and set out to combine his passions for beer and entrepreneurship. In May 2012, he and his team moved into their current building at 241 Grotto Avenue and brewed their first batch that December. As the company quickly grew, Garrison found himself leaving most of the brewing to his brewmasters and took over the business end of the endeavor.
“I tell people I left an office job to run a brewery, only to be back in an office,” Garrison joked.
Although he admits running a brewery isn’t all “rainbows and butterflies” like some people might think, it’s been a very rewarding job and a lot of fun.
Like other craft breweries, it’s tough to be different when there are so many other people trying to be different all at once. The industry is rapidly changing and growing, but Garrison said there is still plenty of collaboration and friendship.
“It’s unlike any industry I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Whenever you need some extra supplies or just some advice, there’s usually plenty of people out there willing to lend you a hand.”
Now in its third year of operation, the 30 barrel brewhouse features four 30-bbl tanks and five 60-bbl tanks, making them the largest brewery by volume in the state of Rhode Island.
Roughly 65% of Foolproof’s production is canned in-house (their canning line can package a case per minute) while the rest of their beer is distributed in kegs.
Garrison said they chose canning because of both the technical and practical benefits. On the technical side, cans allow less oxygen and sunlight into the container and are also more environmentally friendly. On the practical side, cans are much more portable for picnics, cookouts, a hiking trip or any other on-the-go activity and they won’t break if you drop them.
Along with the always-expanding production side of the brewery, the taproom has also undergone recent renovations to nearly double its size. Here, customers can enjoy a tasting of the company’s staple selections, as well as some oddities that don’t make it into general production.
The brewers are constantly experimenting and trying new things with different combinations of ingredients. This helps Foolproof set itself apart from the rest of the regions craft breweries.
Some notable flavors to hit the shelves this past year include:
- Shuckolate - a Chocolate-Oyster Stout
- Peanut Butter Raincloud - a Peanut Butter Porter collaboration with neighbors Nuts ‘N More
- Queen of the Yahd - a raspberry IPA (Garrison is confident this will be the first of its kind)
A major driver behind all the work done by the guys at Foolproof is the concept of “experience-based brewing.” This means they aren’t formulating and crafting cookie-cutter recipes, but thinking about what the consumer will be doing.
“When we brew each beer, we think about specific life experiences and what style of beer would be absolutely perfect for that particular occasion,” says the company's website.
Whether it’s Backyahd, their India Pale Ale meant for warm summer days grilling in the backyard with friends; Raincloud, the robust porter for those rainy days; or Garrison’s personal favorite, Barstool, an American Golden Ale meant for a night out with the boys, you’ll always have the right beer for the right occasion.
Branding and expanding a customer base are challenges faced by all small businesses, and Foolproof Brewing is no exception. The company’s branding has been discussed, but they also put a lot of effort in attracting new customers whenever possible.
Customer interaction is key to this growth, and this can be accomplished through the taproom as well as beer festivals.
“The biggest advantage of festivals are building customer intimacy,” said Garrison.
He went on to explain how during festivals, beer enthusiasts and others get a chance to meet the brewers and others behind the scene of their favorite beers and talk about the ingredients and methods used to brew the beer: things they can’t get from just picking up a six-pack at the local liquor store.
The taproom also helps in this way because of the interaction, plus the addition of direct sales out of the brewery.
Rhode Island’s archaic craft beer laws strictly limits the amount of beer that can be purchased for off-site consumption, but Garrison noted how things have changed since Foolproof opened its doors, and he’s hopeful things will continue in a positive direction.
“When we started, no beer could be sold out of the brewery,” said Garrison. “[The latest amendments] have been a great step in the right direction, but there is still a lot more room to grow.”
The taproom leaves many customers leaving with great impressions, and strengthens the relationship between business and consumer.
When asked about checking those pesky online reviews about his beer, Garrison admitted that negative reviews did rattle him for the first few months, but he learned to think things in a different perspective.
“Drinking beer is a subjective experience,” he said. “You can’t take any of the bad reviews personally.”
He added that some of those negative reviews are actually invaluable feedback that goes into making things better on a larger scale.
Now in the midst of its third expansion in as many years, Garrison and Foolproof have come a long way from those first two five-gallon buckets and a homebrew kit that came as a Christmas present.
“Sometimes it’s important to pause and reflect on where we’ve come from."