PAWTUCKET — When tossing around names of cities that are home to well-known breweries, Pawtucket, Rhode Island hardly springs to mind. Yet, a 29-year-old entrepreneur and craft beer enthusiast is embarking on a plan to change that with his High Jinx Brewing Company.
The man behind the frothy new venture is Nick Garrison, who formerly worked in marketing and communications for the aerospace and defense industry. A gift of a home-brewing kit years ago got him started, and Garrison kept learning more about beer making and experimenting with the ancient craft. Now, knowing what works and what doesn't and having perfected his own brewing style, he has decided to turn an avid hobby into a profession.
Originally from Massachusetts and now living in Providence with his wife, Sarah, Garrison is a former resident of the Oak Hill section of Pawtucket. He said that the city's state-of-the-art water treatment plant and business-friendly environment were key factors in his decision to locate his brewery here. He just recently closed on the purchase of three adjoining commercial condominiums on Grotto Avenue, off Mineral Spring Ave. Construction is now underway on the brewery, with plans to open in the fall.
While he can't boast about High Jinx products coming from the natural springs or mountain streams that other beer makers can, Garrison is placing his confidence in the purified H2O flowing from the city's newly renovated water treatment plant.
“The city has invested $42 million in its water system. And 90 percent of beer is water,” said Garrison.
“I started home brewing when I lived in Pawtucket and some of the best beers I made in my life were from Pawtucket water,” he stated.
On a recent day, Garrison stood in the empty, cavernous structure that will soon be High Jinx headquarters and excitedly pointed out where the fermentation tanks were going to go, along with the cooler, canning and production areas. The building's high ceilings lend themselves to ample storage and will allow for a balcony overlook so Garrison can supervise his operation. He also plans to have a conference area and a “tasting room” to offer public tours and things like beer-themed dinners and tasting events.
Garrison said High Jinx will initially start off with himself, brew master Damase Olsson, and a sales manager. He said he plans on “doing everything” to get High Jinx off the ground, from brewing the beer to marketing it as well as attending industry shows. “I spent four years researching the craft beer industry and I knew it was important to put together a good team,” he stated. He added that his business plan is aimed at quickly growing the brand from a local to a national and even international level, and he envisions adding employees down the road.
Garrison is starting off with three year-round High Jinx brews, and plans to offer some seasonal specialty bottled beers as well. Most of the High Jinx products will be sold in cans, which, he said, work better than bottles for retaining freshness and flavor. Cans, he said, allow for a tighter seal so there is very little oxygen exposure and also don't let any light in. “And the cans fit well with the High Jinx brand,” he added.
An avid fan of craft beers, Garrison said he began thinking about why people drink beer and wanted to come up with brews that would make them associate a particular beer with a certain experience or mood. “I wanted there to be something different about High Jinx. I thought about 'why do I drink beer?' Because it's an experience,” he said. “Every beer is a tribute to a life experience” and High Jinx products will reflect this, he said.
The flagship brew is called “Barstool,” and it is a well-balanced and light golden ale. “This is a beer to have when you're out with your buddies at a local pub,” he said.
A second brew is the “Backyard,” an American IPA style that Garrison describes as perfect for those casual barbecues and fun gatherings with family and friends.
The third, year-round brew is the “Downpour,” a darker, porter-style beer with a higher alcohol content. “This is a rainy day beer, when you feel like staying inside, putting your feet up and watching a movie,” said Garrison.
The name, High Jinx, also gets to the root of why people drink beer. “It is fun, mischievous, irreverent. And we thought a jester logo went along well with this,” Garrison explained.
Garrison said he has been in discussions with the New Urban Farmers about a plan to exchange the spent grain from High Jinx to the local, non-profit farming group in exchange for them growing some of the hops for the brewery. He said he thinks there are a lot of other opportunities for High Jinx to partner with Rhode Island companies as well, and sees a great benefit in local companies supporting one another.
With his background in marketing and being a craft beer connoisseur himself, Garrison knows that the success of High Jinx depends on getting his brews out to the public and having them share in the products he is so enthusiastic about. “It all comes down to 'buzz.' My goal is to put out the best beer possible and create a brand,” he said.
For more information on High Jinx Brewing Company, Garrison invites people to visit his website at www.highjinxbeer.com .