WEST GREENWICH — Just across the town line, a couple of Coventry residents have opened a tiny craft brewery that, despite its size, features a whole lot of variety.
“It’s local, it’s fresh, and it’s definitely different,” Carl Mattson said of the beer he brews at his young business, Community Bruin Company.
Dressed in his yellow “Community Bruin Co.” T-shirt, Mattson sat Tuesday afternoon beside his partner Helen Quinn, who wore a shirt to match. The business owners, who have been together for over a decade and a half, spoke about the genesis of their fledgling brewery and the experiences that brought them to this point.
Community Bruin officially opened its doors in April, but Mattson’s vision for the brewery for was born around four years ago.
Mattson had worked for decades in the energy industry, and at one point even owned his own consulting firm. But after losing his most recent job when the company he’d been working for was acquired by another company, Mattson decided he’d take his hefty severance package and do something different.
“A lot of times, what I would do is bring a case of my homemade beers to these functions with people in the energy industry,” recalled Mattson, who began brewing his own beer as a hobby around two decades ago. “They’d be like, ‘man, you’ve got to open your own place, because this stuff is great.’”
And some 20 years later, he’s done just that.
“It was just one of those things where after a while, I said, ‘OK, I think I’m going to give this thing a shot,” said Mattson, who’s 59.
While the building — which at various points has housed a Tim Hortons and a Bess Eaton — doesn’t evoke the typical image of a brewery, the menu is certainly intriguing.
Mattson is fearless in his brewing, and loves to experiment with all sorts of ingredients: strawberries; bacon; grapes; tangerines. Even hot weiners at one point found their way into a beer appropriately dubbed “Olneyville.”
Another beer, called “Pizza Shih Tzu” — an homage to the couple’s dog — had a taste reminiscent of a pizza pie.
“These are the things that I’ll do,” Mattson said, as he recounted some of the unusual beers he’s created over the last two decades. “I will push the envelope, and I’ll say, ‘nobody ever did it, why not try it?’”
It’s tough to say, though, exactly where he gets his inspiration.
“It just comes to him,” Quinn said. “He’s very creative.”
Mattson also enjoys trying out various style and flavor combinations. On tap currently, for example, “NASA” blends a Sottish Ale with an IPA into a brew that Mattson proudly said turned out “pretty darn good.”
Mattson is constantly brewing something new and unexpected. But asking him to choose a favorite beer, he said, is like asking him to choose a favorite child.
“You love all your kids,” he said, Quinn laughing in the seat next to him. “Some kids are bad, some kids are good — it all depends on what type of mood you’re in. Sometimes you want something that’s hoppy, and sometimes you want something that’s malty.”
At any given time, Community Bruin has six beers on tap, with one or two new brews introduced weekly. Mattson added that he strives to ensure there’s always a variety available — currently on tap there’s an IPA, a pale ale, a bitter, a hybrid and a stout.
And with no other independent breweries nearby, Mattson said he’s happy to be able to fill that niche, bringing quality craft beer to the residents of rural Kent County.
“There’s really nobody around here,” Mattson said. “And fresh beer is so much better than Coors Light and Budweiser. There’s nothing like it.”
He said one of his hopes is that Community Bruin becomes a sort of “watering hole” for locals who crave good beer.
“In the time that we’ve been open, we’ve met a lot of wonderful people,” Mattson said, adding that business so far has been hit-or-miss.
Quinn agreed. A retired nurse, Quinn, 73, said she’s loved getting to know the patrons who’ve stopped by since the brewery opened its doors.
“I love people,” said Quinn, who grew up in East Providence. “I don’t care who walks through that door, we hit it off, always. They can come in in a bad mood, I guarantee they’re going to be smiling when they walk out.”
While Mattson is the brewmaster of the operation, Quinn fills the role of what Mattson called “the hostess with the mostest.” And although she’s not much of a beer drinker, herself — she prefers wine and margaritas — she said she’s happy to be Mattson’s taste-tester.
More than just business partners, however, Quinn and Mattson began dating 16 years ago.
Despite having both lived in Coventry for several years by the time they got together, the two had never actually met each other until one pivotal night in North Providence.
“We must have crossed paths like two ships in the night,” said Mattson, who grew up in Woonsocket.
Having been convinced by a friend to go to a singles dance, Quinn caught eyes with Mattson from across the dance floor. And after beckoning him with her finger, the two hit it off.
Their brewery is a small one, open just two days a week, although Mattson said he’s considering also opening on Tuesdays for the month of July. Mattson and Quinn are also currently the only ones working there, but Mattson said he hopes to eventually hire someone who could “take it and run with it.”
“She’s already retired,” Mattson said of Quinn. “And I’d like to join her in retirement.”
Still, Mattson doesn’t seem to be in any rush.
“As long as I’ve got enough money to pay the bills, I’m OK with it. And if things don’t pan out, they don’t pan out,” he said. “But I’m happy right here.”
Located at 74 Nooseneck Hill Road, West Greenwich, Community Bruin Company is currently open Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. To learn more, visit communitybruin.com.