CONWAY — If it’s true that the way to true “hoppiness” is beer, then read — and perhaps, drink (moderately, of course) — on.
The vitality of the Granite State’s growing locally crafted brew industry is being celebrated this week by the New Hampshire Brewers Association with its N.H. Craft Beer Week, which began April 7 and continues through today, April 17.
“Each April, New Hampshire celebrates beer crafted in the Granite State,” the New Hampshire Brewers Association states on its website, nhbrewers.org.
“Craft breweries, home-brewers, distributors, retail outlets and beer lovers come together at 100 plus events across the state and in their homes to sample and enjoy the thousands of beers crafted in New Hampshire.”
Jennifer “CJ” Haines, executive director of the association, noted in an email this week that the state is now home to 100 breweries, up from 44 in 2015 and 19 in 2012.
“The N.H. Brewers Association (a non-profit trade group originally formed in 2013 as the Granite State Brewers Association), serves as the main host for the N.H. Craft Beer Week,” she said.
“The event ties into our direct mission to promote, protect, advocate and educate our N.H. breweries as well as craft beer lovers,” said Haines, noting that brewers had an economic impact of $506 million in 2019.
New Hampshire’s 91 craft breweries created 4,516 jobs, part of the 580,000 jobs created nationally, with New Hampshire’s brewers paying paying an average wage of $41,801. The New Hampshire brewers create 117,314 barrels of craft beer per year, according to the association.
New Hampshire in 2019 ranked eighth for the number of breweries per capita in the United States.
The association notes there are three main license types in New Hampshire: nano, beverage manufacturer and brewpub, with New Hampshire in 2011 becoming the first state to issue a nano license (not exceeding 2,000 barrels annually).
The association’s first logo paid homage to 19th century Portsmouth brewer Frank Jones (1832-1902), who in 1882 was the country’s largest ale producer at 150,000 barrels, reaching 250,000 barrels in 1896. After 50 years, the brewery closed in 1950.
Nationwide, small and independent American craft brewers contributed $82.9 billion to the U.S. economy in 2019.
For a list of events for N.H. Craft Beer Week, go to nhbrewers.org/event/nh-craft-beer-week.
The association also has a New Hampshire Beer Trail for aficionados, available not just for Craft Beer Week but year-round.
The New Hampshire Beer Trail is divided into the following regions: Dartmouth, Great North Woods, Lakes, Merrimack, Monadnock, Seacoast and White Mountains.
The White Mountains Beer Trail includes Woodstock Inn Brewery in Woodstock, Tuckerman Brewing Co. in Conway and Moat Mountain in North Conway/Intervale.
The Lakes Beer Trail includes Hobbs Tavern and its recently opened Tap Room in Ossipee, Burnt Timber Brewing in Wolfeboro and Twin Barns Brewing in Meredith.
The Great North Woods Beer Trail includes the new Ledge Brewing in Intervale, Rek-Lis Brewing in Littleton and Iron Furnace Brewing in Franconia.
Locally, the Route 16 Beer Trail, running south to north, includes: Hobbs Brewing Co. and Tap Room (hobbstavern.com, 2514 White Mountain Highway and 765 White Mountain Highway, Ossipee); Tuckerman Brewing Co. (tuckermanbrewing.com, 66 Hobbs St., Conway); Sea Dog Brewing Co. (nconway/seadogbrewing.com, 1976 White Mountain Highway, North Conway); Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing Co. (moatmountain.com 3378 White Mountain Highway, North Conway; and Ledge Brewing Co. (ledgebrewing.com; 5 Town Hall Road, Intervale).
But wait, there’s more. Trail goers can visit any or all of the six breweries along Route 16 from Ossipee to Intervale through April 17 for a chance to win the Route 16 Brewery Swag Bag raffle.
“At each stop, they find the trail map and scan the code to enter. One lucky winner will win an assortment of goodies from each of the breweries. Visit all six breweries to increase your chances of winning,” said Ashley Cleland, marketing director for Hobbs Tavern and Brewing Co., the Tap Room and Sap House Meadery, all of Ossipee, who helped to put the Route 16 Beer Trail together.
Rob Finernan and Ash Fischbein opened Hobbs Tavern and Brewing Co. in April 2014 with an on-site brewery and restaurant in a rustic, extensively renovated farmhouse once owned by the Hobbs family. It added the brand -ew Tap Room at a different Ossipee location one mile south in a brand new building last October. They plan on having car shows, a Memorial Day Weekend food truck festival and other events all summer. The brewery recently signed a distribution deal with Amoskeag Beverages of Bow.
The names of the locally crafted beers tickle the imagination, with many offering a geographical tie-in to the region.
Take, Hobbs’ Swift River IPA and Mount Witbier, a wheat beer named after nearby Mount Whittier.
Among Tuckerman Brewing’s offerings is a 6288 Stout (named for the height, in feet, of Mount Washington), Headwall Alt (for the precipitous drop in Tuckerman Ravine) and the 50 Cent Day IPA, referring to the top local weather rating vernacular given each day on local radio station WMWV 93.5. Sea Dog has New England-based names such as Sunfish, a wheat beer with hints of peach and grapefruit.
Moat Mountain’s offerings include an East Intervale IPA. Ledge Brewing’s local ski-related beer is an Off-Piste Ale. Over in Fryeburg, Maine, Saco River Brewing offers the Barrel Aged Old Course Porter, referring to the old course of the Saco.
Cigar Shenanigans at 1903 White Mountain Highway in North Conway, has 20 beers on tap and its own label, Stubborn Pup.
In conversations with local craft brewers this week, it was evident they have all adapted to the challenges of the pandemic, offering outdoor seating at their venues, and with spring seemingly here (Friday’s predicted snowstorm notwithstanding), they are poised to offer enhanced outdoor music — and beer.
Tuckerman Brewing, for instance, launched its outdoor Saturday afternoon outdoor music series April 3, and continues it with a performance by the local groups Chimera today and Rek-lis next week, both from 3-6 p.m.
Hobbs Brewing also is offering live outdoor entertainment. Sea Dog has been presenting live indoor solos and duos since January, following safety protocols.
Denise and Brian McGrath’s Backburner Restaurant at 109 Main St. in Brownfield, Maine, carries 13 taps of beers produced within 100 miles of their establishment, including many local craft beers. It also offers outdoor entertainment every other Wednesday starting Mother’s Day.
“We support the local beers because we believe in supporting the community,” said Denise this week, noting that the combination of local beer, scratch-made food, and enlarged patio and gazebo bodes well for the spring and summer season.
Those conversations reveal a true sense of community among the local crafters — kind of like a “rising tide floats all boats” philosophy, except that in this case, the tide has some suds in it, not to mention hops, malt and brewer’s yeast.
It’s been that way since the start, with Tuckerman Brewing Co.’s Kirsten Neves and Nik Stanciu setting the bar when they founded Tuckerman’s in 1998, starting out on Main Street in Conway Village before moving to Hobbs Street in 2004 (and then to a larger adjacent facility in 2014).
They were followed by Steve Johnson and wife Vicky Valentino’s Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing Co. at the former Scottish Lion Restaurant in 2000. They later remodeled the barn next to Limmer Boots in Intervale into their brewery along with the restaurant facility in North Conway.
“Back when Kirsten and Nik (just 24 at the time) started Tuckerman’s, there were just 11 microbreweries in the state. Now there are 91,” said Tuckerman’s brand manager Liz Cancelliere.
“We definitely like the collaboration that the craft beer industry cultivates — and having more craft brewers in the region makes us a destination for beer lovers, no question.”
Sea Dog Brewing’s bar manager Amber Katzoff of Bartlett said helping one another is a staple of life in Mount Washington Valley, and local craft brewers are part of that overall business climate.
“We all help each other here in the valley,” said Katzoff, who has called the area home since she was 8. “And the concentration of breweries is a god thing — just like people coming here for skiing or hiking, now they are coming here for brewing, too, to sample our different breweries.”
Sea Dog was founded by Pete Camplin Sr. in 1993. Initially, the company comprised a 240-seat brewpub/brewery in Camden, Maine. In 1995, it moved to a 540-seat restaurant and brewpub on the banks of the Penobscot River in Bangor.
The company is run under the joint ownership of Alan Pugsley and Fred Forsley, who also own Shipyard Brewing Co. of Portland, Maine.
The company operates brewpubs in Topsham; South Portland, Maine; Camden, Maine; Clearwater; Orlando, Exeter; and North Conway.
Sea Dog’s beers are formulated and brewed in a traditional style using imported English two-row malted barley for ales and imported German hops and grains for lagers. Fermentation uses a British top-fermenting yeast in open fermenters to create ales with a crisp finish, its website says. Sea Dog claims to be one of the few craft breweries in New England brewing both traditional ales and lagers.
Added Cleland, marketing director for Hobbs, “Definitely the point of New Hampshire Craft Beer Week is to celebrate New Hampshire as a craft beer destination — it’s an organization that holds us all together with a really strong, focused sense of community. And it’s awesome ot see the support everyone is rallying around the craft scene, both statewide and locally.”
That theme was echoed by Ian Ferguson of Ledge Brewing, located in the former home of the Hartmann Model Railroad Museum in Intervale and part of a complex of stores under the umbrella of the White Mountain Trading Post located off Town Hall Road and Route 16.
“The brewing community is definitely supportive of one another,” said Ferguson this week. “When we first opened last fall, we were helped by Moat Mountain and Tuckerman Brewing Co. They welcomed us and made us feel right at home.”
As if opening their business in the middle of a pandemic wasn’t scary enough, three weeks after opening last October, Ledge’s owners Ferguson and Silas Miller faced an even scarier challenge: Their brewer, Cody Floyd, 31, had to undergo a heart transplant.
Local brewers stepped in to help, especially Mason Irish of Saco River Brewing Co.
Moat Mountain had helped Irish and his partner Kevin Antonucci get his brewery started in 2016.
What goes around flows around in the craft beer community.
“Mason came over and helped us do transfers. But long before that, Tuckerman’s had helped us to make our brew hoses, and Moat lent us their Zahn tool (carbonation meter), which is an expensive tool so that was awesome,” said Ferguson, 31.
Ferguson is the former publisher of Northeast Wild magazine and like his partner, Miller, an avid backcountry skier and outdoorsman. Miller raced at Carrabassettt Valley Academy and was part of the top all-male Fresh Off The Couch team at last month’s 20th Friends of Tuckerman Ravine Inferno Pentathlon. Not surprisingly, it held its awards party at Ledge — not to mention it was Miller’s 33rd birthday. So, all in all, a good day.
But there’s more to the Floyd heart transplant story: his girlfriend, Elizabeth Sullivan is an ICU nurse at Maine Medical, so her caregiving was an obvious asset as Floyd recovered.
However, she also stepped in under Floyd’s guidance to learn how to make beer in order to assist Ferguson and Miller during Floyd’s absence.
“She was amazing,” said the now-recovered Floyd this week, with Sullivan joining in on the phone interview, saying she enjoyed learning the trade to go along with her nursing skills.
“At first it was pretty stressful, jumping into something that was unfamiliar to me. But it was exciting, too, and I continue to enjoy it,” she said, noting that as a nurse, the way she saw the challenge was in physical terms: “It was ‘Cody being the brain and I was the body’ type situation. No one else could be around him as he recovered (due to possible infections, especially during COVID-19) after he had been freshly transported home.”
“It definitely brought us closer together,” said Floyd, a Conway resident who began his brewing career at Moat under the guidance of former brewmaster/mentor Will Gillson, now of Vermont.
Echoing that sense of community were store owners interviewed this week who pride themselves on their inventory of local beers.
They include Dale Richards of Glen Beverage Co. at 779 Route 16 in Glen, who founded his store in 1995, becoming one of the first beer specialty stores in the state.
“We have over 500 beer brands here at the store,” notes Richards, who has seen the evolution in customers’ tastes to craft beers. “People like variety,” he said.
There’s also Genn and John Anzaldi of J-Town Deli (174 Main St., Jackson), who not only sell craft beers but also now serve them at their friendly establishment. Genn Anzaldi — a mom and Jackson School Board member — said supporting local craft beers ties in with her and John’s approach to being part of the community.
“In addition to our selection of craft beer, we have Sap House Mead here, too, and so many local artists have their work here — great for gifts,” said Anzaldi.
“We want folks to come here and enjoy being here — to hike and play here and to enjoy locally made amazing food (and beer).”
At Clem and Sherley McAuliffe’s Vista Bev & Market (10 Hurricane Mountain Road in Intervale), there are approximately 500 brands. The store has evolved over the years since the McAuliffes moved here from New York City to open the store 10 years ago.
“I was not a beer aficionado at all — I grew up in the restaurant business so I learned how to speak with customers about pairing food and wine,’ said McAuliffe.
“We didn’t know craft beer was going to take over the shop when we bought it, but it was just good timing and we went with it,” he said. “And, yes, there is a big beer scene here in the region now, for both locals and visitors.”
That said, hoppy trails to you, on Craft Brew Week, and every week.