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Great North Woods
Essential Craft Beers
With more than 50
breweries in New Hampshire
, the state has solidified itself as a bona fide craft beer tourist destination in the heart of New England. Indeed, the scene has blossomed in recent years, making New Hampshire ideal for craft beer aficionados and curious novices alike. So whether you can pinpoint hop variety by taste alone or you’re just now starting to explore the world of craft beer, these local offerings will satisfy your thirst this summer and have you planning your next trip back before you even return home.
Smuttynose Brewing Co.
Since being founded in 1994, Smuttynose has grown to become one of New England’s most prominent craft brewing operations. Though the company started in Portsmouth, in 2014 it closed its original facility and opened a new brewery and restaurant in nearby Hampton. Commonly recognized for its playful labels and approachable beers, the brewery also experiments plenty with funky sour and other barrel-aged offerings out of its small-batch “Smuttlabs” outfit.
Hayseed Summer Grisette
This seasonal farmhouse ale boasts an approachable 3.8% alcohol content, making it the perfect addition to any cooler at a day-long barbecue. But don’t let Hayseed’s modest alcohol by volume (ABV) fool you. While it won’t knock you out, Hayseed is nevertheless a complex concoction made with barley malts, wheat, oats and a French Saison yeast that brings about spicy, citrusy and fruity notes. Pair it with grilled fish and fresh salads for a meal that will satisfy without leaving you ready to turn in.
Woodstock specializes in approachable beers that will appeal especially to drinkers of domestic offerings interested in seeing what this whole craft beer craze is all about. That doesn’t mean its wares are basic, however. Veteran beer buffs will no less appreciate the expert craftsmanship that goes into producing its diverse portfolio. Add to that the company inn’s 40 rooms across six buildings and you’ve got a place to enjoy a fresh local beer and lay your head afterward. Two birds, meet one stone.
True to the pilsner style, Summer Brew tastes light, crisp, bready and sweet. Though mild, the presence of Saaz hops, a noble variety traditionally grown in the Czech Republic, infuses Summer Brew’s flavor profile with gentle spicy, herbal and earthy notes. At 3.8% ABV, Summer Brew is plenty effective as a marathon libation (just remember that slow and steady always wins the race).
Since launching 4 short years ago, 603 has fast made a name for itself in New Hampshire. It only sold its first beer in 2013, but incessant demand forced the company (happily, mind you) from its first headquarters to a new brewery and tasting room in Londonderry, which enabled it to quadruple brewing capacity. The company produces a broad portfolio, covering the style spectrum with IPAs, amber ales, stouts, wheat beers and a growing seasonal lineup.
Summatime, spelled as the locals conversationally refer to this block of the calendar, is an American Pale Ale clocking in at a refreshing 4.5% ABV. At a time when other breweries are trotting out pale ales that more resemble their tougher IPA cousins, Summatime serves as a light reprieve of sorts. Its combination of West Coast and New Zealand hops give way to floral, grassy notes, but is balanced by a two-row grain bill and sweet crystal malt.
It has been said that a viable way to decongest political gridlock would be to sit down our elected officials and have them hash out their differences over beers. So it shouldn’t come as too big a surprise that Henniker is the brainchild of Dave Currier, who, before emerging from retirement to start the brewery, served as a lawmaker for 14 years in New Hampshire’s House and Senate. That being said, there’s nothing partisan about Henniker’s renowned lineup, which should appeal to any fine beer drinker, be they red or blue.
Novices might be skeptical of a beer that promotes itself as sour, but trust us. Sour beer is in, and this dry hopped ale will be one to seek out when it hits shelves in June. Expect a dry, bright and tart ale that will please sour vets and surprise newcomers alike. At 5.7% ABV, Sour Flower will function well as an introduction to the style that is in many ways defined by the types of bigger, face-puckering libations that drinkers typically find further along in their craft beer journey.
Rockingham Brewing Co.
Founders Rob Leleszi and Ali Buinicky first met in 2007 over a game of beer pong in Brooklyn, New York. From there, it wasn’t long before the pair realized they shared the same affinity for craft beer. The two ultimately left New York for Ali’s home state of New Hampshire to start what is now Rockingham Brewing Co. Since launching, the company has solidified its portfolio, anchored by year-round offerings including a hoppy red ale and IPA, with a number of seasonal, limited and brewery-only releases to boot.
An apparent ode to the legendary rock band Blind Melon, Rockingham Brewing’s summer seasonal Blond Melon is pitched as a Honey Cantaloupe Golden Ale. Expect strong notes of melon and earthy hop character on the nose, and pair that with honey on the palate. With an ABV hitting the 5.2% mark, Blond Melon is a great choice to pair with a dish that’s savory and subtle to allow for the beer’s sweetness to shine through.
Great North Aleworks
Located in Manchester, Great North’s pedigree is beyond repute. Co-founder Rob North is a four-time brewer of the year at the New England Regional Homebrew Competition, a silver medalist in the National Home Brew Competition, and a winner of the Samuel Adams Patriot Homebrew Competition. So it makes sense why the company typically forgoes cheeky product names in favor of straightforward flavor descriptions (like Cranberry Wit or Chocolate Milk Stout, for instance), because Great North’s beers speak for themselves.
Brewed with Citra, Amarillo and Cascade hops—all in-demand varieties— Tie Dyed bursts with flowery, fruity and grassy aromas that give way to a hop forward, but is a well-balanced beverage. Its pronounced taste and bouquet might lead a drinker to believe they’re dealing with a heavier beer, but at 5.2% ABV, Tie Dyed works as an exemplary pale ale.
Throwback is the quintessential New Hampshire brewery. Not only is it located on a bucolic farm in North Hampton, but the company also sources a vast majority of its ingredients from within 200 miles of the brewery. And while co-founders Annette Lee and Nicole Carrier’s dedication to staying local is unquestioned, the acclaim being bestowed upon the brewery’s offerings is resonating well beyond their farm brewery headquarters.
This 5% ABV brew is made with New Hampshire malt and rhubarb as well as hops from Maine. Described by Throwback as “the epitome of summer in a glass,” the beer, a Belgian White, opens tart, leading to citrusy and lemony notes. Complement it with seafood or fresh strawberries.
For those looking for a pilsner with a little bit of kick to it, Spicy Bohemian, 4.8% ABV, is brewed with jalapeños grown at Root Farm in Newmarket, New Hampshire. Be warned, however. Because local weather conditions affect how spicy the sourced peppers turn out, the beer can vary in heat from batch to batch, so don’t take past reviews as gospel necessarily.
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