New Hampshire has a long history of brewing beer that dates back to the 1630’s in Portsmouth. There has certainly been a lot of developments since those early years, so just what’s on tap these days? With 74 craft breweries located all over the state, it’s safe to say there’s plenty on tap. From ales, lagers and porters to stouts and malts, a distinct craft beer culture has emerged in the Granite State.
Even though New Hampshire is a fairly small state, it’s got a pretty big craft beer scene, ranking in the top ten in the US per capita for craft breweries. Of course they vary widely in how much beer they make and in the variety of their offerings.
To get some perspective we stopped by Concord Craft Brewing Company, which is considered a small batch brewery, also called a nanobrewery. In New Hampshire, a nanobrewery can produce up to 2000 barrels of beer a year. New Hampshire has 29 nanos. The next step up from a nanobrewery is a brew pub, of which there are 19 in the state. With a brew pub license, they can not only sell their own beer, but others, along with wine and spirits. After that comes the bigger guys: beverage manufacturers. For this category, think production type of brewery. Not only do they make and package their product for distribution, they have tasting rooms and in many cases a restaurant on site too. There are currently 26 in the state.
Concord Craft Brewery is a state-of-the-art steam powered facility. As a small batch brewery, they have a 15 barrel system. They opened up just about a year ago, and in their first year produced 500 barrels of beer.
What’s really cool is that at many of these local craft breweries – you can walk in and see the process first-hand. And a brewery tour really gives you a flavor of what goes into making a hand crafted beer. A backstage pass to the brewing process.
Not only can you see how the beer is made, you can taste it too. Tasting rooms give visitors a chance to sip local flavor, and you learn about what you’re drinking from the experts who make it. Depending on the tasting room – will depend on what type of sampling you can do. Some places offer flights of beer – which are smaller samples of a variety of beers, while other places offer full pours.
Breweries produce a range of beer styles and colors. Each one has a different taste and consistency. How do you know what is what? You don’t need to! Leave that to the expert brewers who are more than happy to share their knowledge and passion for creating local handcrafted beer.
Many of NH’s craft breweries have their own retail stores so you can pick up cool beer gear – and also grab your favorite flavor to go. In cans or a growler. You can also find locally brewed beer on tap at local restaurants. Don’t worry if you don’t have time to make a trip to a brewery – many markets and specialty shops in the state offer a great selection of NH Made Beers.
If you’re looking to learn a little bit more about the variety of breweries and beers being brewed in New Hampshire consider raising a glass at Bad Lab Beer Company. The Somersworth brewery is hosting its first ever Stout Month Celebration in February. The 28 day event will highlight some of New Hampshire’s locally brewed dark beer, while offering stout-centric beer classes and live art exhibits. Or travel around the state using the NH Brewery Map as a your guide to a variety of local flavor. Brew NH’s Beer Passport is another way to explore the state’s craft brewery scene. Until next time, cheers!