Bringing Beer to the People
Nashua's new craft beer spot, The Flight Center, is just about to take off
Update: The Flight Center's Grand Opening happens Friday, January 27 from 11 a.m.-12 a.m.
There’s no shortage of craft beer in New Hampshire. With more than 60 breweries popping up in the Granite State – from the North Country to the Seacoast – a local beer lover won’t go thirsty within the confines of our borders. And though New Hampshire Magazine doesn’t often advocate for our neighbors (especially not Massachusetts, but we hear there’s good beer happening down there), when you add in the rest of New England, that number jumps to dizzying heights.
So, great, we’re swimming in beer! The variety is seemingly endless! But beyond driving from brewery to brewery or choosing from your local grocery store’s meager craft beer selection, how do you get it?
Here’s where Seth Simonian, the founder of the just-about-to-open Flight Center in Nashua, comes in.
The last push to get everything ready for opening day was underway when I stopped by. Table assembly was wrapping up, tags were ripped off chairs and the massive cooler was chilled and waiting for its kegs. The shelves in the connected 800-foot-bottle shop, while empty for the moment, will soon offer guests a chance to take home their new favorite beer. And with 48 taps and a plan to add six more, it’s more than likely you’re bound to find one (or 10).
For the grand opening, says Simonian, he’ll have 40 New Hampshire brews on tap - And, he promises, “I’m not opening with 48 IPAs.” Expect a range of styles for every palate, including cider. This might be the ideal place to bring that person who insists he or she doesn’t like craft beer (or beer in general). Eventually, he adds, you’ll find plenty of varieties from around New England in addition to those made here.
So many taps!
The bar, with its many taps, is the focal point at the far end of the long rectangular room. At the opposite end, nestled in front of the windows that face Main Street, is a lounge-style space with comfy stuffed chairs, ideal for chatting with friends over a beer. Throughout the rest of the space are two levels of table seating – smaller two-tops on the upper level and larger tables below. Altogether, there are 90 seats in a space that while somewhat large, still feels personal.
Let’s back up to the original problem of getting local beer to consumers. The Flight Center is far from Simonian’s only beer-centric business. First, there was Hop Head United, a company that, simply put, helps brewers on the business and marketing side of things. Hop Talks, which Simonian calls Ted Talk-style events if Ted Talks were all about beer, takes the beer festival idea and shrinks it down to a more intimate and sophisticated setting where beer connoisseurs can taste the beer and talk to the brewers. And then, finally, is Hop Head Academy, an accredited beer school that’s taught by brewers in the breweries. Learn more here.
All of this experience exposed a real issue, says Simonian – we lack the infrastructure to truly support local breweries. It’s established that Granite Staters love craft beer and that there’s plenty of it for the drinking. Demand and supply – check and check. But where do you get it? Though there are some fantastic beer stores that stock up with NH brews, there are far more chain grocery stores that only have a tiny fraction of a shelf set aside for local beer. And yes, there are bars that focus on beer, but places like the Thirsty Moose, Strange Brew or New England’s Tap House Grille are far outnumbered by the usual neighborhood bar where they might have one to two taps dedicated to local beer. Local beers are competing for a tiny fraction of the available shelf and tap space, which isn’t good for either the brewers or the craft beer lovers.
So he decided to create the space.
The focus at the Flight Center is on craft beer. This is not your typical bar experience – for those “of a certain age,” (I’m looking at you, my fellow thirtysomethings), the loud, crowded, cheap well drink days are (mostly) behind us. Neither is it the hushed scene of an upscale restaurant bar or the quickly growing trend of speakeasy-style cocktail lounges. People of all drinking ages looking for a casual place to enjoy excellent beer with good company will find a home here.
The Flight Center will be open for lunch, and small plates geared towards enhancing the beers will be served in the evenings, but the idea, says Simonian, is not to compete with the “white tablecloth experience.” This is the place you stop at before or after dinner, or just when you feel like meeting friends for a drink someplace where you can actually talk.
As the name suggests, you can build your own flight or order full pints. Though beer is the name of the game here, local wine will be available. The taps will constantly be in flux, says Simonian, who wants to “keep it fresh – keep it rotating,” so you’ll always be able to try something new. Events such as beer pairing dinners are planned, as well as the featured brewer of the month series where one brewery will have three to four beers on tap.