Meet The Brewer: Blasty Bough Brewing Company’s David Stewart
The head brewer at this brand new brewery in Epsom talks about keeping it hyper local
With more than 70 craft breweries spread across the state (and new ones opening seemingly every week), it’s no secret that New Hampshire is home to some great beer. To help you get to know some of the Granite State’s favorite sudsy spots, we’re implementing a new series of “Meet the Brewer” profiles to introduce you to our top-notch New Hampshire breweries and the men and women behind them.
For our latest profile, meet David Stewart. He is the head brewer, farmer, keg washer and carpenter at Blasty Bough Brewing Company, a 100-barrel-per-year facility with a focus honed on community involvement and a farm-to-kettle operation. Read on to learn about this small brewery on a historic New Hampshire farm, which sits atop a hill where a tavern once operated decades before the Revolutionary war.
About the Brewer
New Hampshire Magazine: What is your title at the brewery?
David Stewart: I am the head brewer, farmer, carpenter and keg washer.
NHM: How did you get into the brewing business/what was your inspiration?
DS: In a way, everything I have done up to this point has led me here. This chapter is the culmination of everything that came before me. I was a zoology major at the University of Vermont, so the science of brewing really gets me excited. I have launched and run businesses in the past, so I have experience on the business end of things. I went to grad school for higher education administration, and the work I did in education was all about community building, which is exactly what we are doing with this brewery. I have run the farm full-time. And (saving the obvious for last), I just really love beer. I had a Russian professor in college who used to call me “tol’ko pivo,” which means “only beer.” He knew.
NHM: Why did you choose to work in New Hampshire? What do you appreciate about the craft beer scene here?
DS: I was born in Maine, raised in New Hampshire and schooled in Vermont, and New Hampshire will always be home. New Hampshire is unique in northern New England — it’s a little scrappier and a little less pre-packaged than our neighboring states, and I love the rough-hewn and authentic quality of this place. There is a huge amount of enthusiasm for craft beer in New Hampshire. People are making great beer here. I really appreciate the camaraderie among brewers in New Hampshire. We really are all pulling for each other. And I do love it that, collectively, we are promoting this place that is so special. I’m really glad to see people going around on the Beer Trail, and exploring New Hampshire places and communities and providing a boost to local economies. I hope that, by driving back roads and discovering great craft beer, people will also discover what they love about New Hampshire.
NHM: What style(s) of beer are you personally most fond of?
DS: This might sound like a non-answer, but it depends. Different beers suit different seasons and go best with different foods. I love beers that are great at being themselves, and love tasting something and being able to identify the flavors in it. A well-made helles is a magical thing. I really enjoy the spiciness of a fresh hefeweizen.
NHM: What's your personal favorite of the beers you make?
DS: At the moment, I am partial to our robust porter, McCoy’s Choice. It is brewed with a broad palate of grains to give it complexity and depth. It is named for Isabella McCoy, who settled just down the hill from our farm with her husband Charles in the 1700s. In 1747, Isabella was captured by Native Americans, brought to Canada and sold as a slave to a French family. At the end of the French and Indian war, she was given the choice to return home, but the choice wasn’t easy. Charles McCoy was apparently a really nasty guy, and Isabella’s travels with the Native Americans and her life in Canada had been an improvement over life with him. She made it clear (and history actually recorded it) that she only chose to return for the sake of her children. So, that was Isabella McCoy’s Choice. She had to have been an incredibly strong woman, so we named a beer with fortitude after her.
About the Brewery
NHM: What is your annual production size, in barrels?
NHM: When did you open to the public?
DS: Our grand opening was February 11. A “Blasty Bough” is a branch of pine used to start a fire, for cooking, warmth or beermaking. We like the reference to a blasty Bbough — always kindling something new, like fires and traditions and friendships.
NHM: What sets you apart from other New Hampshire breweries? What's unique about your style or mission?
DS: Our brewery is located on an old New Hampshire hill farm, in a beautiful setting and on the same hilltop where a tavern operated decades before the Revolutionary War. We’re really all about place, about celebrating local flavors, having fun with local characters and adding our own twist to traditional brewing styles. We want people to come and love the beer, but also to feel connected to the landscape, history and to the flavors that come from right here. You can come and take a walk in the hills that surround us, sit on our porch, or watch the sun go down over the barn. We have a community space over the taproom where we have a terrific house concert series of traditional and original music, and room for classes and events. We are working with another nearby farm to grow grain, and I am endlessly excited about the possibilities of what we can produce right here on this land that will go into our beers. I love the idea of being a farm-to-kettle operation.
NHM: How many beers and what styles do you offer at any given time?
DS: We typically have eight beers on tap. Our signature beer is The Blasty Bough, an American amber, and we’ve got a robust porter we call McCoy’s Choice, a coffee-oatmeal stout called Charley Mopps Brewdog and Fort Mountain, which is a double IPA. And then we have a rotating series of beers and styles. We’ve got Echo Valley alt, The Old Immigrant, which is a Scottish ale, and a we’ve brewed up a red ale that we’re calling Mandofest, to release in conjunction with the March Mandolin Festival in Concord. Mandolin players will appreciate that it has a “maple back and a spruce top.” Our beers will change with the seasons and with what is available to brew with from right here.
NHM: What's your most popular beer?
DS: Our Fort Mountain double IPA is a big seller, and people love the Charley Mopps Brewdog, a coffee-oatmeal stout that is named after our brewery dog, Charley Mopps.
NHM: What's next for your brewery?
DS: We’re planning some fun events during Craft Beer Week in April. The next big step for us will be to start serving pints and food. We’re working toward getting the farm up and running full-steam, so that we are producing enough vegetables and meat to supply a small kitchen in the brewery. Our food will be hyper-local, that’s for sure.
NHM: Where can your beer be purchased?
DS: Right here on the farm! We will be in local restaurants soon.