Nanobreweries in New Hampshire

A relatively new law makes New Hampshire a great place for nanobreweries

New Hampshire can add yet another “first” to the list. We’re the first state to distinguish small nanobreweries — a brewery operation that produces fewer than 2,000 barrels of beer per year — from larger-scale microbreweries that produce more than 15,000 barrels per year.

So what does this mean?  

In 2011 New Hampshire cut the red tape for nanobrewing operations by separating them from larger breweries. It is now easier and less expensive ($240 per year as opposed to $1,200) to obtain a license as a small brewer, plus, they can serve beer without the usual requirement to also serve hot food. The nanobrewery boom (seven were in operation at press time and more were close to opening) has done more than just enhance the locals’ appreciation of native beer — NH’s small breweries are  potential economy-boosting tourist attractions. “Nanobreweries are important because they encourage people to drink locally, [rather than] buying imports from overseas that take a lot of energy to be shipped across,” says former environmental consultant and owner of Squam Brewing John Glidden.

Glidden, the sole brewer and proprietor of his one-man Lakes Region nanobrewery, says his strong representation of the Squam Lake area is what sells his beer — that, and the storybook-esque labels that his mother-in-law paints.

Glidden, Bill Herlicka (founder of White Birch Brewing in Hooksett) and Annette Lee and Nicole Carrier (of Throwback Brewery) all agree that selling their beer in a small-scale operation gives them the flexibility to experiment. Unlike larger-scale breweries, nanos can play around with flavors and ingredients without the threat of losing substantial profits. “My test batches are trying new things on a smaller scale,” says Glidden. And with weeks and weeks of test batches under the belts of White Birch Brewing’s apprentice brewers, their trials and errors are perfected in a final “graduation beer” that’s then sold by the company.  

That experimental process is crucial for these local brewers to patiently craft their one-of-a-kind beers. Creating Throwback Brewery’s Maple-Kissed Wheat Porter means incorporating the perfect blend of locally harvested maple syrup and other ingredients, most of which are grown within 200 miles of the North Hampton brewery.

Brewing small also leaves more time for these brewers to interact with their customers. At Throwback, the in-house tastings are something that Lee and Carrier appreciate to bridge the gap between beer maker and beer drinker. “I love getting to know about each person who comes in,” says Carrier. And over at Squam Brewing, Glidden is also brewing to please with a service to make his customers their own custom brews, complete with personalized name, label and even ingredients.

Although nanobreweries are great for their personal and local feel, some think that the nanobrewery license is best utilized by startup brewers as a way to build a customer base and to establish their brand. “At the end of the day, beer is a volume game and without volume you’re not able to do much,” says Herlicka. Like Herlicka, nanobrewers hoping to circulate their beer often obtain a manufacturer’s license because the “nano” license prohibits them from commercially distributing. White Birch Brewing began at nanobrewery size but has since expanded and is now sold in 15 states.

But regardless of the title on their licenses, these brewers all share the same mission, which is to brew for the love of beer.   

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