Best of NH 2017 Breweries, Wine, Spirits, Cocktails and Pubs

Cocktails at Editor's The Birch on Elm in Manchester. Photo by Susan Laughlin

Outstanding IPAs: The IPAs (India pale ales) at Able Ebenezer Brewing Company in Merrimack are redefining the style. Burn the Ships, named for the historical military tactic of literally burning the ships so the troops had no choice but to press on, is, like its namesake, a pretty bold idea. But, here’s the thing — this smoked IPA, while complex, isn’t intimidating. After you’ve tried BtS, forget what you know about double IPAs and taste Victory Nor Defeat. They spent over a year getting the balance of five different varieties of hops just right. This clean, smooth beer is citrusy and fruity, and it’s not the hops bomb you might expect. As they say at Able Ebenezer, “Victory Nor Defeat is not intended to represent what an IPA currently is; it represents what an IPA should be.”

Local Fruit Wine: Though Sweet Baby Vineyards in Hampstead makes both red and white grape wine, their locally sourced fruit wines are something special. The Baby’s Blush is a blend of merlot and peaches from Applecrest Farm in Hampton Falls. All of their stand-alone fruit wines — blueberry, apple, raspberry, white peach, pear and strawberry — are made with 100 percent New Hampshire-grown fruit from area farms. It’s New Hampshire in a glass.

New Brewery: Lithermans Limited Brewing Company in Concord serves up a side of musical puns with its continuously inventive beer. Stop in at the tasting room where you can enjoy a pint, flights or growler fills while listening to the jams that inspire the brewers. It’s also the only way to try one (or all) of the three monthly brewery-only releases. Otherwise, there are four core beers that are available in stores and bars — Simply Red, Bow Wow Yippie-Yo IPA, Tangled up in Bruges saison and Little Miss Strange double IPA.

Local Beer Selection: There has been an explosion in the number of breweries making quality beer in the state. Get a full geographical taste at The Flight Center Beer Café in Nashua. Their 48 taps are primed with primarily local beers. Pad your belly with beer mac and cheese, IPA-braised meatballs or a Mediterranean platter with beer hummus. Cap off your craft beer experience by carrying home any of the 800 brews in the adjacent bottle shop.

Brewery Hangout: Not all breweries have nailed the atmosphere you’ll enjoy at Pipe Dream Brewing in Londonderry. It seems like no matter when you go, there’s always a great crowd of fellow craft beer lovers hanging out enjoying a bite and a flight, often to the sounds of great local bands. Come summer, the doors are thrown open, adding to the open feel of the brewery. Obviously, no matter how welcoming the space, the crowds don’t appear if the beer isn’t on point. You can rest assured that it is.

Pale Ale: In a craft beer world where so many breweries are trying to push the envelope, sometimes the classics can get lost in the noise. Henniker Brewing Company realizes that sometimes it’s important to do the seemingly simple things right. The Miles & Miles pale ale, which honors exactly what you want a pale ale to be, is far from boring. It’s dry-hopped with a pound of hops per barrel (a blend of Citra and Amarillo), and the result is juicy and somewhat tropical. Now that grilling season is finally here, this would be the ideal beer to have on ice.

Craft Cocktails: The food is good at The Birch on Elm in Manchester, but it may be just the backdrop for the work-of-art cocktails. A beautiful, rich wood bar dominates the room where the blackboard bar menu, not a TV, draws your attention. Juices are hand-squeezed while elixirs and syrups are hand-made. Cocktails range from obscure classics such as the Aviation to their signature pineapple pisco sour. Or just let the bartender make you a drink. We’re sure you’ll like it.

Dessert Wine: Impress your dinner guests with something other than baked goods for dessert. The fantastic Vidal Ice Wine from Jewell Towne Vineyards in South Hampton is the grownup way to end a meal. The term ice wine means that the grapes — which are all estate-grown — are allowed to freeze while still on the vine. The sugars don’t freeze, but the water does, making a much more concentrated grape that produces a sweet wine. Jewell Towne’s version of this German style has both honey and apricot flavors and is far from cloying. On second thought, you may not want to share.

Wine Cellar Dining: In the original granite cellars of the Inn at Thorn Hill in Jackson, an elegantly appointed stone-lined room adjoins the inn’s renowned wine cellar. Through a glass wall, small dinner parties dining in the Granite Room have full view of the cellars, where recessed lighting highlights the racks of bottles from nearly every premier wine-growing region of the world.

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