Best of NH 2018 Breweries, Wine, Spirits, Cocktails & Bars
Don't just eat local, drink local! Where to find the best New Hampshire beer, wine, spirits, craft cocktails and even a speakeasy.
Chuck’s BARbershop, a relative of CodeX in Nashua, is the latest speakeasy find in New Hampshire. Photo by Susan Laughlin
Bacon Happy Hour: Happy hour is always a great start to an evening. At Bonfire on Elm Street in Manchester, they up their game with a free basket of bacon, along with bargains that include $1 tacos, $2 fries and beer, and $3 burgers and wine from 4 to 7 p.m.
Brewery Bite: Every nook and hamlet in the state seems to boast its own brewery. But good beer needs to pair with good food for all these new establishments to survive. At Kettlehead Brewing Company in Tilton, the menu is short, but has just the right bite to go with beer. The Hog Wings are succulent and the perfect size — bigger than chicken wings, but smaller than a shank. Their flagship beer is The Agent, a nice hoppy IPA with plenty of citrus.
Charming Winery: Good wine doesn’t have to be complicated. The varieties offered at the Gilmanton Winery (based in the former home of “Peyton Place” author Grace Metalious) are all tasty and approachable, even for the novice oenophile. Names like Girls Night Out, Pumpkin Pie and Green Apple Riesling suggest the winemakers are having too much fun, but what’s wrong with that, when the wine tastes this good?
Cocktail Culture: Craft cocktails are all the rage, but when you add a highly imaginative environment, it somehow adds flavor to the sip. Chuck’s BARbershop, a relative of CodeX in Nashua, is a delightful ode to the past. The room is dark and sexy, and the drinks seductive. Look for the striped pole by the door in Eagle Square, the hub of Concord. Tip: You may need to pick up the old rotary telephone and answer a simple riddle. And yes, you will soon be able to get a shave and a haircut in the lobby.
Community Brewery: Once upon a time, before Prohibition, most towns had their own brewery. Today, Marlaina Renton and Ian Dowling of Rek’•lis Brewing Company in Bethlehem have recaptured that sense of place and community, though, of course, all are welcome to visit. The brewpub’s walls feature local artists, and events range from live music to $10 pizza and pint nights. The brewery might be small, but the beers are big and flavorful. From smoked porters and IPAs to pale ales and stouts, there’s something for every beer lover.
Craft Cocktails: Cocktails are works of art at The Wilder in Portsmouth. The ingredient list is as intricate as a five-star menu description. For example, there’s “The Jackalope,” with fig-and-cacao-nib-infused bourbon, peated scotch, lemon, ginger, honey, garam masala, black pepper and ginger beer. One could get overwhelmed just reading this list. But be not fearful. There are also “Guilty Pleasures,” like the “Dolla Dolla Bill” with gin and cream soda and a touch of pepper. There are even fun No ABV drinks, including the refreshing Ginger-Aid with fresh ginger, lemon and sparkling water.
Honey Ale: Named for one of the co-owners’ daughter’s creative interpretation of what cats look like (one of her drawings is framed on the taproom wall), Long Blue Cat Brewing Company in Londonderry has beer as creative as its name. Especially tasty is the LBC honey ale, which is crisp, refreshing and made with local honey. You should also try Lemon Drop, a juicy, cloudy, New England-style IPA.
Mead Cocktails: Two trends collide at Sap House Meadery’s charming, rustic pub in Center Ossipee — mead and craft cocktails. In addition to flights or glasses of their mead, you can try one of their inventive drinks, such as the delicious Petal to the Metal, which combines their traditional mead with rose lemonade, wild rose and honey bitters. If nothing catches your eye, let the creative Sap House folks design a drink just for you.
Restaurant & Brewery: Completely turning the idea of a typical brewpub on its head is the new Chapel + Main in Dover. Opened by the team behind über-popular Kittery, Maine, spot, The Black Birch, the menu here is refined comfort fare with plenty of seasonal, local ingredients. The cocktail and wine lists are great too, but you shouldn’t pass up their interesting beer, which ranges from a Belgian-style white ale with chamomile, orange and coriander to interesting sours, stouts and an on-trend New England-style IPA.
Session Meads: At Ancient Fire Mead & Cider in Manchester, you can sit and stay a while, thanks to the fact that their meads and ciders don’t creep up into crazy-high alcohol levels. You can order pints, but a great way to sample a few of their many creative flavors is with a flight of four. Start with the Maker’s Legacy, the traditional mead, then branch out to something like the Leaping Off the Ledge, made with lemon and hops. Learn more about the process of making mead during the hour tour offered on Saturdays.
Silver Rum: New England Sweetwater Farm & Distillery is charming, from the lovely tasting room to its 50 acres of land where they raise chickens and grow heirloom cider apples, grapes, blueberries and juniper berries. Located in the small town of Winchester, they produce a variety of spirits, including the Kingfish Silver Rum. Made in the Colonial American tradition with black strap molasses, it’s ideal for sipping. It makes a pretty mean mojito (or cocktail of your choice) as well.
Vodka: Veteran-owned Smoky Quartz Distillery in Seabrook makes a handful of different spirits, but their original spirit — the Solid Granite Vodka — continues to set them apart. It’s handcrafted in small batches and distilled with corn harvested from within 125 miles of the distillery. They use local grains, which they ferment themselves, and New Hampshire spring water. With a clean finish that doesn’t burn, it’s great neat, on the rocks or in your favorite cocktail.