A New Community Supported Brewery
7th Settlement in Dover is all about keeping it local
About eight years ago, Dover resident Josh Henry received a homebrewing kit as a gift from his wife. Along with friend and fellow craft beer-lover Dave Boynton, Henry started experimenting with the kit, and the seeds of a dream that would take years to come to fruition were planted in both of them.
"We kept revisiting an idea," Henry says of those early brewing days, "'Let's start a brewery.' We kept on saying 'it's a lot more fun than our day job.'"
The first homemade bottle of beer that Henry ever brewed was put aside and labeled "7th Settlement." A hypothetical. A what-if. An idea.
"It's been a dream ever since," Boynton says.
But as happens so many good ideas, real-life obstacles surfaced to push 7th Settlement further away from reality. Chief among those was a cancer diagnosis for Boynton in 2009, when the idea of starting a brewery was still nothing more than a concept. Not to be deterred, Boynton bounced back and returned to Antioch University New England where he received an MBA in Sustainability, a foundation that would prove important to building what would become the concept of 7th Settlement.
Now, all these years later, and with less than a month left until the real 7th Settlement Brewery opens its doors to become the newest member of the Seacoast's burgeoning brew scene, Henry, the head brewer, and Boynton, general manager, still hold onto that first home-brewed bottle: a representation of their roots, of how it all began.
"Roots" is a fitting word to describe what 7th Settlement is all about. Henry and Boynton are, in nearly every way possible, dedicating the brewery to the richly historical community in which it's founded. It's simply all about community at 7th Settlement, which is located in Dover's Cocheco Falls Millworks. That name itself is an homage to Dover, derived from the fact that the town is the seventh oldest non-indigenous settlement in America.
"History gives a sense of place and connection," Boynton says. "That's what the name is all about."
But the new brewery's connections with the community don't end with its name. 7th Settlement is a self-dubbed Community Supported Brewery, or CSB. But what, exactly, is a Community Supported Brewery?
According to Boynton, the brewery is completely community funded, with investments coming in from local banks, local investors, as well as crowd funding. Every action taken on the business end is geared locally as well. Boynton says they strive to hire locally, support local farmers and buy supplies locally.
"Everything we do is community oriented," he says. "There's a ton of great things about this community."
Look around anywhere inside the restaurant or brewery, and you're likely to find something locally attained and repurposed. The antique windows that look from the dining area into the brewery were recovered from Dover's One Washington Mill building. So was the bar top, which is fashioned from one of the mill's floor beams. Even the brewing system, which Boynton proudly points out is made from American steel, was built locally by Tigpro, a steel fabrication company based in Maine. Boynton and Henry made the decision to buy brewing equipment locally despite many cheaper options.
"It was a good deal to buy [brewing equipment] from China," Henry says, "but it wouldn't have fit our business model."
With the New England made brewing system, Henry will focus on brewing a collection of American, English and Scottish inspired ales made with mostly local ingredients. At first, beers will be served only in-house and in 64-ounce growlers to go, Henry says, but within a year he hopes to be bottling brews as well. As head brewer, Henry will strive to pass along some of his passion for great beer to customers.
"We're trying to get people to appreciate beer" he says, noting the commercial popularity of what he calls "cold, tasteless" beers. "Colder isn't better," he adds.
Henry won't handle the brewing all alone – He'll have help from friends. Nate Sephton, 7th Settlement's Co. Brewer, will be a big part of crafting the brewery's beers.
"[Sephton is] the one that helped expand my brewing knowledge," Henry says.
Henry will also have help from the co-operatively run One Love Brewery. Brewer Michael Snyder of One Love will be brewing with Henry in the same facility as 7th Settlement, while Henry learns the new brewing system.
"It's a partnership to help use the equipment most efficiently and help each other out," Boynton says the One Love team-up.
With the Grand Opening of 7th Settlement expected some time in October, both Boynton and Henry say they have been hearing positive buzz from community members. Henry says that he has even been approached by strangers who are excited about the brewery's opening. As for the owners themselves?
"We're just as excited as them," says Boynton.
Henry says he is excited to bring a brand new type of brewery to the community.
"I'm not saying we're inventing the wheel or anything," he says of the brewery's concept, "but it's a new element we're adding to the Seacoast."