A Rhapsody In Brew

Love will make people do remarkable things. That may account for the devotion that goes into the making of great craft beers. It also helps explain why those who love beer are willing to travel miles just to sample those creations. Here’s a handy guide.New Hampshire beer production circa 1990 wasn’t too much different than in most other predominantly rural regions of the country — there wasn’t much made locally, except for the Anheuser-Busch plant in Merrimack. But that was before craft beer happened. Today, our state is home to nearly a dozen brew pubs, fanned out across the state from Nashua to Littleton. With a wide array of signature staples and unique seasonal brews on tap, fall is the perfect time to comb the state for your own favorite Oktoberfest lager, harvest ale or pumpkin brew. Besides, these pubs serve great burgers and more that are the perfect accompaniment.*Author’s Tasting NotesWoodstock Inn Station & BreweryIn 1994 Butch Chase had been bartending at the Woodstock Inn for four years. Craft beer was gaining popularity across the country and suddenly the inn was selling more and more Sam Adams and fewer pints of large-scale domestic beers. When the inn’s owners approached Chase about heading up a brewing operation on the premises, he agreed, despite having no brewing experience.After an internship with Portland’s Shipyard Brewing Company, Chase set about crafting the Woodstock Inn’s first signature brews, though in hindsight, he says, he didn’t really know what he was doing. “Looking back,” Chase says, “I was probably a little more cavalier than I should have been.” Nevertheless, Chase’s first brews were well received by patrons and have remained popular since the brewery’s first pour in March 1995.This fall marks the return of Woodstock’s Autumn Ale, which Chase says is the brewery’s most popular seasonal brew. The chestnut-colored ale has flavors of apples and cinnamon, making it the perfect palate cleanser between a host of heavy Oktoberfest lagers.Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery, 135 Main St., N. Woodstock, www.woodstockinnnh.comMoat Mountain Smoke house and Brewing Co.Like many New Hampshire brewers, Will Gilson of Moat Mountain Brewery got his start as a home brewer. Unlike many of his peers, however, he didn’t have to go searching for work. As his home-brewing operation grew, Gilson could no longer get the supplies he needed at a nearby brewing supply store and instead began buying grain wholesale from a local brewery. Stopping in one day to pick up supplies, Gilson left a bottle of his beer with the brewmaster. A job offer followed not long after.A professional brewer for 16 years, Gilson has spent the last 10 at Moat Mountain, joining the company as they prepared to open in 2000. In that time he has crafted a wide variety of brews, from a fruity wheat beer made with banana esters to a dark, creamy stout, using techniques deeply rooted in his love for German beer and culture. Gilson says that what truly sets Moat Mountain apart from many brewpubs is their use of different yeasts, which impart a much wider range of flavors on his many styles. He also prefers to craft a maltier beer than many of his counterparts, and in keeping with German brewing tradition has become well known for his lagers, though they require nearly twice the maturation time of ales.His efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. “We’re very excited that since our inception more and more local businesses have embraced our products and put us on tap,” he says. Moat Mountain beers now appear at nearly 40 restaurants and bars around the state, and will soon be offered in 24-ounce cans as well. Though painstakingly slow, canning is the next logical step for the growing brewery, Gilson explains. “It will be slow, but it’s the next step for us. We’re essentially a brew pub functioning as a microbrewery.”Moat Mountain, 3378 White Mtn. Hwy., N. Conway, www.moatmountain.comFlying Goose Brew Pub & GrilleBefore Rick Marley started brewing at home a dozen years ago, he didn’t even know such a thing was possible. “My wife and I were in this beer store in Concord that stocked a lot of craft beers, which was rare at the time. I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could make your own beer?’ and this guy came around the corner and said, ‘What did you say?’ He took me out back and he had a whole home-brew kit set up.”From there, Marley’s brewing career took off, though unconventionally at first. He began following Vermont-based jam band Phish and selling bottled beer at their concerts. “Sometimes we’d have the car so stacked up we could only fit two pairs of clothes. I got quite a reputation. People would say, ‘Hey, there’s the home-brew guy!'” Besides a single cooler of beer that was confiscated by police outside L.A.’s Greek Theatre, Marley says he sold every bottle.After a year at the American Brewer’s Guild in Middlebury, Vt., and a stint brewing at the Woodstock Inn Brewery, Marley landed at the Flying Goose Brew Pub a little over a year ago, and since then has been working to craft a wide range of seasonal beers to complement the brew pub’s year-round staples. This fall, he’ll debut a “Full Blown Homegrown Harvest Ale,” a new recipe featuring grains grown in Maine’s Aroostook County and hops grown behind the brew pub. A traditional Oktoberfest ale is also in the works and will be Marley’s first professionally brewed “step” mash, a technique intended to lend the beer its smooth, full-bodied character. Though demand for Marley’s beer has him struggling to keep up, he assures us the Oktoberfest will be available just in time for October. “Usually Oktoberfests are out the first week in September, but I have trouble just keeping up with our regular capacity!”*Perley Town IPA is noticeably hoppy, without being overbearingly bitterFlying Goose Brew Pub, 40 Andover Rd., New London, www.flyinggoose.comMartha’s ExchangeAhome brewer for almost 20 years, Greg Ouellette started his professional brewing career at Nashua’s IncrediBrew, a brew-on-premise facility where he aided customers in creating their very own craft beers. For the past nine years, however, he’s been brewing up his own recipes at the historic Martha’s Exchange on Main Street in Nashua. With the help of two customers-turned-assistants, Ouellette brews between 30 and 40 different types of beer a year, including a handful of mainstays and a variety of rotating seasonals that round out the brew pub’s eight taps.Ouellette says, while he enjoys experimenting with new styles, he doesn’t mind tweaking the brew pub’s mainstays. “Even some of the less labor-intensive beers are more fun because you’re constantly fine tuning the recipe.” And while there’s no denying that brewing consists largely of cleaning and sanitizing brew tanks, Ouellette says, “A bad day being a brewer is still better than a good day in an office.”Though he brews predominantly ales due to limited space, Ouellette releases an annual Oktoberfest lager each September. This year, he says, the lager was finished in late June, giving it nearly 2 1/2 months to mature before its mid-September debut and making it one of the best-aged Oktoberfest brews in the state. According to Ouellette it’s the restaurant’s fastest sale, selling out three batches in just six weeks. Don’t worry, though, if you don’t make it to Martha’s in time for Oktoberfest, Ouellette promises a pumpkin ale shortly in its wake.Martha’s Exchange, 185 Main St., Nashua, www.marthas-exchange.comMilly’s TavernSince opening Milly’s Tavern in 2002, owner and self-proclaimed “overseer of beer” Peter Telge has amassed an impressive collection of some 100 unique beer recipes, many of which he’s developed personally. He and his team maintain a steady supply of eight year-round staples that range from the refreshing Mt. Uncanoonuc Golden Cream Ale to the bold Bo’s Scotch Ale, a high-alcohol test of character for the adventurous beer drinker.For those possessing a more delicate palate, Milly’s Pumpkin Ale is a tried-and-true Manchester favorite. According to Telge, 400 to 500 pounds of locally raised pumpkins go into his pumpkin ale each year and in time it’s become Milly’s most popular seasonal brew – don’t let the keg run dry before you get there.Telge typically employs a full-time brewer to handle day-to-day brewing operations, allowing his hired help to experiment with new recipes only after a lengthy trial period. He explains that he rates each of the beers on a one to 10 scale, striving for perfection with every batch. And apparently, he’s not too far off the mark. Telge says that sales are up nearly 25 percent over last year, despite a struggling economy. “We have a great reputation in the beer market,” he says. “I hate to say this, but we’re doing incredible.”*Manch-Vegas has a distinct hops taste but doesn’t pack the bitter punch of many IPAs.Milly’s Tavern, 500 N. Commercial St., Manchester, www.millystavern.comElm City Brewing CompanyBill Dunn hadn’t planned on becoming a brewer. Recently graduated from Keene State College in the early ’90s, he found himself working as a park ranger in Colorado. “My roommate delivered kegs to bars so I told him to see if anyone was looking for a barback. One day he said, ‘You’ve got a job interview tomorrow.'” Dunn took a job bottling beer at a local brew pub. The career change brought a nominal wage increase and all the beer he could drink – not a bad deal for a recent college grad.Finding himself back on the East Coast, the Amherst, N.H., native took jobs brewing in Vermont and Philadelphia before settling in Keene with his wife. When a longtime friend tipped him off to a job at Elm City in March 2003, Dunn didn’t hesitate. Six and a half years later, he has refined every one of the brew pub’s recipes and added more than a few of his own, producing roughly 40 different styles of beer each year. He makes sure to have seven to nine beers on tap at a time, a mix of old standbys and ever-changing seasonals.Next up, Dunn says, is the annual Leaf Peeper Amber Ale. He crafts an amber ale by this name each fall, but changes the recipe each year. Despite all the experimentation, Dunn’s philosophy on brewing remains unchanged: “I make beer that I want to drink and what I can’t drink of that I sell to you.” Thank goodness for that.Elm City Brewing Company, Colony Mill Marketplace, Keene, www.elmcitybrewing.comSeven Barrel BreweryI thought I knew everything about beer and learned pretty quickly that I didn’t know anything,” says brewmaster Tony Lubold of his first job at Vermont’s Catamount Brewing. Luckily, he was a quick study. While at Catamount, Lubold brewed contract ales to the exacting specifications of many highly acclaimed New England brewers, including Brattleboro’s Ray McNeill. Arriving at Seven Barrel in September 2008, Lubold found his new clientele no less demanding. “They stick with simple, old-style beers,” Lubold says. “But they’re brand loyal and I like that.” Don’t expect to see any pumpkin ales here; Seven Barrel’s fall seasonal is a double IPA tailored to fit the traditional tastes of the regular clientele – but Lubold doesn’t mind. “It’s my favorite style, too,” he says.Seven Barrel Brewery, Rte. 12A, W. Lebanon www.7barrel.comItalian Oasis Restaurant and BreweryLittleton’s Italian Oasis has undergone significant evolution since Wayne Morello bought the restaurant and tavern in 1992. When Morello’s younger brother John, an avid home brewer, turned up in 1993 and suggested they add craft beer to the Oasis lineup, Morello hesitantly gave him the nod. In 1994 the brothers, originally from Manchester, simultaneously added an outdoor patio and secondhand brewing equipment to the growing restaurant. Today the brewery produces four beers -three mainstays and an ever-rotating seasonal – in small quantities, and Morello says that’s just the way he likes it. “We don’t bottle our beer, we don’t sell growlers and there are no kegs sitting on some loading dock in July in 100 degree heat.”Italian Oasis, 106 Main St., Littleton, (603) 444-6995Redhook BreweryPlant Manager Greg Deuhs says he’s seen the craft beer movement from all angles, from working with a 20-barrel system in a small Minnesota brew pub to helping the mighty Stroh Brewing Company create its first craft brews back when the movement took hold in the ’90s. He now oversees production at both of Redhook’s breweries on the West Coast and in New Hampshire. He says the success of craft brewing has something to do with America’s love of the underdog: “If a local or regional brewer is putting out good beer, people would rather support the local product rather than a large-scale brewery.” Along with Redhook’s Autumn Ale, Deuhs recommends people sample Winter Hook Winter Ale, a richer, fuller-bodied beer that is redesigned each year with specialty hops and grains.*Don’t let its orangey color and initial fruit flavors fool you – Redhook’s Long Hammer finishes with a persistently bitter, hoppy punch that makes it worthy of its name.Redhook Brewery, 35 Corporate Dr., Portsmouth, www.redhook.comPortsmouth BreweryBefore a brewing apprenticeship at Vermont’s Catamount Brewery 21 years ago, Tod Mott was making good use of a master’s degree in ceramics. Scoff if you will, but Mott says the two have a much deeper connection than most people would expect. “It’s recipe formulation, time and temperature, microbiology and a little magic. In brewing, there’s always a little magic,” Mott says. Two decades later that magic has made Mott one of the most acclaimed craft brewers, well, ever.In 2008 Beer Advocate named Mott’s Kate the Great Russian Imperial Stout the best beer in America and the second best beer in the world. “Kate,” as Mott affectionately refers to his creation, experienced a massive surge in popularity that has left him and assistant Tyler Jones somewhat in awe. “It was just being in the right place at the right time,” Mott insists. “The amount of force that it took with it created a monster and we’re very appreciative of that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a dynamite beer, but there are so many great beers out there and we just got lucky.”Maybe so, but the popularity of Mott’s brews is no accident. He and Jones work 50 hours a week to keep up with the brewery’s demand. “We literally cannot produce enough beer for this place,” Mott says, explaining they have, at times, run out of their most popular styles. This fall they’ll release an Oktoberfest lager and a pumpkin ale, using 200 pounds of locally raised organic pumpkins. Mott’s keeping mum about Kate’s next release date, but says the announcement should be made by late September or early October. Just don’t be late.*Bottle Rocket IPA is a beer for hopheads. It has a subtle fruit aroma that complements the hops, but doesn’t come close to overpowering them.Portsmouth Brewery, 56 Market St., Portsmouth, www.portsmouthbrewery.comDon’t have time to follow New Hampshire’s beer trail? There’s no need to miss out on the state’s great beers altogether! Check out some of the fantastic craft beer festivals going on throughout the state in October and November.New Hampshire Brew FestOctober 2, Portsmouth. Sample more than 90 brews from more than 28 breweries from across the Eastern Seaboard. Held on the grounds of beautiful Redhook Ale Brewery at 35 Corporate Dr., this event is a special fundraiser for the Prescott Park Arts Festival in partnership with the Master Brewers Association of America and WHEB’s The Morning Buzz. Admission has yet to be determined, but more information can be found at www.prescottpark.org.Oktoberfest at the Mile Away RestaurantOctober 3, Milford. Visit the Mile Away Restaurant for live music with King Ludwig’s Bavarian Band and lots of food (schnitzels, sauerbraten and other German fare) and drink from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at 52 Federal Hill Rd. Open to the public with a $5 cover charge for adults, $2.50 for children. More details are available at www.mileawayrestaurant.com or by calling (603) 673-3904.13th Annual Oktoberfest at AttitashOctober 9-10, Bartlett. Head to Attitash for a weekend-long event that includes live Bavarian music from the King Ludwig Band, dancing, children’s activities, games, authentic German food and, of course, theOktoberfest Bier Garten featuring brewers from around the region. More details are available at www.attitash.com.New Hampshire Brewers FestivalNovember 12-13, Manchester. The second annual New Hampshire Brewers Festival will be held in the Armory at the Radisson Hotel. A “Dinner With The Brewers” event on Friday night is followed by two beer-tasting sessions on Saturday, featuring microbrewers from New Hampshire and Massachusetts. “Learn Your Beer” in tasting seminars and party and dance to great live music! $29 for either session, $65 for dinner. Packages that include overnight accommodations are available. More details at www.learnyourbeer.com.