Best of NH 2014 Coffee Shops, Beverages and Bars

This section of Best of NH includes local wine, beer, soda, your favorite regional coffee shops and much more.

From left: Editor's Pick Hermit Woods Winery, Editor's Pick Squamscot Beverages, Readers' Poll Winner the Portsmouth Brewery for brewpub and Readers' Poll Winner for local brewery Smuttynose. Photos by Susan Laughlin; Smuttynose photo by P.T. Sullivan.


Community Supported Brewery: 7th Settlement in Dover might be the only brewery where the patrons can buy a share, an idea that’s based on the popular farm CSA model. The brewery’s mission is to in turn support the community that supports them by using ingredients from local sources. Good, local food, a late-night menu, a list of daily specials and excellent beer don’t hurt either.

European Style Beers: There’s much to love about Schilling Beer Co. in Littleton. First of all, it has a sense of NH history. The brewery and Riverside Taproom is located in one of the oldest commercial buildings north of Concord — a converted 18th-century gristmill building on the Ammonoosuc River. Secondly, they make delicious beers inspired by centuries-old Belgian, Czech and German traditions. Add in a lively atmosphere, a sense of community and great wood-fired pizza and you’ve got the place to be in Littleton.

Food, Beer and Wine Pairings: Expounding on the wine bar idea, Cask and Vine in Derry adds a great list of craft beers to the mix. This casual, fun restaurant and bar is the perfect place to try a new beer or glass of wine without all the noise of your typical sports bar or pub. The staff is great at pairing cheeses, chocolate, fruits, sandwiches and entrées to whatever beer or wine you choose. Go in for a glass or a pint and we bet you’ll stay for the evening.

Fruit Wines: Hermit Woods Winery, now in Meredith, offers a surprising selection of fruit wines that are designed to be enjoyed with meals. Unlike most varieties that are terribly sweet or thick,  the dark berry fruits wines here compare to grape wines. Winemaker Ken Hardcastle finds organic fruit from elderberries to black currants to blueberries to create a delicately balanced blend. Their 2012 Hermitage is fermented dry and barrel-aged to create a Bordeaux-style character — fruit forward, but so much more.

Gin: Djinn Spirits in Nashua has a fragrant gin filled with the aromas of a variety of  botanicals, vapor infused with the requisite juniper, plus coriander, grains of paradise, elderflower and several more.  For a real tasty drink, take one ounce Djinn Spirits Gin, one ounce of Cointreau, one ounce Lillet Blanc, one ounce fresh lemon juice and three drops of Pernod. It’s called the Corpse Reviver #2. It  just might work.

Gruits: You’re forgiven if you’ve never heard of a gruit. Learn all about this ancient style of beer at the phenomenal Earth Eagle Brewings in Portsmouth. A gruit (pronounced groot) is simply an un-hopped beer that’s often made with herbs.

Late Night/Bar Menu: Most late night and bar menus offer a pretty measly collection of food that’s easy to drop into a fryer or pop in a microwave. Not so at Fireworks in Keene. They have nine of their brick oven pizzas, four salad options and starters that include fried risotto cakes and hearth baked feta cheese. Served from 4 p.m. until “late,” this is a nice way to enjoy a cocktail (or local beer from their impressive craft brew list) and a bite to eat with friends. 

Queen City Coffee Shop: Catering to the true coffee enthusiast, Café La Reine in downtown Manchester draws inspiration from classic European coffee houses and pays homage to legendary kings and queens by naming the salads and hot sandwiches after them. Yet the warm and inviting ambiance includes a touch of New Hampshire as well with fishing poles, sleighs and a chandelier made from deer antlers as part of the décor. Java Jams, live music, Writers’ Night Out and other special events perk up the evenings.

Restaurant Bar: There are some restaurants where the bar is the place to be. Unums in Nashua is definitely in that category.  It’s not that the dining room isn’t perfectly lovely, it’s just that the large, serpentine bar offers nice views of downtown Nashua through the large plate glass windows and a second smaller bar near the kitchen lets you watch the show as the chef prepares your meal.

Smoothies: Sometimes it’s best to drink your meal. No, not a cocktail, but a fresh explosion of healthy veggies and/or fruits whipped into a nutritious frenzy by the blades of the magical VitaMix machine at live juice in Concord. What could be more blissful than a nutrient-dense drink of spinach and strawberries or the tight-knit alliance of blueberries, banana, lime and ginger? Make it even more nutritious with a scoop of Spirulina, hemp protein or an echinacea blend. Bottoms up!

Soda: Next time you think about ordering a Coke or Pepsi, think local instead. Squamscot Old Fashioned Beverages channels it’s nearly 150-year history making nostalgic sodas like ginger beer, cream soda, orange, root beer and many other varieties.

Categories: Best of NH Winners