Don't Miss the Henniker Brewing Company
You might have overlooked the somewhat out-of-the-way Henniker Brewing Company - it's time to rectify that.
A quintessential quaint yet scenic New Hampshire town, Henniker has much to be proud of. Not only is it the single Henniker on earth, it’s home to Pat’s Peak, New England College and secluded gem the Henniker Brewing Company. It only seems appropriate that a brewery in such a town should be surrounded by woods and only accessible via a narrow, windy, shaded road. But for all the semi-ruralness of the surrounding town Henniker Brewing Company’s warehouse facility is anything but small and quaint.
Founding member Dave Currier put years of planning into the company before the launch back in 2011 drawing on expertise and experience from his past as the GM of Pats Peak and as a New Hampshire state senator and representative. He is also the founder of Bound Tree Medical, a medical equipment distributor, which used to be housed in HBC’s current location.
Although not as big in physical space such as names like Redhook or Smuttynose, the HBC set-up is still a sizable 15-barrel brewhouse with plenty of room to expand. The current brew system is nestled in one corner of the wide-open space big enough to hear an echo. “We'll just continue to add on 30s [fermenters and brite tanks] as we grow and transition more of our beers into cans,” says Ryan Maiola, marketing director of HBC.
Maiola’s known Currier his whole life and was originally involved as an investor but was soon recruited to work full time. “He knew that I had a passion for craft beer and a background in marketing,” says Maiola. Another board member, Dave Paquette, had previous experience in the beverage industry working for Coca Cola and Odwalla.
Brewmaster Chris Shea is originally from St. Louis and worked at two different breweries there before coming out to New Hampshire. After relocating to the Granite State, he was a head brewer with Bill Herlicka at White Birch Brewing in Hooksett and eventually joined the Henniker crew months after launch. Now a six person team, everyone does a little of everything from helping out with bottling, sales and staffing the tasting room.
HBC currently offers samples and growlers out of their tasting room’s tap but patrons can also buy merchandise and 22 oz bottles. This is similar to many tasting rooms in the state, but patrons in Henniker can take advantage of a special incentive. “In NH we're not allowed to fill up other breweries’ growlers, they need to be either blank or have our name on them,” Maiola explains. This state law is the reason for HBC’s growler exchange program.
Maiola points to a high-up shelf in the tasting room lined with three rows of growlers. “If someone brings one in from a brewery that we don't already have up there we change it out for one of ours so they get the refill price instead,” he says, which is a significant discount. The growlers come in mostly from the New England area but there are also some from western tourists as well as some from Canada traded by local college hockey players who play for Canadian schools. “It's interesting to see where they come from,” says Maiola, “some of the breweries don't even exist anymore.”
One of the beers that HBC is known for is their fall seasonal: Hometown Double Brown. “Its kind of our response to all the pumpkin beers that out there,” says a smirking Maiola, “We will never, ever brew a pumpkin beer because we don't enjoy drinking them and there's already way too many on the market.” Hometown Double Brown is a dark and robust ale which was brewed as a tribute to Henniker and packed with malt. “Theres tons of malt in it,” Maiola laughs, “It almost didn't fit in the tanks we were brewing so much.”
Brewer Chris Shea speaks of simplicity and quality ingredients in regards to his brews, “We try to keep the different amounts of ingredients in beer to a minimum,” he explains, “we try to keep it to one or two really high quality malts so the complexity and their own character comes through.” Also adding flavor and complexity are the various hops from places around the world like the western US, Germany, and New Zealand.
Perhaps HBC’s most coveted beers come from their “Off the Grid” series. The series features four releases during the year, one batch at a time. “We just released Gentleman Farmer and then Chris brewed Ora a couple weeks ago that I got the first taste of yesterday,” says an excited Maiola. Ora is a Belgian-style golden ale brewed with barley, rye and oats among the other grains called for in the recipe. By the way, Ryan’s face lit up at the mention of Ora – it was clear that this beer is something special. “It’s really, really, really good and I can’t wait until it comes out,” he confirms.
Coming up HBC is partnering with 900 Degrees for an Ora launch event. The restaurant will feature HBC beers during the month of August. “They're going to run the artisan ale, then the amber, then the wheat, then they're putting on Ora as the final beer,” Maiola explains. “We only do 10 kegs for the entire state so they're going to have two of them.”
Also coming soon, in similar fashion as other NH breweries, is a new canning line to introduce six-packs to the market. Cans are becoming more popular for their ability to preserve beer better than bottles by blocking any and all UV rays as well as for their affordability. Currently HBC offers their beer in 22 oz bottles, one-half and one-sixth barrel kegs but six packs of the Hopslinger IPA should be in stores by October. And anyone looking for friendly conversation and delicious, local beer should stop by the tasting room for some samples, growlers or Saturday tours. Tours are from 12 p.m.-4 p.m. and the taproom is open daily from 12 p.m.-6 p.m.