Meet the Brewer: Back Hill Beer Co.’s Peter LaPlante
Back Hill's Peter LaPlante talks brewing in a renovated mill building, shunning beer snobs and the crucial combination of hot wings and pilsners.
There’s a lot of breweries in New Hampshire — over 90, actually. That’s a lot! We want the good people of the Granite State to get to know all the brave souls who mash, hop and malt their way to victory at those 90-something breweries. So, we’re doing a monthly “Meet the Brewer” Q&A series, where we let brewers wax poetic on their craft and get to know the humans behind the hops.
For our latest Q&A, meet Peter LaPlante. Peter is the owner and brewer at Back Hill Beer Co., a five-barrel brewery and taproom in the ground level of the Gonic mill buildings.
New Hampshire Magazine: What’s your annual production size, in barrels?
Peter LaPlante: Small. This year, we’ll package around 150 bbls.
NHM: When did you first open your doors to the public?
PL: October 2020…
NHM: What motivated you to start your own brewery?
PL: I’ve been brewing beer for my entire adult life, and my wife Laura and I were at a point where we wanted to give it a shot professionally. It’s been crazy so far, but very rewarding as well.
NHM: What did you think was missing in the craft beer landscape that you wanted to provide?
PL: Not really sure I felt like anything was missing in the craft scene, but we definitely knew from the beginning that we wanted to produce a wide range of styles and we also wanted to focus on hoppy beer. I love beer period, but I’ve always loved hoppy beer, probably starting way back when I had my first Smuttynose Finestkind IPA. We produce everything from fruited sours to double IPAs to lagers and browns and stouts. Always trying to put our own unique spin on things while also giving a nod to all the great beer that has propelled the industry to what it is today.
NHM: What did you like about the craft beer landscape that you wanted to add on to?
PL: We just love beer, so we wanted to be part of the industry.
NHM: What vibe did you want to create at your brewery?
PL: Welcoming and chill. No beer snobs allowed haha. I love getting nerdy and really digging into a beer with someone, but we also wanted to create an environment where people feel comfortable to hang and enjoy a beer. If you want to come in and have a couple lagers and a pretzel and hang with friends after a long week, we are here for that. And if you want to talk about the intricacies of the evolving bev market, adjuncts, advanced hop products and argue the specifics of the Reinheitsgebot, we are here for that too. But whatever happens, we just want people to be able to relax and enjoy our beer however they want to enjoy it.
NHM: How have your brewery’s goals changed since you opened up shop?
PL: Still the same, focus on quality product and experience for our local market. It’s been fun to iterate on different beers and try different things, but the end goal has been — and will always be — focused on the quality of our beer and the taproom experience.
NHM: What sets you apart from other New Hampshire breweries? What’s unique about your style and vision?
PL: We really just hope people enjoy our beers and that we can stack up against some of the amazing producers in the state. From a product standpoint, we are proud of the range of beers that we brew, and we try to create big flavors with a pretty simple approach.
NHM: How many beers and what styles do you offer at any given time?
PL: We have 11 beers on tap and a varied quantity in cans. Up-to-date tap info can be found here and available cans can be found here.
NHM: What’s your most popular beer?
PL: We rotate so frequently it’s hard to say, but the hoppy stuff (IPAs and double IPAs) always goes the fastest.
NHM: How often do you rotate your tap list?
PL: Usually once a week we add a new beer to the tap list and take an older one off, but it depends on the time of year and what else we’ve got going on.
NHM: What atmosphere do you hope to create at your taproom? How would you describe the ambience of your taproom?
PL: Industrial chic haha. We are in an old mill building that is a bit dark and dingy, so we try to embrace that while also brightening it up. Lots of plants.
NHM: What’s in the future for your brewery? Any big plans? Small plans? World takeover schemes? Any expansions and changes, or upcoming milestones and events, to note?
PL: We definitely have big plans for the future, but for now we’re really just trying to do right by our local community. We want to grow our market locally and then look to more expansion in the future. Increase taproom events and have fun in our community as more people discover our little mill brewery.
NHM: Where can the people purchase and drink your brews?
PL: Our taproom is the best place, but we distribute cans to fine shops, listed below, and you can find us at lots of restaurants in Rochester and the surrounding Seacoast area. If you don’t see us on tap, tell them to give us a call!
The City Beverage in Rochester
Greg and Jane’s in Epping
Bert’s Beer & Wine in Manchester
NHM: What’s your title at the brewery?
PL: Brewer and owner.
NHM: What was the first beer that made you want to become a brewer?
PL: Finestkind followed closely by Heady Topper (by The Alchemist).
NHM: How’d you first get into brewing?
PL: Started brewing in college because it was affordable and you didn’t have to be 21 to buy ingredients at the brew shop…
NHM: Why did you choose to brew in New Hampshire? What about the Granite State — and its craft beer scene — made you want to be a part of it?
PL: I grew up in New Hampshire (Hancock specifically) and I love it here. Laura and I have lived all over New England, but we are very happy to call New Hampshire home now.
NHM: Favorite beer style/food combo?
PL: This is really hard. But a nice zippy pilsner and some hot wings is hard to beat for me.
NHM: What’s your personal mission statement as a brewer? Why do you do it?
PL: We realize how lucky we are to be able to do this, and that’s why we are obsessed with the quality of our beer and our taproom experience.
NHM: What styles of beer are you most fond of?
PL: I love our brown ale (“3x Warm”) but I find myself gravitating toward pale lagers and IPAs most often these days.
NHM: What’s your current favorite beer you make?
PL: I don’t think I’ll ever be able to answer this question, but I’m really proud of the most current batch of The Pammy More Special. It’s a double IPA with citra and enigma hops and we made some little tweaks this last time that I’m very excited about.
NHM: In five words or less, what makes a good beer?
PL: Water, malt, hops, yeast, love.
NHM: Time for the self-interview: Ask and answer one question you wished interviewers grilled you with when writing about your brewery.
PL: How many cups of coffee do you drink a day? Too many.