Meet the Brewer: Rek’•lis Brewing Company’s Ian Dowling
The seasoned brewer at the Bethlehem spot talks shop
With more than 70 craft breweries spread across the state (and new ones opening seemingly every week), it’s no secret that New Hampshire is home to some great beer. To help you get to know some of the Granite State’s favorite sudsy spots, we’re implementing a new series of “Meet the Brewer” profiles to introduce you to our top-notch New Hampshire breweries and the men and women behind them.
For our latest profile, meet Ian Dowling. He is the brewer and co-owner of Rek’•lis Brewing Company, a 72-barrel per year brewery that he runs alongside his partner, Marlaina Renton. The couple started their business with a thirst to create “lots of something good, something fun, something challenging and something to share.” Read on to learn all about the soon to be 264-barrel-per-year capacity facility and their brewer.
About the Brewer
New Hampshire Magazine: What is your title at the brewery?
Ian Dowling: Brewer, co-owner, forever man.
NHM: How did you get into the brewing business?
ID: My love of beer. I have an immense love of brewing and drinking beer. But most importantly, desire! Desire is the drive that kept pushing me to brew for so many years. It’s what fed my passion for the skills I needed to brew what I liked.
NHM: Why did you choose to work in New Hampshire?
ID: This is where I have lived for the past 15 years and it made sense. I’m here because of the outdoors and what the beautiful White Mountains have to offer.
There really wasn’t much of a scene here prior to Schilling Beer Company opening a few years ago. However, there were many people (like myself) who love a great craft beer but had to go other places to find it. Confidence is huge for us. Our brewery is the second brewery in eight years to be built in a 30-mile radius, and since it has opened, we’ve heard there is a possibility of maybe two other breweries opening in the surrounding area. This is awesome for northern New Hampshire, and maybe we will actually have a “beer scene” here!
NHM: What style(s) of beer are you personally most fond of?
ID: It depends on the time of year. I love a strong stout in the winter, a crisp IPA in the spring and a thirst-quenching Texas IPA (Lonestar State of Mind IPA) in the summer.
NHM: What’s your personal favorite of the beers you make?
ID: That would have to be the Pleaser, which is a black rye IPA. It is very complex, and has a light body as well as flowery hops.
About the Brewery
NHM: What’s your annual production size, in barrels?
ID: Four months ago, it was 72-barrels-per-year in our 12-by-12 shed. We will be producing 264 barrels each year very soon. It’s very important to us that the batches stay small because it allows us to be more creative, brew more batches and types of beer and continually evolve with the market and tastes. Most importantly, we aim to always have fresh beer.
NHM: When did you open to the public?
ID: We opened Columbus Day Weekend in October 2016 in our little 12-by-12 shed. I was part owner of a brewery called Golden Dome in Montpelier about 25 years ago. I was not the brewer at the time, and due to the business structure, the brewery closed its doors. Since then, I decided that I wanted to brew myself and possibly open a smaller brewery one day (hence the shed). I also wanted to have a partner (Marlaina) to run a business with, and have someone who shared the same passion and desire for the business as me. This has proven to be a component of the appeal and uniqueness of our company. I have passed my skills on to Marlaina. She has developed a couple of our popular beers, like Shameless and Little Fox, to name a couple. From our opening date to now, people from all over have moseyed up our humble little driveway, packing our little shed and buying all our beer. The last week we were open before we closed for our expansion was our record — we sold over 100 gallons of beer in eight hours.
NHM: What sets you apart from other New Hampshire breweries?
ID: Us! Marlaina and I are in it together and have so much fun doing it. We offer an experience that you can’t find at most breweries. It’s not uncommon for the two of us to be filling tasters for our patrons, who we refer to as our friends. At the same time, we stop to explain strike and mash temperatures and when you hop a beer and why, all at the same time chuckling away. I also have a unique style of brewing — I am not afraid to break a mold. Usually if the sign says stop, I say go. I guess this is part of my “reklis nature.” I have been developing a method in the beer making process that I call “chaotic mashing.” I have also been working on a new style of beer that we are calling “Third Trimester,” which is basically a baby beer.
NHM: How many beers and what styles do you offer at any given time?
ID: We will offer over eight beers at a time. More than seven are CO2-driven beers, one is a nitro-driven beer and one is a cask-conditioned beer. The beers are all American-style ales, and we experiment heavily with the use of hops and grains.
NHM: What’s your most popular beer?
ID: That would probably be Yippee Ki Yay, which is a double pale ale. We sell out of every style anytime that we were open. It seemed like every beer was a customer favorite! We have a few series of beers and in those series we have very popular beers.
We have our License Plate series (always an acronym, mostly IPAs). AYHTDIT, or All You Have To Do Is Turn, a very yummy fruity and floral IPA.
We also have the Up in Smoke series, which is an homage to our little town. This series is all smoked beers named after a hotel that burned down in Bethlehem, which is a fascinating part of the town history. One of the most popular beers is The Bellevue smoked stout.
NHM: What’s next for your brewery?
ID: We are almost done with the remodel of our new building on Main Street, which we purchased in September 2017. The space is about 12 times bigger than what we were brewing and serving in. We are super excited, although the project has taken longer than we anticipated. Its DIY nature and our shoestring budget has proven to be an awesome ride. Friends and family have been volunteering to help us, and now, in Bob Oros’ words, “we have an angel investor,” which is just incredible. Everything that has conspired is because of beer. Beer is the vessel that has revealed how much the residents and visitors of Bethlehem want this town to thrive. I would say that our biggest milestone yet is getting ourselves open. Going from serving tasters and selling growlers from our backyard, to a full-on brew pub with food is huge for us, and we are certainly learning as we go.
NHM: Where can your beer be purchased?
IR: We are currently in a holding pattern, and in about two weeks we will be whole-selling beer to the Littleton Co-op. For the first time ever, we will be offering cans. In about a month, if all goes as planned with the health department, we will be selling beer from the brewery in pints/tasters and cans/bottles. From here, we’re not sure exactly what our production versus/output will be, there are possibilities in the works of bringing the brewery south a bit.