What's New With Smuttynose Brewing Company
What's old is now new again
With the explosion of new and exciting breweries offering everything from experimental flavors to old-school (and old-world) styles, it can be all too easy to overlook the great breweries that started it all.
Twenty years ago Peter Egelston found himself the new owner of a defunct brewery in Portsmouth. It was just a few years prior to this point that Egelston, along with his sister, Janet, founded one of the breweries that many credit with sparking the craft beer revolution here in New Hampshire — the Portsmouth Brewery (if you’ve never been to this downtown Portsmouth landmark, stop in — the beer and food are both top-notch).
The site of the former bankrupt Frank Jones Brewery (not the historic Frank Jones Brewing Company, but another brewery with the same name) became the home of Smuttynose Brewing Company until the brand new (well, mostly) facility in Hampton opened to the public at the end of May.
It took 10 years and two rejected sites before the decision to build at the historic Towle Farm — a farm that dates back to the late 17th century — located on the eponymous Towle Farm Road was finally made.
Four years ago when the brewery purchased the farm, says the wonderfully titled Smuttynose Minister of Propaganda JT Thompson, the property included a 17th century barn, two carriage houses and a Victorian-era farmhouse (home to the new Hayseed Restaurant). So why did it take so long to build the new brewery? “You don’t buy a historic New England farm just to strip out all of the character,” explains Thompson. Rather than tear it all down and start fresh, they incorporated the old structures and kept traditional New England architecture firmly in mind when designing the new facility.
When you visit now, you’re treated to a pleasing mix of old and new. The 18-ton farmhouse was moved 85 yards onto a new foundation. The new buildings were designed in that familiar rambling New England style. To add to all the charm is a sight fans of the Finest Kind IPA will recognize — the label’s 1955 Chief Pontiac trailer is out front for all to see.
So why choose a plot of land that required so much extra time and effort?
“The farm chose us,” explains Thompson. “You can always just build four walls and a roof. If we only wanted to do that, then we could have done it a long time ago.”
Besides, he adds, breweries aren’t just places that beer comes from anymore. The new brewery is open to the public for hour-long tours seven days a week with a merchandise shop on site as well. Beer tourism is turning into serious business. At least, that’s the hope.
Thompson also happens to be a founding member of the new NH beer industry group BrewNH, which was launched, fittingly enough, at the new Smuttynose brewery in January. A joint effort of the Beer Distributors of New Hampshire and the Granite State Brewers Association, in partnership with the New Hampshire Departments of Travel and Tourism, and Resources and Economic Development, BrewNH aims to help the state capture a piece of the rapidly growing craft beer tourism pie.
The idea, says Thompson, is to market the state’s brewing industry and to put New Hampshire on the map as a destination for beer lovers. And for tourists here for other reasons it reveals the fact that practically every nook and cranny of the state now boasts its own brewery or brewpub. Come for the hiking, stay for the local beer. The website features an extensive brewery map, events and information to create an all-beer trip to the Granite State.
To that end, the new Smuttynose brewery was built to both produce more beer with state-of-the-art (and, in many cases with sustainable and eco-friendly) equipment and to give visitors a great experience.
You can’t, however, encourage more people to visit when you’re bursting at the seams. Smuttynose had long ago outgrown the original Heritage Avenue location. With the new and much larger brewery comes the ability to, you guessed it, make more beer and thus expand into more markets.
Should you travel to the United Kingdom, Germany, South Korea, Italy or stick closer to home in the Chattanooga area of Tennessee or Texas and Nashville, then you might just see the familiar Smuttynose label.
In addition to the new markets, larger-scale production, tours and merchandise store, the new facility also gives the brewers greater license to experiment — and so Smuttlabs was born. The often-out-of-the-ordinary beers produced under the Smuttlabs label allow the brewers to try out ideas and experiments that can’t be produced on a large scale.
“Things have gotten very dynamic very quickly,” says Thompson. “It’s kind of nice, but it’s kind of dizzying too.”
So why not add one more thing?
Here’s another first — as vice president of the Granite State Brewers Association, Thompson helped launch the association’s inaugural — and very successful — brewfest, held in August in Manchester (look for it again in summer 2015).
The hope is that groups like the Granite State Brewers Association, with larger members like Smuttynose, can help the smaller, newer breweries and the industry as a whole — a “rising tide floats all boats” mentality.
Keep your eye on Smuttynose (not to mention BrewNH and the GSBA). If these last few months are anything to go by, new and interesting things are surely on the horizon.