Friday, 18 September 2015

America Part One - New Hampshire

I love New England.  The peace and quiet, the beautiful scenery, the lack of people and those that you do encounter are usually pleasant.  There is also great beer too.  This year my wife turned fifty so a big holiday was on the agenda and my son wanted to go back to New England so that is where we headed for.  The first part of the holiday was back to the place we stayed at two years ago so I wasn't expecting much new in the way of beer.  Part two, which I will be writing about next, took us to what is fast becoming the craft beer capital of America, Vermont.

New Hampshire has a tiny coastline and the bulk of the state is mountainous extending all the way to the Canadian border.  Most of the 40+ breweries are located in the populous coastal region but coming back through Lincoln in the White Mountains on day two I quickly spotted a new brewpub to investigate.  Sadly, it was so new that the brewery has not yet been installed!!  The One Love Brewery is therefore just a restaurant with craft beers currently but I did enjoy a fantastic pint (a US pint of 16 fl oz) of Smuttynose Robust Porter (6.6% ABV).  This was indeed a lovely smooth smoky porter.  Smuttynose is one of those New Hampshire brewers from near the coast and one that has been around for quite some time and their beers are also available over in the UK if you search hard enough.

We were staying in North Conway and it did not take me long to spot a new brewpub there too.  Sea Dog Brewing Co is a chain of brewpubs with locations mainly in Maine and Florida.  They are part of the Shipyard Brewing Company which began brewing at Kennebunkport in Maine in 1992 with Alan Pugsley who had moved from Ringwood Brewery in England and they still use the same Ringwood yeast for their beers.  I tried a four beer sampler and was slightly disappointed.  The Windjammer Blonde (4.8% ABV) was sweet and floral and too fizzy.  The Old East India Pale Ale (6.2% ABV) was much better with tropical fruit flavours and a nice bitterness.  The Hazelnut Porter (5.6% ABV) was my wife's favourite.  She quickly finished off a pint it.  Nutty with a lovely roasted malt character.  The final beer, the Sea Dog Stout (4.7% ABV) was the most disappointing because of my love for Shipyard's Blue Fin Stout.  The Sea Dog Stout was thin and bland and served much too cold also.  

Where the Sea Dog Brewing Co excelled was with their food.  We all enjoyed this so much we went back there a second time later in the week and on that occasion I tried the Red Barn Rye (6.0% ABV).  This was their best.  A gorgeous toasty beer with burnt caramel notes and an earthy bitterness.  I really liked this one.       

We were staying at the White Mountain Hotel that had five taps offering a selection of local beer in addition to the widely available Samuel Adams Octoberfest (5.3% ABV).  I didn't like this beer but over the week I got through all the beers that were on tap and the Moat Mountain East Intervale IPA (4.5% ABV) and the Tuckermans Headwall Alt (4.5% ABV) were my favourites.  Moat Mountain is another brewpub in North Conway which we visited last time and Tuckermans is a largish regional brewer in Conway.  We didn't visit the Moat Mountain brewpub this time so it was good to get a couple of their beers at the hotel.  As for Tuckermans, we had a day of rain and we ended up driving around Conway looking for their brewery.  

On the outside you get no idea of what might lie within.  In the past I have been largely unimpressed with their beer only really having tried the Tuckermans Pale Ale (5.3% ABV) which for their first six years was the only beer they produced.  I had however already enjoyed the Headwall Alt (4.5% ABV) this time so I was looking forward to seeing what else they were now brewing.  

Inside there is a fabulous bar with flight samplers (just $6 for four good sized samples).  Beer could be bought to take away too but there was a spacious seating area with large wooden tables with benches and children were allowed in too of course, as they seem to be everywhere in the US.  For those who enjoy sitting at a bar there was that option too.      

The brewery was in full view behind a glass screen and this facility is where they have been brewing since 2004 having outgrown their original brewery on Main Street where they began brewing in 1998.  Lots of stainless tanks were visible and the sights, sounds and smells of a working brewery were familiar to me of course.     

I chose a sampler of four beers that I hadn't tried before and began with the TRale (4.9% ABV).  This light, refreshing 'Kolsch' style beer was pleasant, not unlike their Pale Ale but with more depth of flavour to it.  Next up was the 6288 Stout (6.2% ABV).  It has five different malts and both American and French hops.  It is a seriously good stout with a great depth of roasted malt.  This was followed by the Rockpile IPA (6.5% ABV), an East Coast style IPA.  This was absolutely fantastic.  It has everything I love in an American Pale Ale.  Great hop character.  Quite dry and bittersweet in the finish.  To finish, I tried the Ryezome Red IPA (6.9% ABV) which was surprisingly smooth and had great balance.  One of the best rye IPAs I have had the pleasure of drinking.                    

So Tuckermans turned out to be a massive hit on a wet rainy lunchtime and the beery highlight of my week in New Hampshire.  Courtesy of an excellent shop that was recommended to me for local craft ales I did get to try some more excellent New Hampshire beers though from breweries I had not tried before.  The first of these was Stoneface IPA (7.2% ABV) from Stoneface Brewing of Newington NH.  This was the first of some wonderful IPAs I got to try.  This one tasted as strong as it is with strong citrus notes.  Lovely.

Next up was a Battle Axe IPA (7.2% ABV) from the Kelsen Brewing Company.  Kelsen opened their doors in 2014 in Derry, NH, and this was another superb IPA that gets top marks from me.  It had orange citrus notes with a slight earthiness in the finish and I thought it was perfect.       

The Cogway IPA (6.6% ABV) came next and this was full of pineapple and peach flavours and there was a fabulous bittersweet finish to it.  This fruity masterpiece came from 603 Brewery located in Londonderry.  I did enjoy a beer from this brewer on my last visit two years ago, their 9th state Red IPA, so this was definite confirmation that they are still brewing great beer.

A brewer I had not tried before was the Great Rhythm Brewing Company from Portsmouth.  Yet again I chose a strong IPA, their Hopstock IPA (6.5% ABV).  It was at this point that I realised that New Hampshire is just full of great IPAs and this one was full of those lovely pineapple, grapefruit and lemon notes that I love so much.

I did get chance to slip over the border into Maine and try something from Peak Organic Brewing Company.  On my last visit the hotel had their IPA on tap and it turned out to be my favourite beer of the holiday.  This time I found a black IPA from them called Hop Noir (8.2% ABV).  It had heaps of roasty toasty malt character with notes of burnt toast and coffee.  This tended to override the hop character but it was a lovely beer nonetheless.

New Hampshire is certainly a great place to drink beer.  Heading into the White Mountains you won't come across too many brewers but you will find plenty of places that do sell beers that have come up from the coastal fringe.  If you are looking for a beer destination then Portsmouth would be the place to go I'd suggest where you will find both the beers and the bars.  For me, our next move was across the border into Vermont.  That will be written about next week.


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