The State of American Craft Beer – New Hampshire

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With our headquarters in Washington DC and the bulk of our correspondents found near America’s top producing craft beer regions on the coasts, it only makes sense for us to start a new series giving all the states their due, featuring breweries large and small, plus the histories behind them.

For the sake of clarity and with an eye toward avoiding any bias, we’re doing this thing alphabetically. It’s crazy to think we’ve now reached the 29th state on our list, The Granite State, New Hampshire. The state is known for many granite formations and a many large quarries, hence the nickname. New Hampshire was also the first state to form a government independent of British rule and the first to establish its own constitution.

New Hampshire ranks 41st in total population (just over 1.3 million), is ranked 21st in population density and houses 44 craft breweries as of2015 (an increase of 29 since 2011) who are represented by the Granite State Brewers Association. The state ranks 30th in total breweries (including D.C.) and 9th in breweries per capita as of 2015, according to the Brewers Association.

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History

The first known example of brewing in the state was by Henry Sherburne starting around 1640, with an unknown date of closure. He was one of the earliest settlers in Portsmouth, arriving in 1631 and the first to obtain a tavern license in 1669. Soon after, Samuel Wentworth’s Brewery was the first in the state to obtain a brewing license in 1670.

The largest and most profitable brewery in the state, pre-prohibition, was the Frank Jones Brewifrank_jones_brewery__malt_houses_portsmouth_n-hng Company, a venture originally started by John Swindell in 1856, who then began his collaboration with Jones in 1858. By 1882 it was the largest ale producer in the country, brewing 150,000 barrels that year, eventually hitting a peak of 250,000 barrels. Jones’ success propelled him into politics where he served two terms as mayor of Portsmouth (1867), then a two-year term in Congress and a failed bid for the Governorship. Jones ultimately passed away in 1902 and the brewery ceased operations in 1950.

The first brewpub and craft brewery to open in the state was Portsmouth Brewery in 1991. Opened by the brother and sister team of Peter and Janet Egelston, they were known for their award winning Kate the Great RIS which had it’s own release party until 2012 when brewer Todd Mott left, started Tributary Brewing in Maine which now releases a similar RIS known as Mott the Lesser.

In 1994, Peter Egelston purchased the remaining assets of the Frank Jones Brewing Company and along with Ipswich Brewing, created Smuttynose Brewing, also in Portsmouth and today the largest brewer in the state. So in the end, the longest lasting, most profitable, first craft brewery/brewpub and largest in the state are all related.

 

4 More New Hampshire Breweries We Like and You Should Check Outc7816580af2e7d060e63549645dc9d08

Henniker Brewing (Henniker) – Only in operation since 2011, Henniker resides in a small town by the same name, just west of the state capital Concord. With a total of 18 recipes created over the past 5 years, they’ve honed their various styles quite well, being known most for their King Misanthrope RIS, Hop Slinger IPA and the Working Man’s English Porter. You can find their beers most everywhere in the state, not to mention neighboring Maine and Massachusetts.

Kelsen Brewing (Derry) – Located in the small town of Derry, just southeast of Manchester, Kelsen has been up and running since 2014. In that short time, with only 16 recipes on the books, they’ve become one of the most sought after brewers in the NE since they’re one of the top rated in the state. Known for their Paradigm Brown Ale, Double Battle Axe IPA and the Vendel Imperial Stout variations, their hand crafted works can only be found in South-Central New Hampshire, but worth seeking out.

Schilling Beer (Littleton) – Up and running for just over 3 years now, Shilling is located in the small town of Littleton in the northern reaches of the state. They set themselves apart by focusing on “progressive European-influenced small-batch” brews. They’ve already created over 50 recipes and are known for their Erastmus Tripel, Dr. Oovert Belgian Strong Dark and Foy Belgian IPA, primarily available to purchase only on site, with limited local distribution.

Stoneface Brewingstoneface (Newington) – Located just outside of Portsmouth, they’ve been open since 2014 and are already one of the larger new brewers in the state. They’ve made a name for themselves with their Hopulization Double IPA, Bourbon Barrel RIS and their series of dry-hopped pale ales. With over 35 recipes having been created and distribution throughout the New England region, this won’t be the last you hear of Stoneface.

 

Find more great New Hampshire breweries here!

About Warren Wills

Warren is the former Assistant Editor & Portland Correspondent for American Craft Beer. Creator of "The State of American Craft Beer" series, he now maintains his own site at craftbeerscribe.com.
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