Thanks to some recent changes in state law and a rapid increase in the demand for high quality craft beer, Hillsborough County, the most populous county in the state, is finally joining the craft beer revolution. If you are a craft beer lover, this is a great time to be in South Central New Hampshire. It is no longer accurate to say that Hillsborough County is a craft beer wasteland as has been the refrain from serious beer geeks in the recent past.
The craft beer community is made up of people who desire handcrafted ales and lagers that are tastier alternatives to the uniform, mass produced beer varieties that have heretofore dominated the beer marketplace. Craft beer lovers are discriminating connoisseurs that seek out the best ales and lagers and tend to eschew garden variety brands that lack bold flavors and rich textures. Beer geeks are fond of chasing the best beers, eagerly anticipating their arrival from distributors at the best beer outlets. Beer geeks seek out tastings and tours so as to hob knob with other connoisseurs that share their passion. Beer geeks are part of a supportive community that shares a distinct value set. Craft beer brings people together to share a common interest in great beer and community.
In New Hampshire, it has been difficult to find many of the high quality beer brands from around the world, but that is changing rapidly as more retail outlets and nanobreweries open and expand throughout the state. This growth is fueling the demand for distributors to import more beer for sale and for our many local brewers to supply the burgeoning market. Consequently, this is an exciting time for beer lovers in New Hampshire.
There are many places to buy great craft beer in Hillsborough County, and thankfully those options are growing as better beer varieties become available.
The best option may be The Beer Store which is located on Rte. 101A in Nashua. The Beer Store has the best beer selection in the area and gets fresh and rare beers faster than anyone in Southern New Hampshire. They carry all of the New Hampshire brands and many brands from around the world including a great Belgian beer selection. Their owner-operators are knowledgeable and true beer geeks.
Another great option is Bert's Better Beers in Hooksett. Like the Beer Store in Nashua, Bert's carries all of the brands available in New Hampshire and they have an impressive cold section.
A less well known option for craft beer is a place called Ayotte's Stateline Market, which is located in Husdon on the state line. Their craft beer selection is surprisingly good for a convenience store.
Added 04/14/14: There are two spots in Londonderry to purchase great craft beer. The Drinkery on Young road is a local fixture that also offers great wine. Rumor has it there may be another Drinkery popping up soon. The Lazy Dog Beer Shoppe opened its doors on Buttrick Road at the end of 2013, and offers a well-stocked craft beer selection with a great walk-in refrigerator for those that want cold beer ready to go.
The iconic Candia Road Store and Brewery located on Candia Road in Manchester is a must stop as well. This is a no frills location that carries great craft beer including their own Nepenthe brand that is made right next door. Candia Road Brewing was an early adopter in Southern New Hampshire.
The new kid on the block is The Craft Beer Cellar Nashua, which hopes to open its doors in South Nashua, in early summer. CBC is part of a growing boutique beer chain that started in Belmont, Massachusetts and is now in five states. (Note: Your writer will be an owner-operator of the Nashua CBC). The Craft Beer Cellar Nashua hopes to engage with other producers and suppliers to grow the craft beer community in Southern New Hampshire, making more craft beer available for more consumers of fine ales and lagers.
Hillsborough County is blessed with two established craft brew pubs that make their own beer. Milly's Tavern in Manchester and Martha's Exchange Restaurant and Brewing Company in Nashua have been making great craft beer for many years. Each is a fixture in their community. Milly's recently made a decision to sell their beers in kegs and bottles under the label, Stark Brewing Company. The Strange Brew Tavern, also in Manchester, offers an excellent selection of local, regional, and international craft beer.
Recently, many of our fine dining establishments have been upping their beer games and offering an improved craft beer selection, which is a welcome development for beer geeks that tend to choose their restaurants based on their tap and bottle lists. That trend should accelerate as demand for great beer grows in Hillsborough County. Two such places are The Surf Restaurant and Napa East, both in Nashua. An understated sandwich shop fixture in Nashua, The Nashua Garden, always has great beer, and they have also been known to surprise beer seekers with some exceptional flavors. Recently one could find the well regarded Kentucky Breakfast Stout from Founders Brewing Company in there.
South Central New Hampshire is also starting to attract more local brewers, which is an exciting development for beer geeks in this area that have had to sometimes travel great distances, including even out of state to find exceptional fresh beer.
You can find a great map of New Hampshire breweries here. Wikipedia also provides a comprehensive listing and recently a great new website went live that covers the entire New Hampshire craft brewery scene.
Our newest edition, Out.haus Ales has just opened its doors in Northwood. The brewer has followed a career path that is typical of the entrepreneur that leaves a steady job to pursue his beer passion.
The launch of Outhaus Ales came just after the 603 Brewery opened its doors to its new brewery and tasting room in Londonderry in nearby Western Rockingham County. Outhaus joins White Birch Brewing and Candia Road Brewers from Hooksett and Manchester respectively to make up the craft brewer community in South Central New Hampshire. There are rumors that more brewers are heading this way.
The Agner and Wolf Brewery Corporation opened on Bud Way in Nashua with little fanfare earlier this year. They specialize in authentic German ales and lagers.
Added 01/31/14: We learned today that Able Ebeneezer Brewing Company received a special variance from the Merrimack Zoning Board and plans to launch operations in mid to late April. Now projected for a May opening.
Added 04/14/14: Kelsen Brewing Company opened its doors in Derry earlier this year. They have a comfortable tasting room for guests.
Added 04/14/14: A local fixture in South Nashua is IncrediBREW, which is run by proprietor David Williams. At IncrediBREW folks can make their own beer and soda in a community of like-minded friends.
Consequently, it looks like we are on the threshold of a craft beer explosion in Hillsborough County and nearby Western Rockingham County that is mirroring the revolution that is already raging in New Hampshire and around the country. Can we rival Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts as beer destination states? Of course we can and we will.
You can find out more about the Hillsborough County Craft Beer Revolution by visiting the Nashua Beer Oasis Facebook page.
This writer has done a series of television interviews about beer culture and beer community with local entrepreneurs. You can find videos of those shows here.
The working title for Kevin's upcoming book is, Discovering Possibility: The Revolution for Virtue and Common Sense. Kevin offers common sense community building coaching to grass roots groups around the country that are interested in pursuing common sense approaches to community building.
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