Sunday, March 22, 2009

Brew-Trippin' in Portsmouth

Anchorage Inn
417 Woodbury Ave
Portsmouth, NH 03801
When we go on trips, we're not about the 5 star hotels. To us a hotel is a place to crash for the night and we'd rather spend money on going out and about, maybe a nice dinner, doing some shopping. I am the main hotel researcher/booker in this relationship and my criteria is pretty simple: Clean, safe, convenient location and inexpensive. The Anchorage Inn fit this bill and then some. Booking through saved me $20 off of the prices offered for the same room on and There are several hotels in the area and after reviewing prices, and reviews on (and taking into account Adam's request that the hotel have an indoor pool and hot tub), the Anchorage Inn was perfect for our needs. A few minutes drive from downtown Portland and the breweries, super friendly staff, nice free continental breakfast, free wifi, clean, good sized room AND $80 for the night including taxes. Not bad, right?

Smuttynose Brewery
25 Heritage Drive
Portsmouth, NH
The Smuttynose Brewery is going to be moving to Hampton, NH in a year or so to a much bigger, about-to-be-built facility on the Towle's Farm property. It's easy to see why the move is so, they have packed a LOT of brewery into a little space. They only offer free brewery tours and tastings on Thursdays and Fridays at 3PM which is nice since you end up with a smaller tour group. Renee, our tour guide, was fantastic. Really knowledgeable and interactive with the tour (as I mentioned earlier, we got really up close and personal to the tanks, got to look in them. And it was the only brewery tour I have been on where beer is actually being brewed while we're there, standing among the tanks. We even had to wear safety glasses. WOAH.
The tasting was eye opening - as I have never had Smuttynose before. We tried the IPA, Robust Porter AND the brand spankin' new Star Island Single which is being bottled for the first time TODAY and is hitting stores this week.

Crisp and citrusy and refreshing, it's like the sauvignon blanc of beers and I can't wait to pick up a six pack. Sadly it is replacing permanently the Portsmouth Lager but I think the Star Island Single will be a huge hit. Read about their decision to stop brewing the Lager here. If you check it out this week please drop me a line and let me know what you think!

Tip: Arrive early for the Smuttynose tour since the tasting happens before the tour. The earlier you arrive the more beer you get to sample!

Red Hook Ale Brewery
35 Corporate Drive
Pease International Tradeport
Portsmouth, NH
This brewery is kind of night vs day compared with Smuttynose, though we had a smashing time at both. The Red Hook Brewery is an enormous, modern facility with a large pub/restaurant (The Cataqua Public House). On the weekends they offer tours for $1 (which includes a tasting glass) from noon to 4PM on the hour (check the website for weekday tour times). Since this was the weekend tour it was a lot more crowded. In fact we showed up for the noon tour and were benevolently warned by the tour guide that we might want to wait for the 1PM tour since there was a BUS full of 9-10 year old boys going on the noon tour. Who brings that many kids to a brewery? And then makes them sit through a tasting where they can't have anything? It seems unfair, both to the kids and to other people on the tour. Then again if I was an adult supervising a trip of that many kids I think a brewery is EXACTLY where I would want to go. In any case we took his advice and had an early lunch and a few beers in the Cataqua while we waited for the 1PM tour. I tried the Spring offering "Copperhook" which was delicious and Adam enjoyed the Porter which was delicious and smooth with a hint of espresso. I am dying to work it into a cupcake recipe. But that's neither here nor there. The tour guide, though thoroughly worn out from the kids, gave us a great tour and was funny and informative. The tasting was a "pour your own beer" style which is always fun for those of us with heavy hands. The porter remained my favorite as well as the ESB which was surprisngly not as bitter as you would think an "Extra Special Bitter" would be. Fun fact: Red Hook's Longhammer IPA is the most popular IPA in the country. I am not big into IPA (a face full of hops is not my thing) but Adam is a HUGE fan and raved about the IPA.
Tip: After the tour there is a mad rush to the gift shop and then everyone clusters near the register to pay. You can pay for your gift shop goods at the bar! So skip the line and head back into the pub to pay for your goods.

Drinks On The Town
The Coat of Arms
174 Fleet Street
Portsmouth, NH
This ended up being our favorite bar we visited this weekend. Though it has kind of rough reviews on Tripadvisor (about unfriendly staff), we had the exact opposite experience. We went for dinner on Friday night, after the Smuttynose tour, and our server was a total doll. Adam ordered the Bangers and Mash, I was going to order the Steak and Kidney Pie but totally wimped out and went for the Irish Reuben instead. Both of our meals were delicious! For drinks Adam went with the Boddingtons and I lost control of myself and went with a gin & tonic. After the fact I noticed they had a Vanilla Stout on the menu (Vanilla Vodka + Guinness) which I totally would have ordered but for me, if I start with cocktails I have to stick with cocktails or dire circumstances ensue. So Adam carried the beer flag for the night. We hit the town after that, doing some shopping and checking out some other bars downtown, before heading back to the Coat of Arms for end of the night drinks, this time sitting at the bar. We sampled some of their cask conditioned offering, Shiphard's Old Thumper Ale (which we had sampled at the Shipyard Brewery in Portland a few months ago) and I was amazed at how much different it tastes in a cask than from the tap. I was told this was due to the fact that a tap utilizes CO2 to push the beer out while a cask uses a beer engine which results in a smoother pour and less cold beer. Delicious!
Tip: The picked eggs are not to be feared, they are delicious! And after a day of drinking we could all use a little protein, right?

If you have an extra few hours check out.....
Flag Hill Winery
297 North River Road
Lee, NH, 03861
Located about twenty miles from Portsmouth, Flag Hill is a gorgeous winery located on a 3 hundred year old farm in Lee, NH. They make an array of wines from the deliciously fruit Apple Cranberry to the crisp, pinot grigio esque Cayuga White and a TO DIE FOR blueberry dessert wine. Tastings are offered all day Wednesday through Sunday in a casual manner, you go in and get a list of what's available for tasting as well as a little description of each and pick and choose what you want to taste. They also make John Stark Vodka and I highly recommend picking up a bottle of the Sugar Maple Liqueur...which is their freshly made vodka mixed with freshly made maple syrup...SO GOOD. Tours of the winery can be arranged and the shop also sells gourmet foods and accoutrements. We left with the apple cranberry wine, the dessert wine and of course the maple vodka. I also want to point out that there is a Nudist Camp a few miles down the street. After downing a bottle of Strawberry wine....who knows? That might sound like an interesting idea.

All in all, a splendid weekend away. Lots to do, lots to drink, and no need to spend a lot of $. Portsmouth is a gorgeous city, and Smuttynose and Red Hook make extremely impressive beer. And there is a lot to love about a winery down the street from a nudist camp! To see the rest of our photos from the trip please click here.

To kick off things here at Brew England, we are having our first CONTEST. Woo hoo. Who doesn't love free shiz. All you have to do is leave a comment and you will be entered to win one shiny new tall Red Hook ESB (Extra Special Bitter) glass that you can fill with your favorite brew and enjoy!

Comments will close tomorrow night and we'll announce a winner on Tuesday. Cheers!


Anonymous said...

I'm not a beer drinker, by any means, but I can't get the idea of that maple syrup vodka out of my head. I feel a road trip coming on, and SOON. :-)

Jenny said...

I'm so excited for a new blog to read! Looks like you guys are really enjoying yourselves. :)

Ang said...

Have you guys ever been to the Anheuser Busch brewery outside Nashua?
Doesn't sound too excited...Budweiser, eh....but it was so much fun! We went last weekend and were pleasantly surprised! Who knew Budweiser brewed seasonals? And the American Ale is actually kind of tasty.
And the best part...the clydesdales from the commercials were there!

Definitely worth the trip if you are in the area....

Sarah said...

Ang we did go to the Budweiser brewery about 5 years ago? It was our very first brewery tour and I remember being quite impressed. Thats also when I first discovered their Honey Lager which I still enjoy from time to time. Good call!