Wednesday, July 13, 2011

BrewEngland Vistis: Throwback Brewery - North Hampton, NH

Back in January I was pleased to hear that there was a new brewery set to open in 2011 in North Hampton, NH called Throwback Brewery. I was quick to post on here, and of course continue spreading the good word about craft beer on New Hampshire's Seacoast. Well, after a few months of occasional emails to owners Annette Lee and Nicole Carrier, I successfully broke them down enough to offer up a tour of their new facility.

Sarah and I wanted to make a nice little weekend out of the trip, and we figured that my brother Dennis and sister-in-law Beth would like to join us, so we booked a room in Portsmouth for apres-tour shenanigans.

Let me start off by saying that if you pay a visit to Throwback Brewery, you will quickly learn that you are about to spend some time with two of the nicest women we have met. Both Annette and Nicole could not have been more pleasant and inviting to the four of us when we arrived.

The brewery itself is set back off of the road, in what is a small industrial park with similar warehouse style buildings. Knowing that we were expected, we showed ourselves in.

At first glance, the brewery looked a lot different than what we saw on their website. Since January, I had been keeping track of their build out process on their blog, and was happy to see that their hard work was just about finished. When you walk in you can see their logo painted on the wall, with nice new, empty, swing-top Grolsch style growlers waiting to be filled.

The logo was just about to be completed at the time of our visit

Further ahead was their new brewing system, which was still in the process of being hooked up to the building's gas system.

A view from the top of the stairs

They also had plenty of kegs stored up...

In order to make some of their lager beers, the fermenting wort needs to be chilled. The ladies of Throwback Brewery got pretty inventive, by retrofitting a few air conditioners to create temperature controlled fermenting closets.

In the world of commercial brewing, taxes play a big part. Breweries are taxed for every barrel of beer they produce (1 barrel = 31.5 gallons). Regulations require every tank that produces a final product to be labeled, so that there is a precise measure of how much beer is produced and therefore taxed. Annette and Nicole thought, "why not go with a Muppets themed system?", and you can see in the picture they did just that. They have other thanks which feature Ms. Piggy, Fozzie, the Swedish Chef , Beaker, and of course Kermit.

The Throwback walls are also donned with a picture of Statler and Waldorf, from the Muppet Show. You may recall that the tandem would always heckle the "performers" on the Muppet Show from the best seat in the house. Annette and Nicole use the picture as a form of motivation, and sighted it reminded them of their dad and friend checking in on them.

Now, it doesn't take me very long to reply to the question "So, do you want to try some beer?" I had to try to play it off as if I wasn't as excited as I was, but I'm pretty sure I didn't hide it very well. So, we headed up to Nicole and Annette's office to do just that - try some beer. Some wasn't probably the best word to describe trying eight beers, but whatever...

Quickly from the hidden stash came several bottles of beer, which again, made me a very happy guy!

The first two beers we tried were the Hog Happy Hefeweizen German Style Wheat beer, followed up by a variation of the Hog Happy called Ryezen Shine - which part of the grain bill was filled with Rye.

Hog Happy is on the Left and Ryezen Shine is on the right

The Hog Happy was a very nice wheat offering. It was light and refreshing, and you could pick out the banana tones fairly easily. The Ryezen Shine had a deeper body and mouth feel to it, but you could notice the similarities in the two beers. Both were very enjoyable!

Next up was the Smoked Chipotle Lager. There was a pronounced, but not overpowering smokiness to it.

Their Red IPA was up next, and was great. It had a mild sweetness to it as you find with a lot of reds, but then it had a great blend of hoppy bitterness to it. The Red IPA was definitely one of my top three beers of the day!

The following beer was the Dippity-Do American Brown Ale. From what the ladies were saying, people seemed to shy away from the brown at their tastings, and they couldn't figure out why. Perhaps it was the name, which can remind people of not so pleasant things; however, the name Dippity-Do seems to easily roll off the tongue and is kinda fun to say! Either way, the beer was nice. It had a nice malt balance, and was enjoyable! It was followed up by a Maple Kissed Wheat Porter, that was also dark and delicious.

The final two beers are hard to explain in words that seriously do them justice...Annette and Nicole poured us all a sample of their Campfire, which is a smoked porter. It poured black as night, and smelled and tasted nice and smokey. My sister-in-law Beth put it best as "It really DOES taste like a camp fire!" which gave us all a nice chuckle!

The final pour of the visit was their Peanut Butter Chocolate Imperial Stout, which was incredibly good. I mean, it tasted JUST like a peanut butter cup, with a perfect blend of peanut butter and chocolaty goodness! All that was missing was a scoop of French Vanilla ice cream for a supremely delicious ice cream beer float!

During and after the tasting we continued our great conversation. Annette completed the Concise Course in Brewing Technology through the Siebel Institute's World Brewing Academy while holding an internship with Smuttynose Brewing Co. in Portsmouth, NH. Naturally, I wanted to pick her brain a bit. We also discussed the process of label approval, which has to go through the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which seemed like an interesting process to say the least.

All in all, we spent close to two hours there sampling beers, trading stories, and sharing our love and passion for hand crafted beers, and those that use choice, local, and quality ingredients. The ladies could NOT have been nicer and more welcoming to us all. It was sincerely the best brewery visit we have been on, and I know they will be a hit with their great line up of beers!

Nicole on the Left and Annette on the Right

Throwback Brewery is located at 121 Lafayette Road in North Hampton, New Hampshire. They will officially be opening their doors in the very near future, and will host special "Growler Nights" where you can stop by the brewery and purchase freshly filled growlers of their beer.

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