Brian’s 2017 Year in Review
2017 has been a great year for New Hampshire beer. 2017 has also been a pretty epic year for Let’s Talk Beer. I wanted to take some time to sit down and type out my thoughts about the year in a ranked fashion. It’s something I have never done, rank breweries, beers, etc. because I don’t take the time to think about this stuff. I created some categories that hopefully you will see myself, Ben and Jeff talk about in a longer form podcast at the end of 2018. For now, here are my rankings/lists for 2017 in New Hampshire beer.
Disclaimer: These opinions are mine and mine alone. They don’t represent Ben or Jeff’s thoughts. If I haven’t been to a certain brewery in 2017, chances are it won’t be on these lists.
Top NH Non Beer
Yes I like beer. But I always try to get out of my comfort zone and try other things. Here are my top 3 New Hampshire Non Beers.
3. Von Humboldt’s Natur Wasser – Tamworth Distilling
Tamworth Distilling introduced me to the cordial. This sweet and tart spirit gave me the courage to continue to explore more into this style. I need to try more of Tamworth’s cordials in 2018.
2. Tamworth Garden White Mountain Gin – Tamworth Distilling
Oh hey it’s Tamworth again. I really enjoy gin and tonics. I may have 4 or 5 a year but I stumbled upon a gin that may make me put down the beer a little more often. Tamworth is back at it again, this time with a gin, a hopped gin. Not only is it super refreshing and unique, the bottle artwork will make any home bar look super fancy.
1. Winter Rye – North Country Hard Cider
There truly is no better cider in my mind than North Country. Constant innovation to the same old cider is always on the minds of Silas, Ivan and Ron. Winter Rye is just one of their many styles of cider that stuck with me throughout the year. This cider aged in Rye Whiskey Barrels is the warmest hug you could ask for.
Top 45 Min out of NH Brewery
I limit this category to breweries I can get to out of state within 45 mins from my house. Just my way of acknowledging breweries close to home.
3 – Notch Brewing – Salem, MA
Jeff and I visited Notch a couple times this year. I wish I lived closer to Notch, I wish Notch was closer to me. Regardless they are doing big things in Salem and are close enough for me to make a quick trip for a liter of beer, pretzels and some ski ball.
2 – Tributary Brewing – Kittery, ME
The man that started it all for me and my love of beer, Tod Mott, continues to impress me with his creations coming out of Tributary. Some feel like welcome deja-vu flavors from my time living above the Portsmouth Brewery and all are styles that sway from the norm. With the addition of brewers of Ian and Ian I always look forward to what they come up with and watching them have fun with beer.
1 – Brewery Silvaticus – Amesbury, MA
This brewery confuses me in the best way. We’ll get to it in other categories, but in a year where I have visited new breweries to find out the beer needs a lot of work, a lot of work, Brewery Silvaticus completely came out with a bang showing me new breweries don’t have to taste like someone’s first homebrew. “True to style” is what I tell everyone when I and singing the praises of this brewery. Farmhouse Ales, Rauchbiers, Lagers shine bright at this brewery and are backed by decades of experience in the brewing industry. I don’t mind if you stop reading this to go to Amesbury, I encourage it. I can not wait to get back to Brewery Silvaticus many times in 2018.
Please Stop in 2018
This category is all about things I wish I didn’t see in 2017 that I hope dies down a little in 2018. I’ll try to avoid long soapbox rants but boy there are some things I could write a lot about. I’ll save it for the podcast.
3 – ‘Worship Me’ Beer Haul Photos
You know the photos, the same beer fridge filled with one or two styles of the same 2 or 3 breweries beer. We get it.
2 – New England IPA
If you listen to the podcast you know my stance on these. Don’t care for them. In and out of the state, brewers have attempted to be a part of this craze by putting words like ‘juicy’ and ‘hazy’ into their beer descriptions. A lot of these beers fall short and could end up closing a brewery. Brew styles you like, really crush those styles, an then make room for a New England IPA. It’s not as easy to brew as you think.
1 – Bad Beer
I’ll be blunt. There is some bad beer in New Hampshire. I don’t mean beer that I personally don’t like, I’m talking about beer that from a quality standpoint is bad, bad, bad. It’s tough for someone like me who has been preaching New Hampshire beer for 7 years to say the state has bad beer but it does. I believe 2018 will be a wake up call for breweries new and old in New Hampshire. Breweries are opening up clinging on to the craft beer train and it isn’t working out for some. I know every brewery can’t have a Brewery Silvaticus type effect on me (See above), but if you are to open a brewery you have to know how to brew. Don’t use your brewery as a place to start homebrewing. I have talked to multiple long time brewers in the state and they are seeing the same thing and it in turn will make every NH brewery look bad. I don’t want to see this spread, so I am hoping to spearhead a movement of constructive feedback. I have failed by not giving honest on the spot feedback and it is something I have already started to work on because of the “beer” I have tasted in the state this year. We are too nice as consumers. I’ve been to many breweries filled with locals and friends of the brewer/owner saying this is the best beer they have ever had when it is infected beyond belief. There is still hope for these brewers, they just have to be open to feedback and learning. If you are not, you will not succeed. More on Let’s Talk Beer’s stop bad beer campaign later.
Top NH Breweries of 2017
I have been to at least 40 of the 60+ breweries operating in the state of New Hampshire this year. This is something I have never done but here is my ranked list of my personal Top 10 Breweries in NH. If I didn’t visit a brewery it won’t be on this list and there are breweries I wish I had visited to give them a chance to be on this list but there is always 2018. This category encompasses everything from how I like the beer, to how I like the space/vibe. Here goes nothing.
10 – Moat Mountain Brewing Co. – North Conway, NH
I always have a great time when I visit Moat Mountain. They are also one of the only breweries who I consistently buy six packs of because I know I will be getting a solid beer every time from them. I always try to keep a Czech Pils on hand and they really hit a home run with Call it a Day IPA.
9 – Litherman’s Limited- Concord, NH
I have visited a lot of breweries this year and none has raised my curiosity more than Lithermans Limited in Concord. Brewers Mike and Doc are brewing what they want, ignoring trends and starting new ones. Their new expansion will allow them to to spread their funky vibes throughout the state. Despite the somewhat cheesy (although I like them) beer names, you can trust a lot of care goes into the beers coming out of Lithermans. I’ll be making more trips to Concord in 2018, that’s for sure.
8 – 7th Settlement Brewery – Dover, NH
One of the breweries I have visited the most in 2017 is 7th Settlement. I eat lunch with Ben there most weeks and I am a mug member there. Brewer Nate has the best smile in the biz and beer to match. I recently had a Milk Stout of his that made me weak at the knees.
7 – Deciduous Brewing Company- Newmarket, NH
2017 was an awesome year to be a Deciduous fan. We were treated to beers representing every color of the beer rainbow, cans to go and full pours at the brewery. One of the best dark beers in New Hampshire can be found here as well (Renascence). If 2018 is even half as awesome for Deciduous as the last year was, we are in for great things from Newmarket’s own.
6 – Garrison City Beerworks – Dover, NH
Garrison has seen a shift for the better in 2017. There was a time or to where I would get a flight of beer and each beer would be the same color. This year Nicole and team have been hard at working making solid beer, collaborating with some of the top brewers in the area, and introducing new flavors and styles to a town that is seeing a massive explosion in craft beer. There are times now where I don’t want to drink my flight of beer, because it looks so damn beautiful. Luckily it tastes as good as it looks.
5 – Bad Lab Beer Co – Somersworth, NH
The one thing Bad Lab does that a lot of breweries don’t is constantly educate. Ever since re-opening doors in October, Bad lab has had a beer school every week, inviting anyone to learn from brewers Chuck, Edgar and Cathi while drinking something tapped that day. A little beer knowledge goes a long way here, as they have 14 beers on tap of varying styles to choose from.
4 – Portsmouth Brewery – Portsmouth, NH
My love for Portsmouth Brewery is known by all. Jeff and I lived above it at a time (separately) and my first craft beer in the state was there. Portsmouth Brewery has seen some brewer turnover since Tod and Tyler left, but Matt and Maxine haven’t missed a beat and are making really good beer. I am always excited when I get a chance to visit to see what new beer they have thought up or to see what fan favorite has returned. In a very IPA heavy culture they have one of the most underrated IPAs in New England in Torn and Frayed and Surrender the Flow, not to mention one of my all time favorites, Night Nurse Black Rye IPA.
3 – Schilling / Resilience – Littleton, NH
Ever since I discovered Schilling I wanted to move to Littleton so I could have Schilling every day. Some of the best beer in the state, if not the country, is coming out of up state New Hampshire. The only reason why Schilling isn’t #1 on this list is because I just can’t get up there as much as I want and I very much hope for the day I can get their beer on tap in Southern NH. While you won’t find a bad beer here, you will find some of the nicest folks, tastiest food, and some of the best damn beer that NH has to offer.
2 – Earth Eagle Brewings – Portsmouth, NH
I remember the first home brew club meeting I ever went to. Two guys were passing around this oddly labeled bottle of a beer they called “Chaga Groove” and it was unlike any other beer I tasted. Smash cut a bunch of years and those two guys have my #2 brewery on this list. Alex and Butch continue to do things their way and it’s been working since the beginning. Sure they have gruits with weird and whacky ingredients, but it’s the behind the scenes research that goes into those beers that makes them the best. Anyone can put mustard seed, sweet gale or [insert odd sounding name] root to a beer, but Butch boils up something that somehow some way makes it drinkable and I like going on this exploration of flavors with him. Alex not only makes one of my favorite beers of all time (Nebraska), but is a strong advocate for proper education when it comes to brewing. Even though Alex and Butch are in the big leagues they still have one hell of a time in the homebrew scene. These guys rule.
1 – Liars Bench Beer Company – Portsmouth, NH
When i sat down to write this list I knew #1 was a a no brainer. Liars Bench continues to be the brewery I tell anyone passing through the Portsmouth area to visit. If there is one brewery to visit in the state of New Hampshire, Liars Bench is waiting for you. It is very rare for a brewery to continually change up their tap list with different styles and have them all be technically sound and ridiculously good. I know when I visit Liars Bench I will be educated on what beer should taste like. As often as I visit I am still impressed with how often new beers show up on tap. The dedication to the craft shines bright at Liars Bench and they are my #1 brewery in NH.
Top NH Beers of 2017
Last but not least, here are my top 5 NH Beers in 2017. If you can find them, get them.
5 – Philistoned Grisette – Chapel + Main – Dover, NH
4 – Bagpipes Scotch Ale – Bad Lab Beer Co. – Somersworth, NH
3 – Kölsch – Henniker Brewing Company – Henniker, NH
2 – Nebraska – Earth Eagle – Portsmouth, NH
1 – Night Nurse – Portsmouth Brewery – Portsmouth, NH
And that’s it! It has been another awesome year for New Hampshire beer. I had a couple other categories in mind but I will save them for a podcast. There are not only 10 great breweries in New Hampshire, there’s a lot. Myself, Ben and Jeff will continue to spread the good word and hoping to figure out this “not so good beer” we have been noticing from more than a few breweries in the state. We will need your help, stay tuned.
Happy New Year!