Brewery Name: Neighborhood Beer Company
Type of Brewery: Brewpub
Location: 156 Epping Road, Exeter, NH (just off exit 9 on Route 101)
Facebook: Neighborhood Beer Co.
Background: Neighborhood was founded to bring German-style beers back into style. The brewery specializes in “American interpretations of authentic German-style beers,” which bucks the recent New England trend of “all IPAs all the time.” They’re a not your typical New England beer company, and they take pride in it.
Growlers: Yep. You can pick up growlers from the fridge or have them filled right there.
The Beers: I want to preface this by saying that I am far from an expert in German beers. One of the things that drew me to Neighborhood in the first place was the fact that they are so far outside the norm as far as what breweries are doing in New England these days. There aren’t hazy IPAs. These aren’t high-gravity stouts. They’re classic German styles, sometimes updated, sometimes not, designed to give people a taste of a little something different.
Hallowed Hammock Blonde Ale: Tastes very much like a classic kolsch. That’s not my favorite beer style, but this was pretty tasty. Kolsch fans will definitely want to give this one a try.
Obstinate Goat: I really had absolutely no idea how to judge this beer. “Ur-Bock” is another wholly unfamiliar style. It's almost pilsnery? Wheaty and VERY light. It tastes very, very German, which I think is a testament to Neighborhood. That’s what they do, after all.
Boss Flamingo Bronze Ale: According to the bartender I spoke to, this is Neighborhood’s flagship beer. And I have to say, it’s real tasty. Smoky but sweet. Like smoking a cigar while chewing bubble gum. I know that sounds weird, but if you taste it, you’ll understand.
Junkyard Pedigree: This was probably my favorite beer I had there. It’s an awesome, well-rounded copper ale with none of that metallic funk that some coppers seem to have. And best of all, it’s damn strong.
Forbidden Firecracker: I’ve had this particular beer before, and while I’m not a huge fan of pilsners in general, this is definitely above average to me. It’s not a strong beer by any stretch, but a 5.6% pilsner will do the job just fine, thank you.
Familiar Stranger: It’s a very nice blonde and it goes down nice and smooth. Blondes aren’t really my style, so I’m not sure I feel qualified to comment beyond this. If you like blondes, I’d give it a go.
Magnetic Reflection: This is a really good, easy to drink dunkel. Very malty but also very smooth.
Baroque Butterfly: I don't know what a "keutebier" is but it's pretty dang good. I wish it was a little more tart and a little less wheaty. But damn tasty.
Vibe: I stopped in after work, and the taproom wasn’t too crowded. I imagine that it gets a little busier as the night goes on, but I was able to get a seat at the bar pretty easily and strike up a conversation with the bartender, who was incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. The taproom itself has a cool, open setup, with tables scattered around the fairly expansive dining area and even a couple armchairs to lounge in.
I do wish it had been a little easier to learn about the beers themselves--obviously it’s not reasonable to expect the entire staff to know the ins-and-outs of the brewing process, but since Neighborhood prides itself on bringing lesser-known German styles like “keutebier” and “ur-bock” to America, it would be nice to be able to learn a little more about what exactly those beers represent. This is a minor complaint, though. The staff was incredibly friendly and attentive, and hey--if you want to know what a keutebier is, everyone has a smartphone these days.
I’m kicking myself for not trying the food. The menu includes a big selection of artisanal grilled cheese sandwiches and pretzels, giving Neighborhood a real “beer hall” feel. Given that they specialize in German beer, I imagine that’s what they were going for. Well, mission accomplished. This is a great space, with delicious beer and a fantastic vibe. I look forward to having the chance to come back!
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$
Food: Yes. And I have to say, the food looks amazing. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to try some next time I stop by.
Final Thoughts: As I said at the beginning, German beer has never been my forte, so take what I say with a grain of salt. But I enjoyed the beer offerings at Neighborhood a LOT. I’m always eager to try anything new, especially if it’s in a style that I’ve never tasted (or, in some cases, even heard of) before, and Neighborhood delivers new experiences by the barrel. If you find yourself driving up route 101 past Exeter, pull off and pop in for a flight. You won’t regret it.
York: We all like beer. We all drink quite a bit of it, and, above all else, we all have a tendency to try as many different types as our palates and bodies will allow. When we planned out our first Beercation in the New England area and started listing all the breweries and beers to pack into the trip, we agreed that it was ambitious to start. Then, naturally, we all decided that we wanted to add some extra regional beers to the event, since we were meeting up (and why not?). Thus, we wound up with three especially unique beers from California, two more from the DMV, and a sixth from middle America that came to us through a friend who has been keeping up with our escapades. I've already had the Swirly from King Harbor and tried the Cellarmaker Mt. Nelson on tap, but I'm really excited to see what the others think of those. Beyond that, I've been waiting patiently to try some Tired Hands, so I'm pumped that one is in our arsenal too!
Pete: I was really nervous about this round, because the last time I went to New England I carried way too many beers around with me. This wasn’t a bad thing…once I got where I needed to go. But it really made it hard to get around, so I wanted to get stuff that I knew was going to be good. Otherwise, why bring it? Our friend Dan Alt supplied us with the Brew Kettle White Rajah, which recently got some positive press as a good west coast style IPA. Then I was able to snag a really limited edition batch of Hardywood beer. And, luckily, I got to visit Tired Hands a couple days before the trip and picked up one of their strange but awesome beers. Really happy with what I brought, because I expect it all to be good beers.
Shane: I'm excited to try these beers. We went into this Beercation prepared to try an awful lot of amazing beers, but the beers we brought with us might just be the best of the bunch. I'm thrilled to have the chance to sample some Tired Hands, and the White Rajah is a beer that I never thought any of us would be able to get our hands on. The Hammerland DIPA and Mt. Nelson beers are also exciting, since they represent some small-batch west coast beers that I might never have heard of without York, let alone been able to drink. I'm hugely pumped to be able to try every beer on this list.
Brewery Name: Fiddlehead Brewing Company
Type of Brewery: Retail Brewery
Location: 6305 Shelburne Rd, Shelburne, VT
Facebook: Fiddlehead Brewing Company
Growlers: Yes. Fiddlehead fills both 64 and 32 ounce growlers.
The Beers: We were able to taste two beers at the brewery itself, and (of course) we also picked up a pack of the famous Second Fiddle Double IPA.
Second Fiddle: What can I say? This is an excellent double IPA. Second Fiddle is often discussed in the same breath as Heady Topper and Sip of Sunshine, and while my personal preference certainly lies with Heady Topper, Second Fiddle is still a very tasty beer. I’ll say this though...it wasn’t even our favorite Fiddlehead beer we had. The three of us unanimously agreed that their top beer was...
Fiddlehead IPA: Who needs a double IPA when you have a single IPA that tastes this good? It might not have the ABV heft that Second Fiddle has, but the Fiddlehead IPA was a delicious surprise to us. I could easily grab a few of these and have a great day in the sun.
Fiddlehead Kolsch: Like saisons, kolsches are a little outside my wheelhouse, so I may not be the ideal person to judge this one. I’d say it’s an above average kolsch as far as my own palate goes, with a nice sourness on the back end that made it a little more palatable to me (and our resident sour expert, York).
Vibe: It’s a little tough to get a read on Fiddlehead. The public area of the brewery itself is pretty small, without a real "tasting room" with tables and chairs. That said, you can sidle on up to the bar and enjoy free tasters of whatever is on tap (they’re small tasters, obviously, but come on--you’re not there to get hammered). You can also buy four-packs of Second Fiddle and of course get growler fills.
The pizza restaurant next door (in the same building) is interesting. They have a good relationship with Fiddlehead, and they have no problem with people getting growler fills and taking them over to enjoy in their restaurant. This easily makes up for the lack of a place to sit and enjoy beers in the Fiddlehead brewery itself, and the smell of pizza wafting through the place is, in a word, wonderful. So really, it’s a toss-up here. While we weren’t blown away by the atmosphere within Fiddlehead, I’d be hard pressed to say that’s even what they’re going for. They just want to make good beers and get them to you as efficiently as possible. And when it comes to that, they do a fantastic job.
Pete's Thoughts: I love beer because obsession fascinates me. Fiddlehead clearly has all the brewing talent to make a ton of different styles at once, but they didn’t start that way. Vermont is full of wonderful brewers who start with one beer, and make it perfect. This IPA is top-notch and honestly tasted better than Second Fiddle, which gets more press. Great location even with only two beers on tap. We definitely need to go back for pizza and beer.
York's Thoughts: Second Fiddle was on our list of must-finds for the weekend so it was a no brainer to make it over to the brewery. I’m a huge from-the-source fan so going to the home of a beer is always my prefered route. This brewery wasn’t the most user friendly as far as a place to hang out and drink beers, but they set up the tasting bar as Shane described, and I suppose if we had taken the time to grab some food with their partner, that it may have made the overall experience a bit more personable. The beers we tasted were both great in addition to the Second Fiddle we walked away with. Cool view into the brewery portion of the building, just hard to really endorse as a destination.
Dogs: Unclear. You might be able to get away with bringing a dog into the brewery itself, but I’m not sure I’d risk it. It’s in the same building as a pizza restaurant, and they might take issue with animals being on the premises.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$. I was pretty surprised at how affordable a beer as famous as Second Fiddle was, and tasting glasses of the beers on tap at the brewery were free.
Food: Fiddlehead doesn’t sell food, but, as I mentioned, they are in the same building as a very highly regarded pizza place. If you feel like grabbing a slice they have no problem letting you bring your beer in and drink it there.
Final Thoughts: The brewery was nice, if small. The pizza restaurant next door really serves as the “tasting room,” and I say that as a compliment: it’s a REALLY cool arrangement that the two establishments have. There’s nothing like sampling beers at the bar and having the delicious pizza aroma waft over you. I do wish that the tap was a little larger, with a few more beers to sample, but it’s possible that we were spoiled by overachievers like Burlington Brewing Company: it’s hard to expect everyone to have 10 beers on tap. Overall, we came away feeling pretty positive about our experience there. I hope we have the chance to grab a growler and a pizza there next time, because I’m sure the full experience is that much better.
Brewery Name: Henniker Brewing Company
Type of Brewery: Retail Brewery
Location: 129 Centervale Rd, Henniker, NH (it’s a ways off the main road, but if you follow the signs once you exit the highway, you’ll get there no problem)
Facebook: Henniker Brewing Company
Growlers: Yep. In fact, when you walk into their tasting room, Henniker has rows upon rows of growlers from other breweries proudly on display. Got a growler from a brewery that they don’t have on display yet? They’ll gladly trade you one of theirs and spare you the cost of the deposit!
The Beers: I've had more than a few Henniker beers before, but I was excited to see what sort of special offerings they might have on tap. When we arrived, we were able to try:
Vibe: The vibe of this place is unique. It doesn’t have the cozy, intimate feel that places like Earth Eagle or Night Shift have, but that doesn’t take away from it. If anything, the word that comes to mind when describing the tasting room is “cavernous.” High ceilings, with shelves packed to the gills with growlers from other breweries. I thought that was a very cool touch, and we had a great time gazing up toward the rafters and trying to pick out growlers from breweries that we recognized.
The staff was awesome. We spent a solid hour talking to Patrick, one of Henniker’s sales representatives, about beers ranging from the ones Henniker has on offer to the ones we each want to get our hands on. He was a big part of the reason we’re all looking forward to coming back to Henniker at some point. We got to learn a little about the history of the brewery (and brewers), and learn about some of the exciting new things they’re doing with their beers.
I wish we had been able to come by when it was a little nicer outside, because it seems like a place where I could sit in the sun and throw back a few full tastings over the course of an hour or two. There is no shortage of space both inside and outside the brewery, and it seems like an ideal place to set up a couple cornhole boards and enjoy the summertime. The fact that Henniker is so close to my office means I just can’t wait to go back.
York's Thoughts: Probably the friendliest brewery I’'ever been to. It's at the end of a long sort-of-road and has a small tasting room to walk into, with a large warehouse style brewing section. We got treated phenomenally by the staff we spoke with, and they even sat with us during some of our tastings and chatted about some of the events and releases they had planned. The D.H. IPA was truly one of my top beers at any of the breweries we visited, and the Amber Apparition was as good as I remembered. Really wish I had local access to this place--definitely envy Shane on that one!
Pete's Thoughts: Really impressed by this place. The first beer I got to try from them was their amber, which was decent, but that style does not give a full impression of what a brewery can do. They do a wonderful job dry hopping with their D.H. IPA, and the Miles & Miles was a great hoppy pale. If you live near this place, you should be a regular. They are a wonderful, friendly brewery.
Dogs: We didn’t see any while we were there, but Henniker is pretty laid back. Since they don’t serve food, so my guess would be that dogs are fine.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$
Food: No food here, but Henniker does host occasional events at the brewery, which food trucks often attend.
Final Thoughts: There’s a lot going on at Henniker, with classic beers (amber, porter) done right and more creative beers (double IPA, dry-hopped pale) executed with aplomb. It’s a little out of the way and the tasting room is a little cavernous, but those aren’t really complaints. I can’t wait to come back here (especially since it’s relatively close to where I work), especially to attend one of the brewery’s special events. The friendly staff alone make it well worth the trip, and I highly recommend that anyone in the area check it out immediately.
Brewery Name: Liars' Bench Beer Company
Type of Brewery: [UPDATE 11/11/16] Brewpub
Location: 459 Islington Street #4, Portsmouth, NH. There is a sign outside the location, but not on the building itself yet. Don’t worry, you’re in the right place.
Facebook: Liars Bench Beer Company
Background: Liars' Bench is a brand new brewery, having just opened its doors during the first week of June, 2016. Dane and Dagan, the two owners, are University of New Hampshire grads with a strong connection to the area. Dane has spent a lot of time traveling, and over the years has worked for breweries like Trumer, Smuttynose, and Magnolia. As coincidence would have it, Magnolia is located in San Francisco not far from York, and has become a favorite of his. Needless to say, when I heard that, I was excited to pop in and grab a few beers at Liars' Bench.
Growlers: Yep. Liars' Bench currently offers 32 oz growlers, with a limit of two growlers per beer, per person.
The Beers: While I was there, Liars' Bench had four beers on tap. I was told that the taps will turn over "very frequently," and it sounded to me like many of the beers I tried might not be on tap for much longer. For me, this is the ideal situation. I always want to try new beers, and this seems like a great place to do it. You can’t get full pours, but tasters and flights are very affordable.
Vibe: From the moment I approached the place, I was in love. The unmarked building gives it a speakeasy vibe, and the entrance...well, see for yourself. Just a heavy, windowless steel door marked "BEER CO."
And what a BEER CO it is. The interior is relatively small and intimate, and with the garage doors open you practically feel like you're sitting outside. The lack of outdoor seating is a minor disappointment, but they have residential neighbors closeby, so it's both understandable and considerate of them. Besides, there’s a ton to do inside. Foosball, mini basketball hoops, hell I even saw a cornhole board stored up in the rafters. There is plenty of seating and it's spaced out enough to not feel like you're crammed in next to your neighbor, which is also great.
The bar itself is very cool, and the entire place feels hand-constructed (which, for all I know, could be true). The signage and decoration behind the bar has the same speakeasy vibe that the exterior of the building gives off, and I'm a huge fan of the artwork on the walls. In fact, I'm a huge fan of just about all of the artwork associated with Liars' Bench. They worked with a local design company from downtown Portsmouth to put together some incredible artwork for their merchandise. The Liars' Bench logo itself is awesome, as well.
I came into the location expecting to grab a quick flight and take the measure of the place, and instead I ended up hanging out for maybe an hour and a half, having almost three full flights, and shooting the breeze with both the owners and the patrons. I can absolutely see myself becoming a regular here (it's a five minute walk from my front door!), especially if they start churning out new beers as often as advertised. I am a BIG fan of Liars' Bench, and I can't believe they're only a week or so old. Incredible.
Dogs: I didn't see any dogs while I was there, so I’m not sure. They don't serve food, so make of that what you will.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$ / $$$. Tough call here. A four beer flight will run you just $7, which is a great deal (I had...several). Growlers are a little more on the pricey side, but you get what you pay for. This is great beer.
Food: [UPDATE 11/11/16] Liars' Bench is now officially serving food! The menu is limited, but if you crave a German sausage to go with your German beer, this is definitely the right place!
Final Thoughts: I am blown away by the quality of the beer here. Liars' Bench took two styles that I typically pretty averse to (kolsch and saison) and gave me maybe the two best beers I had while I was there. That deserves a huge tip of the cap, and I can’t WAIT to go back and see what else they have in store. The only (and I mean ONLY) things holding them back are almost entirely due to the fact that they're brand new. Obviously they don’t have the capability to can or bottle beers yet, and I wish they were able to offer 64 oz growlers. Outdoor seating would be nice during the summer, but what can you do? I’m not even going to say "for a place that’s barely been open a week..." To hell with that. Liars' Bench is cranking out beer that challenges ANYONE else in the area, regardless of how long they've been around. To have a place like this right around the corner is borderline priceless.
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