York: Crisp, light, clean beers is the focus on this batch! I’ve assembled a mix of beers that are all brews that I go for on hot (that’s a relative thing to say in San Francisco, I know) days when the refreshing quality of a beer is especially appreciable. I was able to get my hands on some Cellarmaker, which is a brewery both the guys have requested more from, and have also included two hoppy brews from HenHouse, a big up-and-comer in the San Francisco area. A bright sour, a tropical blonde, and a pilsner collab from two of my favorite breweries round out this lineup of thirst quenchers!
Shane: This is an exciting batch of beers, featuring a few breweries whose beers I have never sampled before. I’m particularly excited for another crack at Cellarmaker, given that the first beer I tried from them wasn’t quite up my alley. I’ve been dying to try their Dobis and Double Dobis IPAs, so the fact that York was able to get his hands on some of the former is hugely exciting. Add in another beer from Alvarado Street Brewing and one from Local, and this batch has my mouth watering already. I’m also excited to taste Sunbather, as York has yet to send us a single sour from the West Coast that was anything less than delicious.
Pete: Here we get a little light variety from California. Usually these batches are just a slew of double IPA’s from the first area of the country to put their stamp on the style. I like that we finally get a pilsner in here and a sour is never something to turn your nose up at. I spy a bunch of pale ales too which is great for me because I will take a nice pale ale over a bunch of IPAs any day. I like sessioning beers and a good hoppy pale ale is the best session for me. You get all the hops while still enjoying a beer that doesn’t knock you on your ass. I am especially excited to try Cellarmaker and their Dobis. They are probably the most popular cool kid brewery that I have heard of and their Dobis is their take on Citra so I expect it is good. I am calling this a York summer pack because these are perfect beers to wrap up summer with. Cheers!
Brewery Name: Long Blue Cat Brewing Company
Type of Brewery: Brewpub
Location: 298 Rockingham Rd Londonderry, NH. The brewery is located near Manchester–Boston Regional Airport (MHT), as well as near Backyard Brewery & Kitchen, another recent entrant into the New Hampshire brewing scene.
Facebook: Long Blue Cat Brewing Co.
Background: Owned by Jason Knight and Shane Sorenson, two childhood friends from New Hampshire, Long Blue Cat Brewing Company opened its doors for the first time this December. The beer they brew is the result of years of homebrewing experience, and the brewery itself the culmination of the two friends’ ambition to enter the burgeoning New Hampshire beer scene. Of course, you’re probably wondering one thing right about now: what’s the deal with the name? Since Long Blue Cat doesn’t even spoil that secret on their own website, I won’t do it here. But suffice it to say that it’s an endearing story, and you can find it framed on the wall of the brewery’s taproom. You can also stop in and ask them yourself!
Growlers: Yep, growlers are currently the only way to take beer away from Long Blue Cat, as they do not appear to have can or bottling capabilities at the moment. I’m not sure if they are planning to change that, but given New Hampshire’s draconian beer laws and the fact that Long Blue Cat only recently opened, growlers are a perfectly satisfying solution to the takeaway problem.
The Beers: Long Blue Cat had a good number of beers on tap when I visited, and I took the opportunity to sample almost all of them. My flight included:
Vibe: The brewery only recently opened, and during my visit they were still enjoying a healthy “new brewery” boom. The taproom was crowded, but there were plenty of tables and lots of space at the various high-tops for people to sit or stand comfortably. The staff seems like they do a great job of managing the space, and the layout was clearly put together with free-flowing movement and accessibility in mind. Tables are spaced out enough that you’ll be able to hear each other talk without being drowned out by neighboring conversations.
The walls are decorated in classic brewpub form, with cans from various breweries both in the immediate area and beyond lining the ceiling. I saw cans from heavyweight breweries like Tree House and Trillium on display, as well as some well-deserved representation for smaller, local breweries like Henniker and Garrison City. It’s clear that Long Blue Cat has a lot of love for their New Hampshire compatriots.
Service was awesome. It’s surprising how much of a difference little modern updates can make, such as having the waitstaff carry smartphones that they can use to take and keep track of orders, as well as allow patrons to pay for their drinks right then and there. This makes a HUGE difference, especially at a time when the brewery is packed with people. Not having to wonder whether your drink order will be correct or wait for your bill to come is a little thing that makes the entire experience so much more enjoyable. I wish more breweries (and bars, for that matter) would follow Long Blue Cat’s example.
Overall, I look forward to coming back. Between the helpful staff, great layout, cool vibe, and awesome slate of different beer styles, Long Blue Cat is doing some really great things, especially for a brewery that only recently opened its doors. Really well done!
Dogs: I don’t think so. The brewery is a true brewpub, and with food prep stations clearly visible and a full food menu, it’s unlikely that dogs are welcome. That’s too bad, but it’s also completely understandable. [UPDATE 3/11/18: Recent visitors have indicated that dogs are often present in the brewery, which is great news. You may wish to proceed with caution as breweries that serve food can be wary of allowing dogs, but for now it appears that your furry friends are more than welcome!
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$. Pretty standard prices for a brewpub. Stopping in for a flight or pint is not going to break the bank.
Food: Long Blue Cat has a pretty robust food menu, and although I haven’t had the chance to sample any of the offerings myself, I’ve heard good things. The menu looked to contain items like flatbreads, grilled cheese sliders, and other fun takes on traditional bar food. I wish I’d had the opportunity to linger a bit longer, because all of the food I saw looked fantastic.
Final Thoughts: I came away impressed, and I look forward to stopping by again. Given the number of different beer styles on offer already, I’m excited to see what the brewers come up with next. As the New Hampshire beer scene continues to grow, I hope more breweries are able to open as successfully as Long Blue Cat.
Shane: I've tried to choose a wide range of beer, but the fact is...I’ve been neglecting my home state of New Hampshire. I’ve included a ton of beers from Maine, a bunch from Vermont, and a lot from Massachusetts, but, with the exception of a few Garrison City beers, New Hampshire has been sadly underrepresented. Well, no more! I’ve chosen eight beers for this tasting, and all but two of them come from the Granite State. I chose a couple of interesting beers from Garrison City, a pair from one of my personal favorite breweries, Deciduous, and a couple of selections from Great Rhythm and Stoneface. To round it out, I’ve included our first beers from both New England Brewing Company and Battery Steele Brewing. Should be a good batch!
York: Easily the best-designed batch Shane has put together in a long time. Riddled with IPAs and pales, this also includes a gose, a weiss, and a stout. Of the three of us, I typically make the furthest reaches to try and preserve a wide spectrum of beers, but credit is given where credit is due here. Pumped to have some more Great Rhythm and Garrison City--both breweries that I was extremely high on in earlier batches. Shane talks quite a bit about Deciduous, too, so it’ll be great to see what they’re about. I won’t lie, the stout generates a bit of an odd look on my face being not only a “white stout,” but also what sounds like a beer that has some heat to it. Definitely a beer I wouldn’t have picked out myself, but that's the fun in this a lot of the time!
Pete: So we go all pale again but get some good style variety. I am a fan of gose and berliner weisse, so I am interested in trying those beers. A Garrison City IPA and some more Great Rhythm can’t be a bad thing, either. Deciduous has been on the radar, so I want to give them a try. Shane wasn’t able to get us the raspberry berliner he raved about, but, if this brewery is as good as he says, these offerings will do. Overall, a nice collection of New England beer, and really shows the variety of what there is to choose from.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This piece refers to Stowe Cider's previous location. In the time since our visit, the cidery has opened a new location located at 17 Town Farm Lane in Stowe. While we greatly enjoyed our visit to the old taproom, we encourage you to check out Stowe Cider's new space. Feel free to let us know how you like it! We hope to write an updated review in the near future.]
Cidery Name: Stowe Cider
Type of Cidery: Retail Cidery
Location: 1799 Mountain Rd, Stowe, VT 05672
Facebook: Stowe Cider
Background: Not only was I the first writer to review a cidery, it appears I’m going to be the second, too. I took a trip to Stowe, VT a few months ago, and Stowe Cider was one of the “must-visit” places on my list. My fiance has a gluten allergy, which, sadly, means no beer; however, it has given me the chance to get much more into cider. Stowe Cider has been one of the unexpected gems that I’ve found during that discovery process. On their own, the cans that Stowe Cider distributes represent a really cool mix of flavors and styles, and I was really excited to see what else the taproom itself had in store. Spoiler alert: I was not disappointed.
Growlers: Yes. They even offer growlers full of regular, non-alcoholic apple cider, which look absolutely delicious.
The Ciders: One of the great things about Stowe Cider is sheer magnitude of different options. I mean, just look at that list below: we’ve got a dry-hopped cider, a shandy, gin, rum, and tequila aged ciders, and even an ice cider. Take note, people who say cider is boring because it all tastes the same. None of these ciders tasted even remotely the same, and almost every single one of them introduced me to something I’ve never had in a cider before. Mega props to Stowe Cider for an incredibly unique lineup. Here are some of my favorites:
Vibe: I’m not totally sure how to describe the vibe of the Stowe Cider taproom. The cidery is located at the end of a strip of storefronts on one of Stowe’s main roads. The outside has a rustic, charming feel that is perfectly mirrored by the interior.
Inside the taproom you’ll find picnic tables, tables made from barrels, cornhole boards, barstools, decorations made from empty bottles, and a thousand other little things that remind you that you are in rural Vermont. The walls are brightly colored and the room is well lit, making the spacious taproom feel even more open than it already is.
Stowe Cider is popular, that much is for sure. The taproom wasn’t too busy when we stopped by, but it filled up soon after we sat down with our flights. There are games to be played (we opted for Trivial Pursuit), there’s artwork to admire, and, of course, cider to drink. You can also take a look inside the gigantic fridge located near the register for some cans and growlers to take home with you. As I mentioned before, Stowe Cider even sells regular, non-alcoholic cider. I really regret not taking some home with me.
The staff was friendly, the crowd was happy--and it doesn’t hurt that we visited on an absolutely beautiful and sunny day. Everyone there was in a good mood, and the whole experience left both of us feeling really upbeat. Whether that’s a testament to the vibe of the cidery or the benefit of a perfect day, we had a great time!
Dogs: Unsure. It’s a reasonably sized taproom with plenty of seating, but it definitely fills up quickly on weekends. I’m not sure whether they allow dogs in the taproom, but, even if they do, you’ll want to consider how well behaved your dog is in crowds.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$. Pretty much par for the course as far as brewery/cidery prices go. Not super pricey and you definitely get your money’s worth with a wide variety of generously poured samplers.
Food: There are some limited, snacky options available. Sadly, they were sold out when we visited, so I can’t speak to the quality of the food, but it’s pretty much par for the course at a place like this.
Final Thoughts: Ever since I started diving into the world of cider, Stowe Cider has been a favorite of mine. I jumped at the chance to visit the taproom, and was greeted with creative and delicious ciders that exceeded even my lofty expectations. If you’re a fan of cider, I highly recommend stopping by--and if you’re not a fan of cider, I recommend stopping by anyway. There are so many barrel aged cider varieties here that you’re virtually certain to find something you like!
Brewery Name: Aigean Ales
Type of Brewery: Retail Brewery
Location: 250 Commercial St Unit #2001, Manchester, NH.
Facebook: Aigean Ales
Background: Aigean Ales has been open since early 2017, but, despite the fact that the taproom is just ten minutes down the road from my place of employment, I didn’t hear about them until October. In a way, this fits the Aigean Ales motif: they’ve cultivated a sort of speakeasy vibe for themselves, and they relish being one of the city’s hidden gems. For the owners of the brewery, this isn’t a full-time job: it’s just something they love doing. They aren’t trying to get rich brewing beer, they’re more interested in creating a great space where beer lovers can enjoy the creative concoctions they’ve cooked up.
Growlers: Yes, there are growlers available for purchase in the taproom. Due to New Hampshire’s growler laws, they can only fill their own glassware, so if you’re coming from out of state you should be aware of that.
The Beers: Aigean Ales has six tap lines, so you can usually count on a pretty good variety of beers to try. When I stopped in, they had a couple of sours, a stout, a table beer, an IPA, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve talked about it before on the blog, but there’s nothing better than when a brewery isn’t afraid to branch out into a bunch of different styles. Sure, I like a good IPA from a brewery that specializes in that style, but I also like to see what a brewery is really capable of and taste a bunch of different beers.
Dogs: Unsure. The owners have an adorable yogurt-loving pup who wanders around inside the taproom, so you might be alright as long as your dog is well behaved. On the other hand, the brewery is located inside one of Manchester’s old mill buildings in a sort of mall-like area, so dogs might be a no-go. I’d say use your judgment.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$. Pretty much standard prices for tasters and growlers, no surprises here.
Food: No food. The brewery’s entire public space amounts to a bartop and a couple of chairs against the wall, so this isn’t a place where you’re going to settle in with beer and food. It doesn’t sound like they have any immediate plans to expand, but you never know!
Final Thoughts: I love a place that feels like a secret. A place that makes me feel like I’ve stumbled upon something that not many people know about. The word is starting to get out about Aigean Ales, but the taproom has stayed true to the vision of its owners. Not only does Aigean Ales offer great beer, but they also offer great conversation, and a real sense of enthusiasm for what they do. There aren’t too many breweries these days where you can just sidle up to the bar and learn about the brewery’s entire backstory straight from the owners themselves, so treasure places like Aigean Ales when you find them!
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