There are times when the sun shines brightly over chosen locales, and the laws of the land are forced to overturn, altering themselves for the greater good of beer.
And back in 2011, that weather pattern passed over New Hampshire causing the Granite State to become the first state in the union to recognize nanobreweries, those producing fewer than 2000 barrels per year (and often producing far less). Over 20 new breweries have since then opened and are now thriving, but distribution laws keep a bureaucratic stranglehold around the necks of brewers, preventing many of these stellar suds from landing on tap and in stores across state lines. With plenty of standouts, a whole market isn’t being serviced in Mass.
A temporary remedy to can be attributed to Karen Marzlof and Dave Boynton, co-founders of the Seacoast Microbrew Fest happening in July. It’s the first of its kind in New Hampshire and highlights a baker’s dozen or so local nanobreweries, mostly focusing on those in Portsmouth/Dover/Newmarket and pockets of surrounding areas, with extensions to nearby Maine for groups from Kittery and York.
Besides the fact there will be live local bands on the premises all day, along with a host of food trucks from great local eateries, the main feature involves the chance for attendees to sample the wares of a lot of great hyperlocal and independent brews. Some are well recognized (Smuttlabs, Portsmouth Brewery, Blue Lobster) and others are scant on the general radar (Neighborhood Beer Co, 7th Settlement, Earth Eagle Brewing).
Boynton is also a co-owner of 7th Settlement Brewery out of Dover, NH (hence the name—Dover was the seventh settlement in the New World), a brewing co-op done with One Love Brewing. He says that the festival and spotlight on the food and beer movement up there is a long overdue.
“[My partners] and I love beer and the community that it creates, and we wanted to do that for Dover,” he says.
Marzlof, speaking from a friend’s produce farm she helps out at, agrees. “It’s right on time, and it kind of grew up with local food movement here. Portsmouth has several downtowns only 10-12 miles apart in Durham, Newmarket, Dover—and now every town seems to have a hometown brewery. Feels like it’s on schedule with local food movement.”
As the first annual anything, you want to get things right. And for starters, all involved wanted to focus on wholly regional microbreweries, with many falling in very small output groupings. Some three- and seven-barrel breweries, a few 15-barrel breweries. While the vendors are small, there’s still a flowering array of varieties. “We have an eclectic mix,” says Boynton. “All brewers around here are friends; it’s a great community [and] part of a greater movement and new sense of camaraderie amongst brew pub owners. When you’re supporting one you’re basically supporting them all.”
That support, as the once microbrew-now-local-craft-beer juggernaut Smuttynose (whose Smuttlabs will be on hand) proves, is the life force for those upstarts with small beginnings that eventually pick up and grow into national favorites. Which isn’t to say the recent swell of these types of breweries and brewpubs across the coastal beer terrain will necessarily mean there are macro futures for everyone. “Over time, some of these breweries will eventually become larger,” says Martzlof. “Some will stay small. We hope by creating this festival we can build this network and community [and] it will provide more support for brewers, and also more recognition regionally for what’s available right here.”
As for where this could go from here, Marzlof sees sunny skies : “It’s so funny, whenever I talk with people [about it] they say they love local beer. So I think we’ll attract a lot of people to come to one place to try everything the Seacoast has to offer from beer, and refer their friends back to the Seacoast to have people come check it out.”
FIRST ANNUAL SEACOAST MICRO BREWFEST. SAT JULY 11. 12:20-4PM/21+/$30-50. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT SEACOASTBREWFEST.COM