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March 11. 2013 11:22PM

Manchester nanobrewery ready to brew with the big boys


Brewer Brian Ross of Candia Road Brewing Company sits on a pallet of Nepenthe Ale, which will be distributed by Amoskeag Beverages. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER -- WHILE CLYDESDALES aren't in the picture just yet, a small brewery took a big step Monday when its workers stacked 296 cases of beer on six pallets outside the back door, readying them for a trip to the warehouse.

The move symbolized the 14-month transition of the Candia Road Brewing Co. from nanobrewer to beverage manufacturer. As such, the brewer can have its Manchester-made product distributed by Amoskeag Beverages LLC.

"It's a level of success when they go to a distributor to send their beers across the state," said Bert Bingel, co-owner of Bert's Better Beers, which sells the Candia Road's Nepenthe line of beers and ales in its Hooksett retail store.

Bingel said nanobreweries are undergoing an explosion in the state. Three years ago, small brewers in New Hampshire produced about 125 labels. Now it's around 700, he said.

"It's a very enthusiastic, exciting environment right now," he said.

Until Monday, the company had to cart its product to the 40 or so retailers across the state who agreed to sell it, said Brian Ross, assistant brew master for the three-person operation.

"What a distributor does, they'll pick up your product and help to promote it," said Steve Neel, whose son is brewmaster at Candia Road.

The 296 cases picked up Monday - each holding twelve 22-ounce bottles - represent about a quarter of the company's entire production last year. The seven brands retail for $7 to $9.

"Even if they can get one case into a store here and there, that will eventually clean us out for a month," Ross said.

Two years ago, a law went into effect that allowed small operations such as Candia Road to brew beer and sell it to shops such as Bert's Better Beers.

But the designation of nanobrewery, which came with a $240 state license, required self-delivery.

Last week, Candia Road upped its license to beverage manufacturer, the same held by the Clydesdale-touting Anheuser Busch brewery in Merrimack. The $1,200 license fee allowed Candia Road to partner with Amoskeag Beverage.

Eddie Edwards, director of enforcement for the state Liquor Commission, said the state his issued about eight licenses to nanobrewers. The Candia Road license is the only one he knows of that has upgraded to beverage manufacturer.

At full tilt, Candia Road could produce 100 cases a week, Ross said.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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