7th Settlement Brewery, having opened last fall in Dover's Cocheco Falls Millworks, is one of the newest brewpubs in the state, so of course we wanted to check it out.
We were interested to see how it measured up in comparison to recent trips to Portsmouth Brewery, Red Hook's Cataqua Pub and Milly's Tavern, where the food, beer and atmosphere combined to make for great evenings out.
First impression at 7th Settlement is terrific: You notice immediately how beautiful the converted mill space is, highlighted by exposed beams, high ceilings and historical architecture. It is apparent that 7th Settlement took great care in renovating the rather large room, which features a long bar on the right-hand side of the pub. You can sit at the bar, or take your choice of a private table or the community table in the center of the room.
We were running a bit ahead of the dinner rush so we were able to get a table just for the two of us, but our guess is that as it gets later, the community table would be your only option. If you are at the brewery to eat and not necessarily make friends, it could be a bit awkward, but conversely, if you want to meet new people, it could work.
While we don't see a lot of community tables in our travels, the inclusive feel and layout does go along with the fact the place is a Community Supported Brewery, meaning the funding for the business comes from local investors.
The menu features familiar brewpub favorites including sandwiches, burgers and flatbread pizzas. The menu isn't as extensive as we've seen at other places, but there are several daily specials. The night we visited, the specials included House-made Meat Loaf, Beer-Brined Fried Chicken and Beer Battered Cod.
Grown-up potato tots (yes, just like the ones you saw on your school cafeteria tray) have made their way onto several New Hampshire restaurant menus of late, and I can't resist them. At 7th Settlement, they make their own.
The tots ($5), grated and seasoned potato bites, are served simply — salted and accompanied by a side of horseradish aioli. They were cooked perfectly — soft on the inside but crispy crunchy on the outside. I particularly enjoyed the bite of the dipping sauce. I have always preferred to dip my tots in mayo rather than ketchup, so this adult version of a kids' favorite was right up my alley.
The Dining Companion chose the Lobster Beignets ($10). Beignets are generally served as a pastry with powdered sugar, but in this case, the fried dough encapsulated Maine lobster meat and was served on top of tarragon aioli, a garlic mayonnaise-based sauce that lined the plate for dipping. Picture what lobster doughnuts might look like. The beignets were fried to a deep golden brown and had a pleasantly sweet flavor. There was some lobster meat interspersed in the dough, but a lot less than TDC expected or would have liked.
After eating most of my tots, I was ready for dinner. I chose the Steak and Fries ($17), marinated hanger steak served with house-cut fries, herb butter and rosemary jus. When it arrived at the table, I was impressed by the presentation: The steak lay on a bed of fries with the butter melting on top.
The steak was well marinated and seasoned and quite tasty, although a bit on the salty side. It was also tough to cut and chew. I wanted to eat more, but I grew tired of the workout the beef required. The fries were nondescript, but I appreciated the rosemary flavor in the jus served with the steak.
TDC opted for the Bolognese ($13), a dish comprised of orecchiette pasta, Parmesan cheese and Bolognese sauce with two crunchy wedges of grilled bread on top. The proportions of hand-formed, oval pasta and meaty Bolognese made this a hearty dish. TDC thought the sauce was a little bland, but overall he thought it was a solid entree.The dessert menu had some interesting flavor profiles. I chose the Lemon, Thyme and Honey Crème Brulee ($5). Lemon was the predominant flavor while the thyme and honey unfortunately faded in the background.
While I enjoyed the taste and texture, I struggled to break through the hard burnt sugar crust, which when I finally was able to crack it open revealed a shallow dish and small portion of dessert.
TDC had a bit more success with the chocolate cake ($5). The cake was perfectly moist, covered by beer-infused chocolate ganache. It was also served alongside a raspberry and pink peppercorn gelee that imparted a strong sweet, somewhat spicy flavor. TDC was a bit turned off by the texture of the gelee, which reminded him of gummy candy, but he ate the entire dessert.
We can't visit a brewpub without reporting on the beers we had with our meal. We tried two brewed by 7th Settlement's sister brewery, One Love, including the Untz Untz Untz "Kolsch-style," an unfiltered light beer with fruit notes, and the Inka Binka, a full-bodied American oatmeal stout with chocolate and coffee notes.
Both of us thought the beer was more successful than the food, which, to be honest, we found to be lackluster and pedestrian. Keeping in mind how new the brewpub is, here's hoping that the care evidenced in 7th Settlement's brewing arts and the renovation of its building will soon extend to the food.