WOLFEBORO - The Lone Wolfe Brewing Co., an independently owned one-man, craft brewery and tasting room, recently opened on Mill Street.
The "Lone Wolfe" in question is founder and owner Graham Combes, 28, who turned his passion for home brewing into a business and profession after ditching a job as a car salesman in New Jersey. Graham and his wife, Jen, relocated to the Lakes Region, where Jen's family vacationed on Tuftonboro Neck, several years ago.
"We had visited before, and found this is a great place to raise a family," Combes said.
The couple has two young children, a boy, Cameron, 4, and a girl, Harper, 18 months.
The couple met while studying at the Brooks Institute, a photography and film college in Santa Barbara, Calif. They married after graduation then relocated to New Jersey, where Jen's family resided, before falling in love with the Lakes Region while here on vacation. Not one to shy away from hard work, Combes worked days for a landscaping company and nights as a bartender before opening the brewery, a dream come true for the couple.
"I've always loved beer. I started brewing my own, and it quickly went from a hobby to an obsession. Basically I brewed beers for friends and family for years, and they told me they loved it and said, 'I wish I could buy this,'" he said.
Earned a gold medal
In 2012, Combes entered his Single Hopped Citra IPA in the New England Homebrewer's Jamboree held in Tamworth. The beer earned a Gold Medal in the Light Beer (light in color) Division. Positive reinforcement like that boosted Combes' dream of opening his own craft brewery. So after nearly a decade of home brewing, reading and research that included working at the Portsmouth Brewery, he wrote a business plan, found an investor, leased the 800-square foot space, and opened the brewery and tasting room for under $100,000. In the near future, Jen will take over the tasting room sales and presentation leaving Combes with more time to brew in the adjacent brewing and fermentation rooms.
Brewing craft beer takes a combination of science, math and cooking skills - with a measure of creativity, Combes said while overseeing brewing operations. Craft beers are produced in 31-gallon batches. Currently on tap is a Milk Stout, the Single Hopped Citra IPA, a Hefeweizen, and an Amber Ale. Visitors can sample the four beers in a "flight" for $4, or sample a single beer for $1.50. Lone Wolfe also serves growlers in one- or two-liter sizes to bring home. When the beer in the growler runs out, customers can return it for a refill.
Currently, Lone Wolfe brews sell quickly, and Combes adds he does not have a distributor in place. That may change at some point when Combes is able to increase production, but right now he's a one-man operation.
Tasting room décor
Combes, a jack of all trades, built and designed the décor in the tasting room using wooden planks from leftover pallets he accumulated over several months of deliveries.
"I wanted a sustainable design for the tasting room," he said. The wood from the pallets was used for the flooring, the tables, the wall coverings and the frames for the photography.
For a special ambiance, Combes special ordered and installed dozens of vintage filament light bulbs strung over the bar and serving area. A large community table that seats 20, and several smaller tables, accommodate groups of various sizes.
The Lone Wolfe Brewing Co. and its samples, are headed to the Granite State Brewers Association Summer Fest to be held July 26 from 1 to 5 p.m. at Arms Park in Manchester. Combes said the association was formed in part due to the proliferation of craft brewers in the state. According to an online listing, 25 New Hampshire micro-brewers have signed on to participate. Nationally, the craft beer industry is growing fast.
According to the Brewers Association, the number of operating breweries in the U.S. in 2013 totaled 2,822, with 2,768 of those - or 98 percent of the total - considered craft breweries. According to the Granite State Brewers Association, there are 28 breweries in the state. For more information, go to grantestatebrewersassociation.org.
The Lone Wolfe Brewing Company and tasting room is located at 29 Mill St., Unit C1, next to Capelli Hair and Body Salon on the second floor.
The tasting room is open Thursdays and Fridays from 5 to 11 p.m., Saturdays from 1 to 11 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.