NH's best pours will be on tap at the 13th annual NE brewfest
By JOHN KOZIOL
Sunday News Correspondent | June 17. 2017 5:43PM
Matt Champy, a brewer at the Woodstock Inn Brewery, on Wednesday uses a hydrometer to measure the fermentation of a batch of beer. (JOHN KOZIOL/SUNDAY NEWS CORRESPONDENT)
Produced and managed by the Western White Mountains Chamber of Commerce, the Brewfest will be held June 23-25 at the Loon Mountain Resort. It will combine what the chamber calls "beer-infused social events" with educational workshops, and the signature on-tap tasting where more than 30 breweries will present their wares.
The Brewfest is the longest-running event of its kind in the Granite State, organizers say.
"We've watched the craft-beer scene explode over the past 13 years," said Kim Pickering, the chamber's executive director.
Scott Rice, owner of the Woodstock Inn Brewery and one of the founders of the Brewfest, recalled that it began in the parking lot across the street from his business. It grew quickly, requiring a move to a larger venue.
As he sees it, the craft-beer industry in New Hampshire remains strong and vibrant. Rice concurs with his brewers Matt Champy and Adam Burks that breweries are "hybridizing a lot of hops now" and evoking their latent flavors or creating new ones, rather than just focusing on the bitterness that hops imparts to beer.
The Woodstock Inn Brewery will have four ales available at the Brewfest, including its well-known Pig's Ear brown ale and Lemon Blueberry pale ale.
Nationally, IPAs are very popular, said Burks, but Champy pointed out that "sour ales" may eventually become "the new IPA."
Scott Schaier, who will be a panelist at the Brewfest, confirmed that sour beers and shandys are a growing trend.
Promoting through beer
Schaier is a member of Brew NH, a nonprofit organization that "promotes New Hampshire via the beer industry."
He said New Hampshire continues to be in the midst of a craft-beer boom, just like the rest of the country. The state is home to some 70 breweries, including nano, micro and production breweries, which are ranked and regulated by output from tiny to large, as well as brewpubs.
Although "we've seen a couple of closures in the last year, for the most part, the industry is strong and consumers are interested," Schaier said.
In New England, Vermont, by dint of longevity, leads the way in craft brewing, he said, and both Maine and Massachusetts have developed a good reputation.
But while the Granite State does some outstanding brewing, too, Schaier said, "we don't like to talk about ourselves and promote ourselves," which is why events like the Brewfest are so helpful in getting the word out that.
"We have very high-quality beer, and we're everywhere in the state," he said. "You're going to find a brewery close to you."
Increasingly, some of those breweries are recognizing the importance of the personal touch, said Schaier: getting people into the brewery where they might be offered an exclusive brew and also have a chance to talk to the brewers one-on-one.
"It's pretty cool to drink the beer and have a conversation with the guy who made it," Schaier said.
Doug Horner, a spokesman for Smuttynose Brewing, agreed with Schaier that consumers want "not only a good beer, but a good experience, too."
Horner said his company is looking forward to being at the Brewfest because "we have deep roots in New England."
Owner and founder Peter Egelston was one of the partners behind the Northampton Brewery in Massachusetts, which is considered the oldest brewpub in the Northeast. In 1991, he and his sister Janet opened the Portsmouth Brewery, the first brewpub in New Hampshire. Two years later, Egelston bought the bankrupt Frank Jones Brewing Co. and rechristened it Smuttynose Brewing. It now produces 45,000 to 50,000 barrels of beer annually and is the leading independent craft-brewer in New Hampshire.
The Brewfest "is a great way to show how far we've come," said Horner.
For tickets and a complete list of New England Brewfest events, go to www.nebrewfest.com.