Critical mash: Craft brew boom takes flight in Londonderry

Union Leader Correspondent
January 10. 2018 11:43PM
From the Barrel Brewing Company's Jay Anderson draws a flight of a hearty nanobrew Tuesday. (CHRIS GAROFOLO/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

The Granite State’s craft beer industry soars from frosty peaks to foamy Seacoast shores, but producers say their kettles of wort stand at the center of the state’s microbrewery movement.

“We’ve become a hub,” said Berniece Van Der Berg, vice president of marketing for Moonlight Meadery and Hidden Moon Brewery. “It’s become a draw; it’s become a pull.”

There are now seven breweries in Londonderry and Derry, according to Brew NH, the statewide advisory nonprofit for the industry. Some of the most well-established producers, including Rockingham Brewing Company, 603 Brewery and Kelsen Brewing Company, are located here.

The region also has attracted new makers like Pipe Dream Brewing and From the Barrel Brewing Company in the last three years.

The latest is Long Blue Cat Brewing, opened last month off Rockingham Road by longtime friends Shane Sorenson and Jason Knight. The brewery’s unique nom de brew comes from Sorenson’s daughter, who was once quite fond of doodling long blue cats in Crayon.

For Knight, opening in an area overflowing with crafty brewers is good business.

“A lot of people say ‘There’s already a couple breweries, let’s not open one here, there’s not going to be much of a market for it.’ The fact that there are so many here and they’re all pretty successful, it’s bringing people from outside the state and from around the state to come in here because they can hit a bunch of different breweries all at once,” he said.

“When it started to become popular when we were trying to get in here, we still thought it was a good idea because it was becoming a growing area,” Knight said.

Van Der Berg said the Cask & Vine restaurant in downtown Derry spotlights local products. Its co-owner Andy Day organized Derry After Dark, an event last September that featured more than 100 regional beers.

“It was sort of organic how it grew, and now we have the wine tours, we have the mead and the beer tours and cider. I think it was all very synergistic,” said Van Der Berg.
Berniece Van Der Berg, of Moonlight Meadery and Hidden Moon Brewery, shows a passport visitors can have stamped to track the Granite State-made products they’ve tried. (CHRIS GAROFOLO/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

Tourist destination

Londonderry’s proximity to Boston draws weekend customers, she said. Van Der Berg estimates half of Moonlight’s walk-in business comes from Massachusetts.

“We’ve created a tourist destination, which helps the breweries because the people are already in the area. They’re either going to be going to wineries, breweries or both,” she said. “It’s just a nice synergy between adult beverages.”

Jay Anderson, co-founder and head brewer of From the Barrel, saw how Moonlight and 603 Brewery bloomed in Londonderry and decided with his family to focus predominantly on IPAs. Located in the Commerce Center complex on Londonderry Road, From the Barrel’s tasting room is open Friday and Saturday afternoons.

“Our motto when we opened was we’re going to brew what we like, so if no one buys it, we’ll drink it,” Anderson said with a laugh. “Luckily, that hasn’t really been a problem.”

Like Knight, Anderson is excited about the cornucopia of options for beer drinkers in the area.

“... all of a sudden you have six or seven, it becomes a destination where people will come and visit,” he said. “And we all sort of talk each other up ... at a minimum, it’s worth going next door.” 

Next door to From the Barrel is Moonlight and Hidden Moon. 

“Seven years ago there was nobody but us,” said Michael Fairbrother, founder and president of Moonlight and Hidden Moon. “And we all fed off each other, the customers coming in to visit us walk down the parking lot to visit From the Barrel. It’s definitely bringing in a lot of tourist dollars to the area.” 

Moonlight and Hidden Moon contracts out its recipes, has expanded into ciders, and continues to brew a very popular Russian imperial stout.

Londonderry’s brewery owners said they view participation in festivals and other beer-related events as good business for all.

“I don’t know if there’s going to be anymore breweries right here, but we’re all working on collaborating and doing more things and events together,” Knight said. “We’ll all probably even grow more, I think.”


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