In this article, we work our way down the New Hampshire coast. Starting just south of downtown Portsmouth, we follow Highway 1 down to North Hampton, and then (regular) Hampton. From a slew of IPAs, to some of the most unique brews I’ve sampled, this stretch is certainly memorable when it comes to craft beer. I’ve also decided to include FIVE breweries in this article. It should also be noted that the coast of New Hampshire is a beautiful place, and that enjoying the beaches and scenery is important as well!
- Great Rhythm Brewing: Portsmouth, NH
- Beara Brewing: Portsmouth, NH
- Throwback Brewing: North Hampton, NH
- Smuttynose Brewing, Hampton, NH
- Four Pines Brewing, Hampton, NH
Sitting on the edge of the North Mill Pond, a tidal coastal watershed, Great Rhythm has a beautiful and unique spot for their taproom. The building used to be for fish processing, but now you can sit down and order a variety of IPAs. Walking inside, you are immediately greeted by brewing equipment to your right, a bar straight ahead, and views out to the Pond on your left. It is not an overly large space, but they make the most of it, and having garage doors open to allow fresh air in certainly helps. Wood and concrete give it a sleek, modern feel, and on a nice, warm evening, it is a tough atmosphere to beat. Their website also notes that they are inspired by music, which I’m sure had an influence on the name.
IPAs are the name of the game at Great Rhythm. When I visited, six of the eight beers on tap were some form of IPA, while they also had an amber ale, and a pale ale. I sampled three IPAs, and they were all solid, distinct options. Hi-Fi took my top prize, and will please those looking for dank and juicy IPAs. Dark fruit notes are the key, and it was simply delicious. Nugz is a Wet Hop IPA, made of course with fresh Nugget hops. I seemed to get pine notes, as well as maybe some grapefruit? Either way, it is actually fairly balanced. For those looking for something less hoppy, their session IPA, West End, fits the bill. I also tried Amplified Amber, and it was a true to style amber. It seemed a little more maltier, but that could just be in comparison to the IPAs.
Great Rhythm turned out to be one of my favorite taprooms to drink in. Between the views of North Mill Pond and being open to the brewery, it strikes the right cord (MUSIC PUN). And if you like their beer, you can grab a pack of cans on your way out!
Depending where you look, it can be Beara Brewing, or Beara Irish Brewing. Then the sign that greets you at their facility located in a strip mall in south Portsmouth simply reads ‘Irish Brewing’. Any way you look at it, this unimposing brewery blew me away with their creativity. Named for a peninsula on the far southwest side of Ireland, they make due with the small space. A simple bar sits in the back left corner, with five additional tables for seating. Some Irish décor hangs from the walls, including of course a flag. My favorite piece was a map of Ireland where people can place pins in places they have lived or visited.
I’ve tried a bacon beer before, and it was alright. But I had never drank a bacon & chipotle BBQ infused stout. Insert Hog Wilde. Ya it was delicious. It’s a beer you either enjoy and find interesting, or you hate it. I was in the former group. The BBQ gives a unique spicy character to the beer, and was simply delectable. Cake is an Oreo-infused Java Porter. Go ahead and read that again. The ‘oreo’ flavors are in the front, and then give way to coffee notes. It is another captivating brew. Maple Wheat had limited sweetness, and the maple did not stick out quite as much as other maple beers I’ve had. They do have some more straight forward options, such as their Stout.
Because of their small size, they tend to rotate beers quite often on their six taps. You won’t always see core beers there, so you should also have something new to try. I’m intrigued to see what they can devise next!
Located at Historic Hobbs Farm in North Hampton, this is a cool place. For a full read on the history there, check their website by clicking on their name above. The building itself appears to be an old barn, complete with a silo outside. There’s a large outdoor area, complete with what appears to be a stage. Inside is a large winding bar, along with plenty of seating. In the far back you can see the brewery through some windows. Canvas art up on the walls revolves around farming. Not surprisingly, much of the space consists of natural and finished wood, which I enjoy. A fun note: instead of table numbers, you get a bobblehead of a famous person/character after placing your order.
Of the 14 beers on tap, I was able to sample 8. An interesting lineup, there were three unique blonde ales. Usually a bland style, they had some multifarious offerings. Cheek Squeezer was my favorite, a sour blonde with cherries. The other two were She Sells Sea Shells, a salted blonde ale with hints of melon/lemon, and Buenos Grassias, a blonde with berries and lemongrass. One I found fascinating was Just Beet Wit. This witbier was of course brewed with beets, which showed on the color and taste. It was also fairly effervescent. Port Barrel-Aged Stout is what the name says. For it being only 6.4% ABV, it smells and tastes extremely boozy. Big beer fans may like it. For hop heads, try Hopstruck, a Red IPA, or Donkey-Hote, their Double IPA.
From a solid array of year-round beers, to a vast number of seasonals, you are sure to find something to suite your pallet at Throwback. Plus, the atmosphere at the farm draws you in, and is a place you can enjoy with your friends or family.
Another veteran of the craft brewing community, Smuttynose has been around since 1994. Named for one of the islands that make up the Isle of Shoals off the New Hampshire coast, Smuttynose moved to its current location at Towle Farm about 3 years ago. Less than a year later, they opened up Hayseed Farmstyle Restaurant as part of the complex. The restaurant is a good place to go if you want a flight. Besides the food, they have 22 house beers on tap, as well as several other guests. Across the road is the actual brewery, which is an impressive structure. Walking into the gift shop, you can enter the brewery and go on a tour through a door on the right. There’s a tasting station right inside the door next to all the equipment. To me, the brewery reminds me of a barn, and the restaurant a farm house.
With 22 house beers on tap, you can barely scratch the surface of all the brews Smuttynose makes. From their regulars and seasonals, to the small-scale Smuttlabs projects, it’s an impressive list. Of the regular beers, I enjoyed the Robust Porter. It is a what you would expect with chocolate and coffee notes melded with a roasty character. As I was visiting early in fall, Pumpkin Ale was available. A wonderful pumpkin nose is followed by more spices on the tongue than others I’ve had in this style, especially cinnamon. The IPA I chose to try was the Rhye IPA, which had a floral nose and complex hop background. For those wanting an easy-drinker, reach for a Pinniped Vienna Lager, which is about as quaffable as they come.
One of the more established and well-known names of the Northeast, Smuttynose is in the ‘destination brewery’ category. Besides the impressive brewery, I would also recommend taking the time to enjoy a meal at Hayseed.
Between Smuttynose and Throwback, along Highway 1, Four Pines is providing patrons a well-rounded experience. It’s sister restaurant, The Community Oven, is connected to the taproom. The main focus is on the wood-fired pizzas, which I found out are appetizing. The taproom itself it fairly straight-forward, but I did dig the bar, which is topped with pennies and other coins. It also appeared to have some kind of pressed-tin ceiling, which is a nice touch. There is plenty of seating in the taproom, with of course much more room next door in the restaurant. Four Pines’ name comes from the owner and his three children (their last name is Pine).
There was a nice variety of beers, 8 in total, which I sampled. It was hard to pick a favorite, as there were two that stuck out. I’m not normally an IPA guy, but Blue Dragon Double IPA, was astounding. Incredibly juicy, it is incredibly clean and drinkable, especially for being 8.5%! I also was big on their Harvest Ale, a pale ale brewed with fall spices. Personally, I thought I got notes of nutmeg and maybe cinnamon. There are several nice easy-going offerings that go well with the pizza place, including Foggy Amber, Rye Beach Pale Ale, and Octoberfest. For big-beer fans who like the taste but not the high ABV, they also have a Rum-Barreled Aged Foggy Amber, which has the boozy taste, but is only 5.8% ABV. I was also told they would soon have a porter on tap as well.
Four Pines is the type of brewery that you can go enjoy with your whole family, a group of friends, or just by yourself. The laid back, friendly atmosphere in inviting, and they are sure to have something on tap you will enjoy.
I’ve enjoyed the breweries I’ve visited thus far in New Hampshire. Varying in size, style, and age, they are each unique stops worth your time. While the majority are within Portsmouth, it is only a short drive the several others in the area. If you have multiple days, it is certainly worth your time.
Acadia National Park is one of the many beautiful places in the United States. My wife and I spent a couple days visiting, and I was also able to visit four breweries that are within a short drive of this area, including one right on the island!
Current Brewery Count
126 breweries across 73 cities in 16 states. Numbers current as of 10/4/17. For an up-to-date count, follow my adventures on Twitter: @brewerytravels!