LONDONDERRY – When Geoff Hewes wanted to open a brewery, he knew exactly what he wanted to promote in his beer — New Hampshire.
“We felt our neighboring states seemed to be well ahead of us in terms of breweries,” Hewes said. “In Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine, people recognize beers from being from those individual states. We want the same thing for New Hampshire.”
Hewes’ 603 Brewery in Londonderry is one of 19 licensed breweries in the state. Readers listed breweries as one of the 603 Reasons New Hampshire is special.
There are three types of breweries in New Hampshire. Large breweries have to produce more than 15,000 barrels per year. There is a mid-sized brewing license which must brew under 15,000 barrels per year, and nano breweries, which brew under 2,000 barrels per year.
Mid-sized brewing licenses allow breweries the option to self distribute or use a wholesaler. Nano breweries must self distribute.
The 603 Brewery, which moved to Londonderry from Campton last month, started as a nano brewery. But they switched to the mid-sized license when they made the move.
“We wanted the ability to be able to use a wholesaler and not be restricted,” Hewes said.
Mid-sized licenses cost $1,200 each year; nanobrewery licenses cost $240 per year. Large brewery licenses cost $1,692 each year. Only Anheuser-Busch and Red Hook qualify as large breweries in the Granite State.
In Salem, Border Brew Supply opened its brewery in June. They produce around 360 barrels per year.
“Nano breweries allow the consumer to have a more one-on-one relationship with the brewer,” said Joe Ruotolo, owner of Border Brew Supply. “They can see where it’s made, how it’s made and look at all the ingredients that go in it.”
Border Brew Supply is one of seven breweries with nano brewery licenses in the state. In 2011, New Hampshire became the first state to offer such a license.
“The way I see it, the nano brewery license is kind of like an introductory license,” said Ivan Bass, liquor examiner with New Hampshire State Liquor Commission. “They can try it and maybe see how they like it. Then they move on to a bigger license.”
Bass said the number of breweries in the state has gone up dramatically in recent years.
In 2008, there were only five breweries and nine brewpubs. Brewpubs must make under 2,500 barrels per year and are full-service restaurants. Now, five years later, there are 19 breweries and 10 brewpubs.
“This has been a golden age for the beer consumer,” said Bill Herlicka, president of the Granite State Brewers Association. “There has never been a point in the history of beer where the consumer has had so many choices to choose from. I think this is why craft breweries have kind of taken off.”
Herlicka expects 2014 to be another big year for new breweries.
One new local brewery is already in the works. Kelsen Brewing Company in Derry is looking at opening on High Street next month.
“We’re very excited about the opportunity,” said Erik Olsen, owner of Kelsen Brewing. “Everyone in town has been very helpful and friendly, and is making the process very easy.”
Olsen said Kelsen just received its federal brewing license, which all breweries in the United States must obtain. Kelsen is applying to be a mid-sized brewery with the state.
Although the number of breweries in New Hampshire is increasing, some say it trails behind neighboring states.
“In Vermont, 20 percent of every craft beer sold in the state is made in Vermont,” Herlicka said. “In New Hampshire, about 1.3 percent of the craft beer sold in the state is made here.”
Herlicka said there are a number of reasons for that.
“New Hampshire’s dominant brewing is at its brewpubs,” he said. “That means there is great beer consumed at great locations, but it’s not available elsewhere. The dominant form of sales of beer in New Hampshire is from grocery store chains. They primarily sell six-packs and seasonal 12-packs. But New Hampshire brewers haven’t made beer to fit that format.”
At 603 Brewery, they only are selling 22-ounce bottles. Kelsen Brewing also is planning to sell 22-ounce bottles. Border Brew Supply sells 64-ounce growlers.
Hewes said their target audience ranges from 30 to 50 years old.
“In your early 20s, people are still getting out of college and drinking Keystone Light,” he said. “This is somewhat of an acquired taste and we’re selling it at premium price.”
In Londonderry, 603 Brewery has five beers. Four of the beers are pale ales, one an amber ale. The 22-ounce beer costs between $8 to $10.
At Kelsen, Olsen’s 22-ounce beer will likely cost $7.
“We have a Derry ale in the works,” he said. “Derry residents will have a beer they can associate with and call their own.”