Showcasing the wide selection of craft breweries New Hampshirites have to choose from, the Granite State Brewers Association Summer Fest will be held Saturday, July 25, at Arms Park in Manchester.
The association is now in its second year of promoting and protecting the craft beer industry in New Hampshire.
“With this surge in interest … now became a great time to organize ourselves so that we can help people realize that beer made in New Hampshire is awesome,” Bill Herlicka, founder and brewer of White Birch Brewing and founding president of the Granite State Brewers Association, said in a phone interview.
One of the main inspirations for gathering more than 30 of the state’s breweries in one location was to give people the opportunity to find out about breweries in other communities.
“When we take a look at New Hampshire breweries, we tend to be spread out through a lot of the state,” Herlicka said. “We knew we wanted to do a festival to show people what we’re doing.”
Steve Allman, brewer and owner of Canterbury Aleworks, only sells from his taproom, so a festival like this gives great exposure.
“My clientele really is going to be pretty much more focused to where I am,” he said in a phone interview.
Those who come to Canterbury Aleworks tend to be locals rather than tourists, so spreading the word about his beer to those who live along the Interstate 93 corridor could bring in new business.
“It’s a great opportunity for New Hampshire brewers because we usually get stuck facing the trees and ... don’t get to see what our friends are doing,” Allman said. “It gives you that tight-knit snapshot of what is going on in New Hampshire and who’s involved. And the cool part is to be able to talk with the brewers and find out what their story is.”
Having the chance to engage with the brewers was an essential part in planning the festival, Herlicka said.
“We’re a small state and a small new organization,” Herlicka said. “Most of our members are a one-person to three-person company making beer their passion in their local area.”
Each brewery represented will have a table set up with samples for guests to try and either a brewer or owner to chat with.
“This isn’t like a brewery from California with a [distribution] rep,” Herlicka said. “These are the actual businesses. You’re not going to find that at every festival.”
Since he runs a small operation, Allman thinks carefully about the purpose of a festival before he joins in. The fact that he gets to talk with people about his experience and the work he puts into his beers made it an easy decision. He’ll most likely sample Canterbury Alework’s Canterbury Ale American Pale Ale, Tim’s Bitter Boddi and Granite Ledge Stout.
Held in Arms Park right along the Merrimack River, guests buy a ticket for admission to the festival and once they’re in, they can sample the variety of beers.
“Sometimes it’s just nice to get out and enjoy and this is all about enjoying the great beers made in New Hampshire,” Herlicka said. “If you really want to chat with some of the brewers, guess what, they’re right there.”
Showcasing both the breweries and local business, food will be for sale from 7th Settlement, Chris’s Wicked (Beer) Ice Cream, Flatbread, Local Delights Cafe, Milly’s Tavern, Somerset Grille, The Pint Publik House and New England’s Tap House Grille. There will also be local live music, including a demonstration by the New Hampshire Police Association Pipes and Drums.
“It really is embracing the community,” Herlicka said, noting that the goal is to promote not only the state’s breweries but also Manchester and surrounding communities. “We’re not here to try to drag profits from this area and take them outside the state.”
To add another element of fun to the fest, the chicken wing competition will return as New England’s Tap House Grille looks to defend its championship against 7th Settlement, Milly’s Tavern and The Pint Publik House.
They chose chicken wings for the competition because it may seem like a simple dish, but in fact there is an art to making a good chicken wing. Plus, the food needed to be something that could be cooked and set up for in a fairly short amount of time. Brisket, for example, wouldn’t work well, Herlicka said.
New England’s Tap House Grille won last year’s competition with its house recipe for chicken wings and is excited to again be part of the event that benefits New Horizons adult homeless shelter, food pantry and soup kitchen.
“It’s a good cause and we think we can compete with just about anybody with our chicken wings,” Tina Leary, office manager, said in a phone interview. She said they expect some tough competition this year but are ready to head back to compete for the judges, one of whom will be Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas.
“The backbone of New Hampshire is made up of small businesses, and small businesses are your neighbors,” Herlicka said. “If you’re interested in good beer and interested in what’s going on with New Hampshire and New Hampshire’s brewers, come down and check it out.”
As seen in the July 23, 2015 issue of the Hippo.