We almost didn’t make it to White Birch. Snow storms, bad roads, delays, horrid drivers… Hooksett seemed horribly out of the way, at the time. They’re a small brewery with a small website, and we thought, who would miss it?
Only to discover that WE would miss it.
What a great find.
To be honest, I was first drawn to this brewery because of the logo. Too often, modern small businesses try to make up for lack of creativity with overly-stimulating graphics. Stuff that pops, stuff that steals attention, stuff that distracts from the truth. But White Birch certainly doesn’t need a distraction from the reality of their beer, nor do they lack hoppy creativity. Instead, their simple, contrast-heavy logo is one of the best in New Hampshire, if not New England. It’s understated, with clean lines and an iconic symbol of the Atlantic Northeast (I fell in love with the birch as soon as I moved from Wyoming as a more than suitable replacement for the ineffable quaking aspen of the Rockies).
They aren’t in a strip mall, but they are in a strip of road that caters to business travelers. Coupled with a droopy, suburban sign that declares “Free Tastings!”, this isn’t a place you might stop without purpose. So we stopped 70% for the logo, and 30% for the great reviews it got on Facebook (for those of you who doubt the power of Facebook, take heed!). And it works for them: Most of their business comes from distribution. We even have a brewer friend down at Tin Roof Brewing in Baton Rogue, Louisiana, who said that he and his girlfriend just sampled these tasty brews in their neck of the woods, so who are we to argue with a good business model?
The tasting room is disarmingly unassuming (yes, free tastings!), and there is a sign that indicates no solicitation without drinking first. A fair trade. It’s located in an old car dealership, and there’s a classic, if derelict, arcade game in the corner. Let’s be honest: When you walk in, it feels dodgy, empty, like something abandoned from Route 50 in Nevada, and you might want to turn around and walk out. But don’t! Please persevere, because it’s worth it. We were there on a quiet night, so Brewery Assistant Rudy was there to help us out. He might be the low guy on the totem pole, but he knows his stuff. We tried a little bit of everything and bought some bottles of the Belgian Pale Ale and the First Sparrow Wheat, both great-tasting brews, probably best sampled in the summer. But through the snow and winter squall, we can pretend, right? The First Sparrow was something I insisted on buying, even though wheats aren’t really our style. It was that good. It has incredible flavor for a lighter beer and tastes oh-so-German. By going to the tasting, you get a lot of insights you wouldn’t get if you just bought a pint from a pub elsewhere.
This was also where we gleaned a lot of our information for other New Hampshire breweries. Rudy not only knew his White Birch beers, but he knew his local breweries. He provided not only great insight into the beers he served us but also sent us in the right direction for tomorrow’s breweries.
White Birch Brewing
What: Free tastings of whatever is on tap, with the assumption that you will buy bottles of both what is on tap and what is otherwise available. They also sell small batch pilot projects there, so keep an eye out.
Where: 1339 Hooksett Road, Hooksett. Exit 9N off of I-93 in either direction, three miles into town in the old Auto Wholesalers building. Friday 12-6 and Saturday 12-4.
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