Throwback Brewery was our first foray into the wild world of warehouse breweries. I’ll be honest, approaching this place felt a lot like getting lost in the wrong part of town (if there is such a thing in New Hampshire). You kind of go through some shipping docks, around to the back of a warehouse, and then go through a quietly-marked door in a row of over-sized storage units. Being used to brewpubs and other well-marked businesses, it felt more than a little… dodgy.
But apparently warehouse/storage unit brewing is a thing in New Hampshire; this certainly would not be the last one we visited on this trip, and they were always immensely popular.
Throwback Brewing is really a name for the vision of co-founders Annette Lee and Nicole Carrier: to remember a time when everything was locally-sourced and made with passion. Beer is just their manifestation of this vision. The goal is to eventually source 100% of their ingredients from a less-than-200-square-mile radius from their home. Currently, they are about 70% there, keeping in mind the agricultural limitations of life in New England. But, much like winegrowers in harsh environments the world over, they embrace the concept of Terroir, from the earth, all of the climatic, geographic, and geologic features that make tastes of wine, beer, tea, liquor, fruits and vegetables unique and distinctive. They want their beer to taste like it came from New Hampshire, to be a beer that you could never mistake as a beer from Oregon or California or North Carolina.
And boy, are they doing a good job.
They seem to favor darker beers, browns and stouts and porters, which works well for me. They offer tastings only for $1 each, but you can fill growlers, as well. I picked up four samples: Salted Caramel Milk Stout, Apple Betty Porter, Campfire Smoked Porter, and the Maple-Kissed Wheat Porter. The Apple Betty was the most drinkable, smooth and not too rich, something I could sit down and drink for a while. The Campfire definitely tasted like a campfire, or rather, that smoky flavor marshmallows pick up when you burn them over a fire; I really enjoyed it, but I’m not sure I could drink a whole pint of it. The Salted Caramel Milk Stout was my favorite, but it was rich and sweet, like a dessert beer. Probably about four ounces is all I would want to drink at any one time. Finally, the Maple-Kissed Wheat Porter was aptly named but too sweet for my taste; but they were right, it would taste delicious as a beer float with some vanilla bean ice cream.
Throwback also embodies the definition of sustainable. From the recycled brewing equipment, salvaged from Maine and Massachusetts, to reusing water whenever possible to sending spent grain to local farmers for livestock feed, the brewers embrace a simpler lifestyle that embraces quality over quantity without sacrificing the good life.
If they aren’t swamped, they are happy to show people around the brewery, but there are no specified tour times. It’s all very casual and friendly. We got there right as they opened, so for a time, we were the only one’s there. But as soon as people started getting off of work, the tasting room filled to the brim. I can only assume they were there to see the puppy. All breweries should have puppies!
What: Beers that are about as local as you can get in the short-seasoned New Hampshire. Tastings are $1 each, and you take a plastic gold coin for every sample and pay at the end.
Where: 121 Lafayette Road, North Hampton, Second warehouse building, Unit #3. Open Thursdays and Fridays, 4-7, and Saturdays 1-4.
Blue Lobster Brewing Company was actually recommended to us by a coworker in Rockland, who insisted we make the stop. I would like to say that it was my very first strip-mall brewery, but that would be a lie; we visited one during our comprehensive microbrewery tour of the greater Las Vegas area last year (and it thus occurs to me that we apparently go on brewery hops for all my birthdays). Strip malls always put me off a little, though, something about the suburbany-ness to them. But with relatively inexpensive cost of living for a business, I suppose a strip mall makes for a prime location for a brand-new brewery. Recent controversy aside (I don’t know the details and will not even try to go into them), this place produces some good, solid beers.
Blue Lobster was a place we had hoped to hit the night before, but the Great Blizzard Snowchi (I have no idea what name the Weather Channel ACTUALLY gave it) made us call it a day once we hit Portsmouth. They are open only on the weekends and only in the afternoons, so had to rearrange our schedule a bit. They have a tasting room only, where you can buy small pours of all their brews, as well as bottles and growlers. They went all out on the glassware, which sports their simple and very Seacoast-y logo and Grolsch-style, swing-top lids. These are my absolute favorite! Spring for one if you don’t have one already (growler prices are very reasonable, and growler fills vary by brew).
Of note: New Hampshire, like Maine, is one of those states that requires breweries to fill growlers from their own brewery. So no bringing your local Lander Brewing Company growler in hopes of scoring a cheap fill. Coming from Wyoming/Montana, where they really just don’t care (heck, the grocery stores sell unmarked ones for your filling pleasure), it seems weird and incredibly inconvenient, especially for those of us with quite the collection of growlers from Out West. But, alas…
The inside of Blue Lobster is a lot neater than the outside strip mall. Subdued blues, red accents, simple decor. We arrived just as they opened along with a good handful of regulars who can turn sample pours into an all-day event, and we also met a dude who was heading down the Seacoast from Maine, hitting up breweries as he went (we would see him again at the next stop). I opted for a sampler of all their beers; JM stuck with the lighter ones. He likes a good pale ale, and spent most of his time nursing a couple of Gold Claws. I thought their Ragged Neck Rye peat-smoked rye porter was delicious, but then I love things that taste like campfires. I also very much enjoyed their Flight of the Bumblebee biere de miel, made with honey but not super sweet; you just get a hint of honey right at the end. A good sipping beer, or even a dessert beer, if you were so inclined. We lingered a while (and scored a free sticker for our corn hole set!), enjoying the tastes, hearing some recommendations for other places to go (we didn’t get to hit up the Sea Hagg Distillery, but we will next time!) and waiting for our next brewery to open for business. They don’t serve any food, but there is a decent looking bar next door, if you’re looking for sustenance.
Blue Lobster Brewing Company
What: Rotating four or so beers on tap, no proclivity for any particular style. Small pours for $1, plus bottles and growlers. The most up-to-date tap list is on their Facebook page.
Where: 845 Lafayette Road, Hampton, look for it tucked away into a strip mall. Open Thursday and Saturday, 2-6, Friday 2-7, and Sunday 12-4.
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