Monday, January 21, 2013

Nano-Brewery tour at Throwback Brewery, an intimate experience

Taking up a small space among a series of warehouses of Route 1 in North Hampton, NH, the Throwback Brewery is all about the relationship between brewery, supplier and consumer.  Founded in 2011, this three barrel brewery strives to source all its ingredients from within a 200 mile radius.  Currently, Nicole informs us, they are about 70% to that goal.  Grains from Brookford Farm in Canterbury, NH and locally collected maple syrup are just some of the fresh ingredients that mark these brews as a true NH natives.

Entering the space that houses the brewery is like walking into your neighbor's garage to find a wet bar and a bunch of picnic tables with friends hanging out drinking beer.  Open in the afternoons three days a week, or by appointment/chance, you can stop by to buy a beer, refill your growler or get an informal tour.

Nicole happily takes my friend and me on a quick tour starting with the MacGyver-like contraption that moves the grain from mixing pot to masher and on to the rest of the line.  Everything is right there and often done only through the intervention of human hands and everyday devices.  The smoker, for example, came from Home Depot just like many you might find at a backyard BBQ.

Rather than large fermentation tanks, Throwback has smaller barrels kept in a fermentation "barn" that is divided into four rooms.  Each room has its own standard window air conditioning unit that controls the temperature of that room to fit the type of brew fermenting at the time.  According to state law, each fermentation tank has to have a name or designation, at this brewery there is a humorous Muppets theme running through the names along with appropriate picture on each one.

At the bottling station, because it is certainly not a bottling line, we learn that the four bottle station is a far cry above the one at a time bottling gun they used to have in 2011.  After bottling, the label machine affixes each label one at a time, but just perfectly lined up.  Nicole admits that this was an essential piece of equipment from day one since both she and Annette are very detail oriented and would have lost hours making sure that each label was perfectly affixed if they had done by hand.

Although this is a three barrel facility, referring to the number barrels each batch produces, Throwback can have up to 21 barrels of brew fermenting on site when they are using their full capacity.  Annette and Nicole recently purchased Hobbs Farm, just across the road.  When they move into the barn there, they will be able to expand eventually to a 15 barrel operation and perhaps grow some of their own grains.

If you are a home brewer or just really into beer, this is a great place to visit and meet the brewers personally.  So from the Martin Hill Inn, you can drive to Throwback in less than 10 minutes by going straight south on Route 1 to 121 Lafayette Road, North Hampton, NH in the number 2 warehouse, unit #3.  Check here for exact instructions and hours.

If you can't make it to the Brewery, you can visit many downtown Portsmouth pubs and restaurants that feature Throwback Brews.  Since downtown is just a 10-15 minute walk from the Inn, you are always close to throwing back a good brew.  Here are just a few: Flatbread, Moxy, The District, The Black Trumpet Bistro, Lexie's Joint, and Portsmouth Gaslight.

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