Brew-Inn, Part V: Favorite microbreweries and distilleries in New Hampshire

Beer tasting at Whetstone Brewing.

“”We’re here for the beer” say Whetstone Station brewers in Brattleboro, VT. Whetstone Station photo.

We’ve been taking quite the New England arm chair beer tour over the past month in the DINE blog.  Originally, we started with craft breweries, but quickly our exploration expanded to include distilleries and wineries too.  We like to call it our “spirited” tour and it makes for the perfect itinerary for tasting and pairing your way through the 12 Distinctive Inns of New England (DINE).  Combine a romantic getaway at one of 12 DINE inns with tours and tastings at one of the many New England microbreweries, distilleries and wineries we’ve discovered in our Brew-Inn series, and you have an ideal vacation.

The first post in our Brew-Inn series took us on a state-wide tour of microbreweries in Massachusetts, all favored by our innkeepers at Gateways Inn, Harbor Light Inn, Captain’s House Inn and Deerfield Inn.  The second post in our series focused on Newport, Rhode Island,  highlighting Newport Craft Brewing & Distilling, the microbrewery and distillery favorite of Nancy and Bill at Cliffside Inn and makers of Newport Storm craft beers.  The third post explored options in Maine, where the craft brewing movement has exploded, but also home to some fabulous wineries and distillery favorites of Captain Jefferds Inn and Camden Maine Stay Inn too.  Last week we explored wineries and brewery favorites of innkeepers at Inn at Harbor Hill Marina, all located near the Connecticut shore and in Mystic Country.  This is the fifth in our Brew-Inn series, this week featuring ideas for combining a stay in New Hampshire at Chesterfield Inn in West Chesterfield or the Manor on Golden Pond on Squam Lake in Holderness with wonderful microbreweries and distilleries in the region.

Unknown to many, the Chesterfield Inn lies just five miles from the Vermont border.  On the cusp of both New Hampshire and Vermont, both boasting fabulous craft brewing reputations, the Chesterfield Inn is ideally situated to explore options in both Southern Vermont and Western New Hampshire.  Whetstone Station, located in nearby Brattleboro, VT, has something in common with the Chesterfield Inn.  It was founded by former innkeepers who also happened to love beer.  This nanobrewery opened when the idea of small batch brewing was still new to the scene.  Producing small, hand crafted batches, you’ll find a few of Whetstone’s beers at a time with styles that change regularly. Yet, believe it or not more than 1000 kegs of Whetstone craft brews are created in this tiny brewery, with almost every drop sold in the restaurant and bier garden that overlooks the Connecticut River.

The only beers you’ll find on a regular basis here are the Flagship “Whetstoner” Session IPA and its bigger brother “Big ‘Stoner” Vermont Double IPA. Because they are an experimental brewery, each new recipe is unique incorporating non-traditional ingredients.  The good news is, that they publish all their recipes on their website and, apart from their regular flagship beers, they never brew the same one twice.  So, if you like one of these experimental beers, appear on a Friday when they sell “crowlers” in limited releases because you may not find it again at the restaurant.

Whetstone Station Beer Truck

New! The Rollin’ Stone, Whetstone Stations new mobile beer garden & kitchen. Look for it at beer festivals throughout New England. Credit: Whetstone Station Photo.

Newer to the Brattleboro beer scene is the Hermit Thrush Brewery, capitalizing on the newest trend in craft beer…sours! Here there’s a focus on creating the best New American Sours their dedicated team of brewers can dream up.  The good news, they aren’t afraid to go old-school with their style. In true Vermont fashion, Hermit Thrush Brewery combines environmentally sustainable practices (like wood pellet boilers) with age-old and traditional brewing processes plus a harvest of locally grown ingredients. The end result? “A pucker-inducing punch to the taste buds, with barely a dent on the planet,” as they like to say.  High on the list of favorites here is their signature Brattlebeer, named after…you guessed it…their home town.  A sour ale brewed with local green apples, this delicate pale ale is more champagne-like than beer lick, but it packs a pucker.  Other beers range from the Party Guy, named after the Parti-gyle style of brewing used to create it where the mash from a strong beer is used a second time to make the wort for a lower-alcohol small beer. And the limited release Flemish Sour Brown is a distinctly tart brown ale in the traditional Flemish style of Belgium. There are plenty more sour options to consider here too.

Want to taste or buy from Hermit Thrush?  According to their website, here’s what they offer…. TASTINGS when you need them, GROWLERS if you want some, CANS while we have them, AND TOURS when we feel like it.

And craft brewing is not the only kid on the block putting Brattleboro on the spirits map.  Saxtons River Distillery is also located here with its popular tasting room and factory store.  It’s here where the appreciation for the work and flavor of maple is put to work. In one final product where Vermont Maple Syrup is the key ingredient, try the Sapling Maple Liqueur, created in small batches matured in American oak. A maple bourbon and maple rye similarly feature Vermont’s golden syrup aged in American oak barrels.  Available in their own tasting room and in restaurants and liquor stores throughout New England, maple lovers will appreciate the distinct Vermont flavor found in these craft spirits.

Elm City Brewing beers in Keene, NH

Credit: Elm City Brewing photo

Head the other direction from Chesterfield Inn, and you’ll discover Elm City Brewing in Keene, NH.  Among one of the originals in New Hampshire’s craft brewing line-up, opening in 1995, Elm City Brewing’s claim to fame is that it is Keene’s first brewery bringing American brewing traditions formerly lost to prohibition (1919 – 1933). Owned and operated the same New Hampshire resident since its inception, Elm City Brewing Company has become known for superb food and well-crafted beers. Throughout its 23 years of operation, many different types of beers have been brewed here from blondes to stouts. For example, the Keene Kölsch (another one named after its location) is a German wheat ale.  A number of these Kölsch-styled beers are available.  The beer list goes on from light to Black Sails, a strong brown ale with the deep roasted flavor of a porter.  Enjoy their beers in the restaurant with lunch or dinner or purchase your favorite to take home, available in half-growlers.

Three Cocks Pub at Manor on Golden Pond.

Innkeepers and guests enjoy a drink in the Three Cocks Pub, named for its eclectic collection of roosters.

Moving to the Lakes region of New Hampshire, the Manor On Golden Pond has two favorites, both of which are featured in their Three Cocks Pub and in the dining room. Just down the road from the inn, guests love visiting Squam Brewing. In the New Hampshire Live Free or Die tradition, this small, three barrel nano brewery is located within a barn in Holderness, NH. For nearly eight years, their beers have been sold in 22-ounce bottles to stores in the Lakes Region.  One distinct feature of Squam Brewing’s beers are the labels depicting New Hampshire scenes and created by local artist, Deb Samia.  With names like Covered Bridge Pale Ale, and Asquam Amber Ale, you can just imagine what these labels look like.  In addition to making custom beers for stores, Squam Brewing also offers custom beers for weddings, graduations, reunions, retirement parties, etc. You can choose to have one of their current beers relabeled with a custom label just for the occasion, or you can decide to make the custom recipe alongside their brewers if you wish.  What a cool gift idea!

Labels on Squam Brewing beers.

Labels on Squam Brewing;s beers feature NH themes. Squam Brewing photo.

Also served at the Manor on Golden Pond, nearby Tamworth Distilling and Mercantile has quickly gained quite an award-winning reputation.   Based in their “scratch made” philosophy, each spirit made here comes from local, house-milled grain, pure water, herbs and botanicals from the woods and their own garden, plus from local fruits and vegetables.  The distillery’s 250-gallon copper still was built in Kentucky, and outfitted with a brandy helmet, whiskey column, gin basket, and rectifying column giving them the flexibility to produce a variety of different products and change batches with the seasons.

Botanical gardens at Tamworth Distillery

Walk through the Tamworth Distillery’s botanical gardens on the way to touring the Barrel House. Credit: Tamworth Distillery photo.

One thing that makes Tamworth Distilling unique is their ability to distill their own neutral grain spirit base (rather than purchasing it from an industrial producer) from local organic corn, organic rye, and malt. All of the grains used here are sourced from farms within about a 150 radius from Tamworth (at least during the harvest season) and milled in-house for an amazingly fresh flavor. Tamworth Distillery brewers will tell you, “Each small batch of scratch made spirit is a taste of our home, and a result of the work of partners large and small: from honeybees and gardeners to farmers and distillers. Our recipes are born from the crops we grow and the histories buried in the soil below.” Distillery hours are Friday through Sunday, noon to 5:00pm.  The distillery’s retail space and tasting bar is a hub for curious visitors and mixology aficionados. Visit and you can taste the full line of spirits and shop for your cocktail needs, plus watch operations in the unique Vendome custom copper still. Browse through the Mercantile and find rooms of spirits, unique mixers, bar tools, and everything else you need to enjoy high quality cocktails at home. Or meander through the on-site Botanical Gardens that lead to the Barrelhouse filled with aging barrels of whiskey, gin, and brandy.

According to Mary Ellen Shields, innkeeper at the Manor on Golden Pond, “We used spirits from Tamworth Distilling for our first Supper club as our pairing option. The spirits are nice and smooth.”

Visit each of the Distinctive Inns of New England by clicking below on links that will take you to each of their websites.  Better yet, visit them in person for your next “spirit-filled” getaway in DINE country.

In New Hampshire:  Manor on Golden Pond in Holderness & Chesterfield Inn in West Chesterfield

In Connecticut: Inn at Harbor Hill Marina in Niantic

In Maine:  Captain Jefferds Inn in Kennebunkport & Camden Maine Stay Inn in Camden

In Vermont:  Rabbit Hill Inn in Lower Waterford & Grafton Inn in Grafton

In Massachusetts:  Harbor Light Inn in Marblehead, Gateways Inn & Restaurant in Lenox, Deerfield Inn in Historic Deerfield and Captain’s House Inn in Chatham on Cape Cod.

In Rhode Island: Cliffside Inn in Newport