Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Smuttynose Brewery Tour

Arguably one of the coolest parts of our Boston Road Trip was the private tour we got of the Smuttynose Brewery in Portsmouth, NH. This was arranged thanks to +Glen Bulloss who is the local Smuttynose rep in Fredericksburg. Glen put me in touch with JT, the head PR guy at Smuttynose, who agreed to meet us on Sunday for a tour... even though the brewery is not normally open to the public on Sundays. Very cool of both of them. One of the many reasons that Smuttynose is awesome.
Smuttynose Brewery
We met JT at noon, or slightly before... after a quick 45 min car ride from Boston. On the way we shared some of John's homemade fried rice for breakfast, in order to at least have something in our stomachs before we started drinking more beer. It wasn't much though compared to the amount of beer we were about to taste. That's alright, there's plenty of tasty calories in beer :)
Brewery Beer List
JT treated us well. He introduced himself, welcomed us to New Hampshire, and then promptly checked all of our IDs so that we could begin tasting some of the many delicious beers they had to offer. There were 8 of us total... the 5 road-trippers plus Officer Love, Chubs, and one of Officer Love's roommates whose name I forgot (sorry dude). We all got little tasting cups (about 3 or 4 oz) and he gave us samples of whatever beers we were interested in trying from the list. Meanwhile, he explained a bit of the history behind the brewery... how they got their name (based on Smuttynose Island in the Isle of Shoals), when they were founded, etc.
Dan inside the brewery
JT then offered us upgrades to "Big Boy Cups" (14+ oz) before we started walking around. Told ya he was good to us! It would be a crime to go thirsty for beer in a brewery. So I loaded up my cup with Noonan, the new Black IPA that Smutty recently released, and we followed JT to the corner of the brewery where the malt was kept. Unfortunately, not being a brewer (yet) a lot of the specifics about the brewing process were over my head. We did get to try a variety of different types of malts though, and learned how the length of time that they are roasted can change their color and flavor... sort of like the dial on your toaster changing the color of your toast from white to black. Thankfully John and +Dan had plenty of brewery related questions which made our group look very intelligent. JT was quite the informed PR guy too since he originally started his career at Smuttynose as a brewer.
Lots of malt
From the malt corner, we moved to other parts of the brewery as JT slowly walked us through the brewing process. This was the second brewery that I have actually toured, our hometown Blue & Gray Brewery in Fredericksburg being the first, and it was definitely the most educational and interesting. JT did a great job explaining things in a way that Mo and I (non-brewers) as well as the RVA brewers found interesting.
JT explaining the brewing process
This brewery tour couldn't have been more perfectly timed, since only a few weeks in the future we were going to be hosting a Smuttynose Tap Takeover at 909. We had been lucky enough (thanks to Glen) to get a keg of Noonan allocated to us, as well as one of their extremely rare short-batch series beers: ParadoX. As JT explained while we were at the brewery, this was a sessionable IPA brewed with an unnamed experimental hop variety that came with large X's on the box. Hence the name. He let us taste a bottle of it at the end of the tour, and it was awesome! I was even more excited for the Tap Takeover after the tour, and everyone agreed they'd be making the trip up from Richmond for the event. Officer Love even said he'd try to make it down.
A shot from a previous Smutty Takeover at 909
Half-way through the tour most of us had reached the point of needing to "hit the head" so JT took us back to the office area where the restrooms were located. While back there we met Peter, the brewery founder... who welcomed us to Smuttynose and thanked us for drinking their beer. Cheers to that! JT also took that time to tell us about the new brewery in the works at Smuttynose, which sounds like an awesome improvement. You can see pictures of it on the wall below. The new facility will be much bigger, located on Towle Farm, and include it's own brew-pub and restaurant. Projected opening date for the new brewery is 2014, but for those anxious (or curious) ones who like to watch the water boil... they've added a webcam of the construction on their website.
The Smuttynose Office
After the pit-stop, JT took us to check out the rest of the brewery, culminating in the bottling part of the brewing process, which was very cool.
Bottling in action
Then we turned the corner and got to see the finished product, a LOT of it. JT explained that everything we saw would be gone within the next 2 weeks, if not sooner. What we saw may have seemed like a ton, but it's nothing compared to what they will be able to produce once the new brewery is in action.
Dr. Love spreading the love
 At this point, as the tour drew to an end... we walked back to the entrance with JT, loaded up on Smutty swag of all sorts, bought a bunch of bottled beer to take home with us (I snagged a bottle of ParadoX, Baltic Porter, and Really Old Brown Dog from 2008), and thanked JT profusely. Since we were planning to head into Portsmouth for lunch, he recommended we check out The Portsmouth Brewery which is the sister/parent brewery of Smutty located in downtown Portsmouth. Sounded good to us, and he even gave us tickets that we could redeem for a free beer (totally awesome) so off we went!
John and me in front of the Portsmouth Brewery
Once inside, we enjoyed some amazing food and even more amazing beer. They had great vegetarian options too which was really cool. The town of Portsmouth was very quaint and I was pleased that we had taken the time to come down here and explore. At the brewery, JT had explained that when the Portsmouth brewery re-opened, it revitalized the downtown scene... bringing lots more tourists to the area that also spent money at other shops. Definitely worked on us! Got me thinking about how badly we need a brewery in downtown Fredericksburg. So after our meal, we headed out to walk around the town and explore a little while before heading back to Boston.
An old church in downtown Portsmouth
 Eventually it was time to head back to Officer Love's apartment so we could re-group and get ready for more drinking to ensue that night in Boston. The rest of the Boston adventure will be told in a future blog post... but I want to leave you with this in mind: Smuttynose not only makes awesome beers-- they take really good care of their customers too. Thanks again guys!!
-Brewkeeper, Over and Out!

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