Industry group aims to put N.H. on the beer-making map
Newly launched organization to help market state’s growing brew industry
A newly formed industry group that aims to unite the players in the New Hampshire beer industry and market the state as a destination for beer tourists had its official launch Tuesday afternoon at the new Smuttynose Brewery in Hampton.
The group, called BrewNH, is a joint effort of the Beer Distributors of New Hampshire and the Granite State Brewers Association, in partnership with the New Hampshire Departments of Travel and Tourism and Resources and Economic Development.
The public-private partnership is a registered 501(c)6 nonprofit and is made up of a variety of stakeholders in the state’s beer industry, including breweries and distributors. The group has drawn up a beer map featuring 33 New Hampshire breweries and hopes to put the state’s many production breweries, nanobreweries and brewpubs on the radar screens of people both in New Hampshire and beyond.
Gov. Maggie Hassan, who attended the launch event, said that the group is “bringing together our two biggest sectors in the New Hampshire economy — manufacturing and tourism.”
The state helped with some of the costs of printing the beer maps and brochures, which will be distributed at visitors’ centers around the state, much like the wine and cheese trail brochures that are already available. (The brewery map that was formerly available on the state’s website hadn’t been updated in years, and already “the new map is the most downloaded thing we have on our website,” said DRED Commissioner Jeff Rose at the event.)
While the beer industry is competitive, “we know when it’s time to come together and join ranks, and this is a really great example of that,” said Peter Egelston, founder of Smuttynose Brewing Co. and the Portsmouth Brewery.
“I think it’s going to pay dividends, not just for people in the beer business … but also for consumers and visitors to New Hampshire,” said Egelston, noting the rise in interest in beer tourism, which has been boosted by the craft beer boom of the past several years.
According to the Brewers Association, the craft brewing industry grew 15 percent by volume and 17 percent by dollars in 2012.
On top of the beer map that will be widely distributed, BrewNH also has a robust website (nhbeer.org), with information about beer events and local breweries and an Instagram feed that pulls in photos tagged with the hashtag “#nhbeer,” among other features.
The group has some 29 members already, said JT Thompson, a Smuttynose spokesman and one of the founders of BrewNH. And – if ever there were a sign to show just how much the local beer industry is booming – that number could grow to 31 by the end of this week, since there are a couple of more breweries just waiting on their licenses, he said.
Thompson said he and Scott Schaier – executive director of the Beer Distributors of New Hampshire – first began discussing the idea of the group about eight months ago.
“There aren’t that many (breweries) in the state, and we all know each other,” he said, adding that because the state is small, it’s easy to get access to brewers. Still, despite the state’s small size, it tends to be Balkanized, he said, and it can be difficult to unite groups across its many distinct regions.
A group like BrewNH will help not just with marketing the state’s many breweries, but also in giving them a unified voice across the state, he said.
“Now we’re coming together, and we’re going to put our voices together,” said Bill Herlicka, founder of Hooksett’s White Birch Brewing and president of the Granite State Brewers Association.
“New Hampshire is on the budding cusp of becoming a great beer area,” said Josh Henry, co-founder and brewer at 7th Settlement in Dover, which is working to become the first cooperative brewery in the state. “This has been such a great community to join into.”
Geoff Hewes, of 603 Brewery, a seven-barrel brewery that recently moved from Campton to Londonderry, left his day job as a thermal engineer in the late fall to work on building the brewery full time.
“I come from an industry that’s very cutthroat,” he said. “It’s so nice to come to an industry (where) others are so willing to help out.”
While there has no doubt been a swell of interest in craft beer the past few years, the craft beer market still only makes up about 10 percent of the total beer market in the U.S. by dollars, according to the Brewers Association.
That hasn’t deterred Hewes, however.
“There’s enough room in the market,” he said. “Why not start working together to take over the other 90 percent?”