Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Welcome to the Portsmouth, NH Beer Tour

We wanted to try it again.  Last year, as described in my Portland Beer Blog, we had an opportunity to spend some time in the Old Port of Portland, tasting some beer and try out the local scene.  This year we had a similar opportunity - but this we time tried Portsmouth, New Hampshire and all of the wonderful beers brewed in this State. We would try Red Hook, Tuckerman, Woodstock Inn and of course Smuttynose in the heart of bohemian NH.  Sounds funny to say it I know, but its true.  There is no place in New Hampshire quite like Portsmouth.  Let's take a tour.

After dropping the kids off (they wouldn't enjoy hanging out with Mom and Dad on this trip), the first place we tried was over by the airport.  Certainly a drive from downtown, but still in Portsmouth proper, was Red Hook Brewery.  It was in the middle of industrial and commercial Portsmouth.  Essentially begging you to get buzzed and then go drive somewhere.  Nice.  We signed up for a tour of the brewery for a two bucks and enjoyed an Autumn Ale while we waited with literally fifty other people.  On the tour, we discovered that it was Alumni Weekend at UNH, so apparantly everyone wanted to get buzzed and then drive half an hour.  We tried the Autumn Ale, the Old Ale which did nt taste very good and their Barley wine. 

Over all we enjoyed our experience, especially with the tour guide who looked like Santa Clause but talked about the former Mrs. Claus like she was the devil.  It was mildly entertaining, and highly awkward and silence-enducing.

Driving back, we tried to get into the Smuttynose brewery thinking that on a Sunday of a holiday weekend that we would be able to get in even though it said it was closed.  But our friendly valet attendant motioned toward the river and explained that the two of us should just go to the Portsmouth Brewery, because they serve the same beers and have food too.  We're in!

But first, we went on a couple of sojourns looking for other NH beers.. First we tried the Gaslight Co. Tavern.  We were disappointed that they had not NH brews.  I order a specialty beer thinking that it may have been from NH, of course forgetting that a beer that said Long Trail was not made in NH, but in Vermont.  Close enough? I asked the bartender.  Failing that, we went across Market Street to the Fat Belly Bar.  Again no New Hampshire beer (other than Red Hook), but it did have an interesting ice strip across the bar length.  The waitress was not psyched to constantly answer our questions about how she cleans the ice bar every night and why it was there in the first place.  On to Portsmouth Brewery.

The first thing we discovered was that we made ourselves honorary members of the Imperial Pint club and got our pictures taken for a pint club license card that would get us intot he Christmas Party in December (looking back on it, how the Hell would I get back for the party?).  The card indiciated that it was not to be used for ID purposes.  Our heads were transposed into an emperor's clothing.  And they really needed to explain that?

Anyway, the pumpkin beer was delicious with some hoopy charaacter and strong hints of pumpkin, cinnamon, and brown sugar, although as I'm drinking it from our sampler, I'm reminded of the joke that every thing in New England in the Fall was made of Pumpkin (I won't go any farther with that joke).  I enjoyed the Old Brown beer and the Porter as well.  What made the experience especially enjoyable though was the pub itself.  Every one was very friendly, obviously happy to get away for a little while like us.

We then made our way around the Town to try to walk off our beers and food.  One memorable moment was when we came across an old couple trying to take pictures of each other.  My wife offered to take a picture of them and after preceding to do so was summarily insulted by the old lady.  if the lady were a little older, I'm convinced that there would have been a rumble.  She wanted to mix it up she was that mad.

Thinking that the only thing that would soothe our hurt feelings would be to enjoy a nightcap, we went to the Irish pub at the head of Market Street called Ri ra .  It was there that we were able to taste the final two NH beers that we would try - Tuckerman and Woodstock Inn.  Unfortunately, the beers were not memorable.  From Woodstock Inn, we tried bottles of Red Rack Ale and Pig's Ear Ale, which tasted virtually the same as one another.  We also tried the Pale Ale from Tuckerman.  It was nicely hopped and flavorful with a little bit of caramel characteristics.  However, one of the bottle that we got tasted skunked, which is never a good thing.

Overall, we had a great time.  Very reminiscent of an Irish village like Killarney or Dingle (a small town that seemed much like a larger city with pubs and interesting things to do and see), Portsmouth has always been a favorite of ours.  Now that we know the beers, we'll have even more reason to come back. 

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