A new brew; Local craft brewers thrive through collaboration

NASHUA – New Hampshire’s beer industry has flourished in last few years– so much that the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce featured three of the region’s beer big hitters at its annual Eminence Awards ceremony.

The three beer gurus, Carl Soderberg, Scott Schaier, Michael Hauptly-Pierce all focused on the benefits of working locally and collaboratively – concepts as old as beer itself.

“They really encompass the passion of the members that we work with,” said Ashley Young, the chamber’s director of membership.

The purpose of the Eminence Awards is to recognize individuals and businesses that contribute to the success of the the chamber and Greater Nashua.

Young said the chamber encourages its members to work collaboratively and help each other grow.

That approach was evident as Carl Soderberg, one of the founders of Able Ebenezer Brewing Company in Merrimack, told the story of his company’s “Live Free or Die” origin.

Able Ebenezer is one of many breweries in the state to take advantage of a nano brewery license, which allows up-and-coming brewers to manufacture less than 2,000 barrels of beer a year for sale at a cost of $250. Soderberg and his partner, Mike Frizzelle, started the brewery essentially from scratch, and it is now one of the fastest growing in the state.

Abel Ebenezer captures New Hampshire’s spirit down to its image.

The brewery is named after a New Hampshire businessman and logger, Ebenezer Mudgett, who in 1772 rebelled against the British government after it established the Pine Tree Law, which protected selected white pines for British shipbuilding. The rebellion, known as the Pine Tree Riot, is credited as one of the events that lead to the Revolutionary War.

Soderberg, a veteran of the U.S. Army raised outside of Washington D.C., says he set up shop in New Hampshire because of the state’s revolutionary principles.

Those principles, he said, are visible as many consumers in the state stray away from mass produced beer and focus locally.

“The dollars you spend are a representation of your work, and you want them to go towards things that you appreciate, and that you think represent you,” Soderberg said.

Scott Schaier, a member of the nonprofit BREW NH’s Board of Directors, highlighted the state’s shift in beer consumption Tuesday at the awards ceremony.

There are nearly seventy breweries in the state now– about triple the amount there were five years ago, Schaier said.

BREW NH is a nonprofit organization that promotes the state’s beer industry.

The existence of BREW NH is, in fact, a sign of that growth, because it was established by the state’s Department of Resources and Economic Development out of awareness that the beer industry was making a significant impact on the state’s economy.

“It’s really becoming a local industry, and there’s a lot of pride of origin here in New Hampshire,” Schaier said. “So, if you’re from Nashua, it’s all about your local brewery, if you’re from Derry, it’s all about that brewery.”

For many in Nashua, that location is Millyard Brewery, which opened last April.

Ken Unsworth and his partner Dean Baxter also used a nano brewery license to begin their small three barrel operation, located in a warehouse on Otterson Street. But now the boys are planning to expand, and Unsworth said he hopes the brewery’s new bar will be open next month.

One of the key contributors to Millyard’s success, Unsworth said, has been help from others in the local beer community.

“People I’ve never met before, I can call them up and say, ‘Hey, I’m having this issue, have you ever ran into this before?’” he said.

“Or, if somebody calls me up and says, ‘Hey I need fifty pounds of this malt or ten pounds of these hops’ — no problem.”

Unsworth said that by helping each other out, all New Hampshire breweries benefit.

“We just want to see each other succeed,” he said.

Though, Unsworth said, his first priority is quality.

“I don’t want to be the next Budweiser,” he said. “I don’t want to get that big, because then you lose part of that craft of making the beer.”

Michael Hauptly-Pierce, one of the speakers at the Eminence Awards, echoed Unsworth’s worths about the state’s collaborative approach to brewing, and noted that it’s quite different from that of many industries.

Hauptly-Pierce is co-owner of Lithermans Limited Brewing Company in Concord and one of the founders of “The Tap Handle Show,” a podcast about beer.

“Before that, I worked in Silicon Valley, where everything was cloak and dagger and tight-lipped,” he said.

The reason that New Hampshire brewers are so willing to collaborate, Hauptly Pierce said, is because they are part of a paradigm shift.

“We’re not in an established market, we’re in a volatile, growing market where part of our job is to be iconoclastic and challenge what beer is, what craft is, what local is — and we’re all in that together,” he said.

Seth Simonian, one of the owners of newly-opened The Flight Center on Main Street in Nashua, is one individual who is trying to help the local beer market grow.

About half of The Flight Center’s 64 beers on tap are from New Hampshire brewers, in addition about eight hundred labels of beer available in the its bottle shop.

Simonian also runs Hop Head United, a marketing arm for the local craft beer industry, so he has skin in the game.

The goal of The Flight Center, he said, is to be able to feature the variety of beer offered in the state — a variety that is often not visible at the average bar with twelve taps.

“In order for this industry to sustain the growth that it’s establishing and that it’s experienced over the last four or five years, you need to have sufficient infrastructure for these guys to be able to get their products out to thepublic,” Simonian said.

Derek Edry can be reached at 594-1243, dedry@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_Derek.