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Craft beer lovers gather at fourth-annual New Hampshire Brewers Festival

  • Jason and Wendy Lozzi talk about their beer festival experience during the New Hampshire Brewers Festival at Kiwanis Riverfront Park in Concord. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • A sample of craft beer is served during the New Hampshire Brewers Festival at Kiwanis Riverfront Park in Concord. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • Scenes from the New Hampshire Brewers Festival at Kiwanis Riverfront Park in Concord on Saturday, July 22, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Diana Brown and John Gailunas talk about their beer festival experience during the New Hampshire Brewers Festival at Kiwanis Riverfront Park in Concord on Saturday, July 22, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • A group makes a toast before drinking a sample of craft beer at the New Hampshire Brewers Festival in Concord on Saturday. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • Attendees sample the wares at New Hampshire Brewers Festival at Kiwanis Riverfront Park in Concord on Saturday. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Sunday, July 23, 2017

An earthy, hoppy liquid was flowing beside the Merrimack River on Saturday afternoon.

But although this liquid was mostly brown-colored, it was totally drinkable. In fact, hundreds of people dropped $40 – or more, if you were a very important person – to slug back various shades of ales, lagers and porters during the fourth-annual New Hampshire Brewers Festival, which poured its first pints in the Capital City at the Kiwanis Waterfront Park this weekend.

The festival, which is put on by brewers throughout the state, bills itself as “the largest single collection of New Hampshire’s breweries anywhere in the state this year,” with more than 100 New Hampshire-made beers on tap, according to Executive Director CJ White.

But with craft beers making their way onto your local grocery store shelves, why would brewers and drinkers alike travel across the state to try pint-sized glasses of beer for three hours? For visitors, it was all about supporting their neighbors, trying new things and getting the chance to drink a cold one (or several) on a hot afternoon.

“It’s all artisan everything,” said Kurt Workman of Hudson, whose wife bought him VIP tickets for his 40th birthday. “...When you go to a museum, you’re seeing all different types of art from a certain time.”

“Here,” he gestured with his half-full complimentary tasting glass, “you’re tasting art as its made here and now, with what’s available for hops in the state.”

For Workman and his fellow crafties, the goal of the day was to try as many different beers as possible. But even with the VIPs’ extra hour of tasting time and perks – more than a dozen of the breweries were offering versions of a special release beer available only to VIP ticket holders – one couldn’t afford to take a free-for-all approach.

“It’s all about the heart, the passion a brewer shows,” Workman said. “If someone’s really into their craft, I’ll keep going and try all their beers. If someone’s just kind of ‘Eh,’ about it, I’ll keep going.”

Indeed, how one approaches a craft brewers festival was key to making the most of the day. That’s why Wendy and Jason Lozzi of Amherst came prepared. Like others at the festival, the couple sported a garland of snack pretzels around their necks, perfect for balancing out an unfavorable bitter or capping off an India pale ale.

Sometimes festivals sell these portable snack necklaces, but the Lozzis made their own. They’re old pros at craft festivals, having attended at least one a year for the past 10 years.

“We really like to support local businesses,” Jason Lozzi said. “And it’s growing among young people – they go out of their way to try it, I think.”

He then added: “But really, beer transcends all ages.”

Diana Brown of Franklin and John Gailunas of Pembroke would agree. Sporting a bright yellow “Here for the Beer” shirt, Brown said the couple has been trying new breweries together for the last three years. She said craft brewers bring something more than just a different recipe from big-name brands to the table.

“They tend to be more hoppier, a little rougher,” Brown said.

And Gailunas noted that small brewers don’t have a laboratory in which to perfect their recipe in, which can lead to a variation in taste.

“They’re all working with the same ingredients, but they manage to mix it all together and still have something taste different,” he said. “So every time you drink a craft beer, it’s slightly different every time.”

But while festival-goers had the chance to pay a visit to their favorite brewers, some – like Laurie Frye of Allenstown – were on the hunt for first-time experiences.

“I’m trying to go to ones I’ve never seen before,” she said.

Is that possible in a state the size of New Hampshire?

“Definitely,” she said. “I’m actually surprised by how many I’ve never heard of.”

Indeed, while New Hampshire has only 54 craft breweries in the state, ranking it 27th in the country, it’s much more competitive in the per-capita arena, with 5.4 breweries per 100,000 adults age 21 and over, according to the Brewers Association website. The number of breweries in the state has more than doubled since 2011, and 100,164 barrels of craft beer are produced each year, making the Granite State 35th in craft production.

What’s driving that growth is better communication, networking and skill-building between brewers, according to Jeff Cozzens, co-founder and CEO of Schilling and a member of the Granite State Brewers Association. He said the state’s industry, while still small, is maturing.

“It’s very important to the association to push quality development of the craft,” he said. “That’s how people get ahead.”

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @ActualCAndrews.)