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N.H. Brewers Fest, Toast to Eagle celebrates beer, history

  • Representatives from Garrison City Beerworks pour samples for guests at the 5th annual N.H. Brewers Festival on Saturday. Jacob Dawson / Monitor staff

  • Lines formed waiting to purchase food from multiple vendors at the NH Brewers Festival at the Kiwanis Waterfront Park on Saturday in Concord. Jacob Dawson—Monitor staff

  • Festival goers play a game of oversized dice at the State64, mobile canning company, tent set up during the 5th Annual New Hampshire Brewers Festival on Saturday in Concord. Jacob Dawson / Monitor staff

  • The Golden Eagle sits atop the State House dome Saturday as a crowd below recited the 13 original toasts given at its setting in 1818.  Jacob Dawson—Monitor staff

  • Rachel Stevens (middle-right), 26, of Plymouth stands with her group of friends at the 5th Annual New Hampshire Brewers Festival in Concord on Saturday.  Jacob Dawson—Monitor staff

  • Reenactors prepare a cannon for a blank shot at the end of the Toast to the Eagle celebration on the State House lawn in Concord on Saturday. JACOB DAWSON / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 7/14/2018 11:03:27 PM

For CJ White, the 5th annual New Hampshire Brewers Festival is more about the brewers than it is about their product.

“The brew fest is ‘by the brewers, for the brewers,’ ” said White, the executive director of the New Hampshire Brewers Association, the group that hosted the event. “We’re an organization that promotes, advocates and protects New Hampshire beer.”

At Concord’s Kiwanis Waterfront Park on Saturday, 45 breweries from across the Granite State were in attendance to hand out samples of their product. After paying an entrance fee, guests were given a 5-ounce tasting glass to sample the varieties.

White estimated more than 1,000 people came out for the annual festival, in it’s second year being hosted in the Capital city.

“What’s unique about our event is, I’d say, about 75 to 85 percent of the people actually pouring the beer are the brewers themselves,” White said. “Here, you get the experience that you can actually talk to the person who brewed the beer.”

Owners of Concord Craft Brewing Company, Dennis Molnar and Beth Mayland were manning their station while mingling with other brewers.

Concord Craft’s booth offered four beers, their single and double IPAs, a special hefeweizen made with strawberries and a jalapeno cream ale. The hefeweizen and cream ale were equally very popular, the owners said.

This is the second year Concord Craft has been at the Brewers Festival. Molnar and Mayland said they view the festival as a way to honor the booming industry.

“It’s a great way to bring everybody together all the way across the state,” Molnar said.

Mayland said it was great to see brewers come together and share their products and guests willingness to try different products. She mentioned how some guests would say they like a particular kind of beer, then someone else would recommend another brewery to try.

Rachel Stevens, 26, of Plymouth brought some friends with her to attend the brew fest. She named Kettlehead Brewery as her favorite, but admitted she was a little biased as she used to teach in Franklin. Kettlehead headquarters are located in nearby Tilton.

“The best part about a brew fest, especially this one, is it’s all New Hampshire, New England breweries so everyone can get to know the New Hampshire breweries,” Stevens said. Walking around the park, she said she felt welcomed as “everyone has a common interest” in the beer.

At the same time Saturday across the Merrimack River in downtown, glasses were also being raised.

The Toast to the Eagle event kicked off a years-long celebration of the bicentennial of the State House, which is now the oldest state capitol building in the nation and the only one where the Legislature still occupies its original chambers.

Henniker Brewing Company collaborated with the State House Bicentennial Commission to craft a beer inspired by a collection of 200-year-old recipes. Owner Dave Currier, a former state lawmaker, said 15 barrels were made.

Currier wanted to brew a beer that would be appropriate for toasting. With the help of the brewers at Henniker Brewing Co., they decided on a cream ale, which was available at the time.

Currier described the beer as “not a hop-driven beer.”

Head brewer Devin Bush said it is “lighter with a crisp finish” and has notes of bread and honey.

At the time of the placement of the golden eagle on June 18, 1818, there were 13 toasts given.

On Saturday, Sen. David Watters lead a reenactment of the original toasting. The toasts themselves were recited by members of the state including House Clerk Paul Smith, members of both chambers and representatives from various state departments.

Smith read the 10th toast “to my personal hero, George Washington.”

“The hero and father of his country. He shown on Earth, for he was great. He shines in Heaven, for he was good. George Washington,” Smith read.

“Here, here!” erupted from the crowd.

Chief Supreme Court Justice Robert Lynn, Speaker of the House Gene Chandler and Sen. Sharon Carson gave the 13th and final toast.

“The American Eagle, may the shadow of its wings protect every acre of united continent, and the lightning of his eye flash terror and defeat through the ranks of our enemies,” Carson read.

A musket shot nearby caught most of the crowd off guard as the toasting concluded. Subsequent cannon blasts echoed through the streets of downtown Concord and shook the ground around the State House.

At the end of the toasting, Currier said the beer was a hit.

(Jacob Dawson can be reached at 272-6414 ext. 8325, or on Twitter @jaked156.)

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