Concord Craft Brewery will start serving sit-down dinners

  • Concord Craft Brewery will be offering custom burgers and flatbet pizzas starting this Wednesday at their Storrs Street location. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord Craft Brewery master chef Karl Langlais puts away the first food order for the new kitchen on Friday. The brewery is offering custom burgers and flatbread pizzas starting this Wednesday at the Storrs Street location. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Concord Craft Brewery master chef Karl Langlais puts away the first food order for the new kitchen on Friday. The brewery is offering custom burgers and flatbed pizzas started this Wednesday at the Storrs Street location. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Dennis Molnar, co-owner of the Concord Craft Brewery, said it took time to get to the next logical step – a sit-down restaurant.

Monitor staff
Published: 1/9/2022 8:01:06 PM

After five years, Concord Craft Brewery is taking what might be considered the next step up the beer-making ladder, adding a full kitchen and sit-down dining with a menu ranging from flatbread pizzas to burgers.

“People will ask us, what do you have for dinner? and we haven’t been able to offer that,” said Dennis Molnar, co-owner of the Storrs Street brewery. “We have wanted to. … The thinking has always been – and they tell you this at craft-beer school – that people have the best experience with your beer when they can try it with other things.

“But we didn’t want to have mediocre food and mediocre beer. We wanted good beer and thought we could back-fill on the food eventually. That’s what we’re doing now,” he said. “A lot of other places have the same approach.”

New Hampshire, like most states, has rules linking food and alcohol in establishments, concerned that people will get too drunk too quickly if their stomach is empty. Restaurants with a liquor license are required to make a certain percentage of income from food or sell a minimum amount.

The arrival of craft breweries and then micro distilleries over the past decade or so muddied the picture, since tiny breweries couldn’t afford a full kitchen and restaurants were concerned that breweries might be allowed to sidestep some food safety or staffing requirements.

Since a first-in-the-nation development of a “nano-brewery” license in 2011, the state has tweaked various regulations about what can be sold, such as samples vs. full glasses, and what must be provided for food (“we couldn’t offer only a bag of chips,” Molnar noted) depending on the size of the brewery.

There are now three – “well, three and a half” – different brewery licenses currently available in the state, amid dozens of other types of licenses for selling liquor in various ways.

Concord Craft Brewery has a “nano plus” license, which means it can’t sell more than 2,000 barrels of its beers in a year and can’t sell anybody else’s beer, but is allowed to serve any amount of food. Molnar said they have long wanted a full kitchen to take advantage of that food option.

“We got serious right before COVID hit, but that delayed our enthusiasm for getting too aggressive with a sit-down option,” he said.

Then the pandemic inadvertently aided the idea because the adjoining salon moved out, allowing the brewery to roughly double its floor space. Supply-chain issues haven’t made it any easier, however: “It took forever to get the (ventilation) hood installed, to get all the parts,” Molnar said.

The other big limitation right now, faced by virtually all customer-facing businesses, is staffing.

“We’re going to be open just four days a week, and just dinners, until we can get a full crew in,” Molnar said.

Concord Craft Brewery will have about 40 seats in the dining area for sit-down meals and another 25 to 30 in the bar on stools or small “high-top” tables. Its first session will be Wednesday, Jan. 12.

Concord Craft Brewery sells kegs to about 300 restaurants and bars, and beer in cans in about 250 different stores, Molnar said. He estimated that about 20% of its sales happen in person while the rest comes in cans and kegs. In-person sales in the brewery are more profitable, however.

(David Brooks can be reached at (603) 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of the monthly Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.



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