Manchester, NH area

Discussion in 'New England' started by davey101, Jun 11, 2012.

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  1. davey101

    davey101 Meyvn (1,080) Apr 14, 2009 Connecticut
    Beer Trader

    If everything goes to plan I'll be moving to Manchester, NH in the next couple of weeks. I've visited the city a few times in the past. Actually last week after an interview I visited Portsmouth Brewery then went to a $3 North Coast event at Strange Brew (where I had wayyyy to many old raspys). I'm used to CT and MA liquor stores with some pretty awesome selection. What can I expect in the Manchester area in terms of bars and stores which carry craft? I'd actually be across the river from White Birch so do they do growlers? I'm still a bit confused about the whole NH liquor stores and beer in grocery stores thing. Also any BA's in the area interested in grabbing a brew at some point? Thanks all!
  2. barleywinebrewer

    barleywinebrewer Initiate (0) Jan 7, 2006 New Hampshire

    Welcome to Mancvegas. White Birch does growlers fills although NH state statute requires that they can only fill their own growlers. Strangebrew is a great beer bar downtown, there are some good bars on Elm st, a short ride over the line in Beford is the River Rd Tavern and the British Beer Company just opened on South Willow st. Check some of the posts from FrankloydMike for bigger writeups on the Manchester area.
  3. MThiele360

    MThiele360 Initiate (0) Oct 22, 2009 New Hampshire

    Best store in the area, hands-down, is Bert's Better Beers in Hooksett. Just down the road from White Birch. The bar scene is improving in terms of craft, but options are still limited. I moved here in 2007 and Strange Brew was it. Strange Brew is still the best selection, but Portland Pie and Firefly downtown both have some good taps. As mentioned above, River Road Tavern in Bedford and the British Beer Company on South Willow are welcome new additions to town. Within a 30-minute drive, I like the Tap in Haverhill, MA (brewpub location for the Haverhill Brewery) and the Barley House in Concord. Then once you get within a 45-60 minute drive you have plenty of options in Boston and Portsmouth. Lots of places within 2-3 hours if you want to take a day trip for some great beer as well.
    FrankLloydMike likes this.
  4. FrankLloydMike

    FrankLloydMike Devotee (495) Aug 16, 2006 Massachusetts

    It's funny to see this today--I overhead a conversation on the T this morning about Manchester being a "renaissance mill city." As a Manchester native currently living in the Boston area, I think that's definitely the case in terms of the city itself, its dining scene, and downtown. Lately, it's been a bit of a renaissance beer city, as well. It's still behind Portsmouth in terms of the number of breweries, and the number of bars serving good beer, but it's come a long way in the past few years, and now seems like a great time to get involved in the beer scene (and the city in general) in the Queen City.

    Sorry for what I know is going to be a needlessly long post:

    As far as liquor stores and beer sales in New Hampshire goes, it's fairly straight forward: you can buy beer almost anywhere in the state... except for the state liquor stores. Gas stations, grocery stores, upscale markets, and a growing number of beer stores are the places to buy beer. Some of the grocery stores around Manchester--notably Market Basket, I've heard--carry a good selection, but the real gems are the quality beer stores. The best and oldest of these in the Manchester area--and the state, I'd wager--is Bert's Better Beers just over the city line in Hooksett.

    It's just down the road from White Birch, which does fill growlers. Because of state law, breweries can only fill their own growlers. I think this is the case in Mass, too, and it's a bit of a pain as shelves in small kitchens like mine get full pretty quickly. But in the Manchester area, your growler filling will be limited to White Birch and Milly's, plus Portsmouth Brewery about an hour away. White Birch maintains a current growler tap list on their website, and they often do one-off, growler-only beers. They also have events at the brewery pretty frequently, and it's a good place to visit, have some samples, pick up bottles/growler fills and chat.

    Milly's, Manchester's only brewpub, can be hit or miss. Some of the beers are quite good, others less so. And the vibe can be all over the place, depending on the night and the crowd. I'd recommend giving them a try, but checking their website/calling and making sure it's not college night, a metal band show or something. I'd also start with the John Stark Porter or Manch-Vegas IPA, as those tend to be solid, and the others can be hit or miss.

    Strange Brew's beer selection is unrivaled in the city, and it's definitely a good spot. It can get crowded on the weekends and the bands can be loud, but there's a good variety of spaces and vibes within the place. Food is generally solid bar food.

    Also downtown, I'd recommend Firefly on Amherst Street. The beer list is much shorter than at the Strange Brew, but very well-selected with a good showing of locals, including somewhat harder to find breweries like White Birch and Throwback. The bar out back is a nice place to hang out, the bartenders are generally very knowledgeable, and the food is very good. The vibe is a bit more upscale, but still very laid-back--you could hardly find a less pretentious town than Manchester.

    I'd also recommend the River Road Tavern just down the road in Bedford, about 2 miles from downtown Manchester, which recently opened. More than anywhere else in the Manchester area (perhaps excluding the Strange Brew), I think it's really striving to be primarily a good beer bar. The selection isn't nearly as extensive a Strange Brew, but it's very well-selected and ever changing. I like the vibe and space of the place--sort of a New England roadhouse--and the menu is limited, but very good.

    I haven't had a chance to visit them yet, but as others have mentioned British Beer Company just opened a new spot on South Willow Street. That area is hardly the nicest in the city--it's the main commercial strip by the mall--but it sounds like a great place, and is right by the Nutfield Ale & Steakhouse, which used to affiliated with the former Nutfield Brewing Company. I haven't been there in years, but have heard they're under new management, with a new chef and improved beer list.

    Relatively new to the scene is Candia Road Brewing Company on the eastern edge of the city. I've only had a couple of their beers so far, but I'd especially recommend their Shire Stout. There are also several other breweries in planning elsewhere in the state, and as MThiele pointed out, Manchester is located within an hour or two of a lot of breweries.

    If you want to get acquainted with the local beer scene, meet some fellow BAs (and beer lovers in general), and just meet some of the community, I'd highly recommend going to the Southern New Hampshire Brewers Festival at White Birch July 14. It was a blast last year, and I'll try to say hi this year if you're going.

    Anyway, I hope all goes well and that you can call yourself a Mancunian soon. The beer selection in NH might not be as strong as in CT or MA, but the local scene is really coming to life, and Manchester has a lot to offer and a lot of potential.
    Resuin likes this.
  5. davey101

    davey101 Meyvn (1,080) Apr 14, 2009 Connecticut
    Beer Trader

    Wow, thanks for the advice guys! I was actually up in the area last week and went to Millys. Had a few $2 pours of a smoked sour brown ale that was damn delicious. Can't wait to move up, looks like the beer scene isn't as bleak as I thought.
  6. FrankLloydMike

    FrankLloydMike Devotee (495) Aug 16, 2006 Massachusetts

    Yeah--you can't beat the prices in New Hampshire. I forgot about that smoked sour brown at Milly's, which I also really liked. Like I said, I've found that Milly's can be hit or miss. But for $2 pours (or their regular prices even, which I think are in the $4.50 range), I'm willing to take a chance, and am surprised with something very good often enough.

    Anyway, I'm glad to hear you had a good visit. The beer scene may not be phenomenal, but I agree that it's definitely not bleak, and it's heading in the right direction. Let me know if you'll be able to make it to SNHBF next month--it would be great to say hi.
  7. FrankLloydMike

    FrankLloydMike Devotee (495) Aug 16, 2006 Massachusetts

    Adam McCune, a columnist for the Union Leader in Manchester, has a good piece today about the recent opening of British Beer Company in the city, and the beer scene in the state in general:

    The city is still second to Portsmouth in terms of being the premier beer city in the state, and New Hampshire is still behind Mass, Maine and Vermont, in terms of the strength of the beer culture and support for craft beer. But it's come a long way in just the past few years--I've only been legally able to drink for six years now, and the change since 2006 has been huge--so I'm optimistic that it's going to keep getting better.
  8. MachoManAndySavage

    MachoManAndySavage Initiate (0) Jul 9, 2012

    wow I can't believe I haven't been to Berts yet, or really heard much about it... I moved up from RI and the whole selling beer everywhere is amazing! Soon you'll find places near by that have great selections for what you want. I'm now in Londonderry (close to the airport) so I usually go to Barbs Beer ( for any kind of craft selection. Theres one in Londonderry and one in Concord. They have a great selection but I feel like they are alittle steep in price.
  9. festero

    festero Initiate (0) Aug 15, 2010 New Hampshire

    Also not far from Manchester (15 minutes), The Beer Store in Nashua has a very extensive selection. They are on Amherst St. (101A)
    ChangeTheGame likes this.
  10. FrankLloydMike

    FrankLloydMike Devotee (495) Aug 16, 2006 Massachusetts

    All those beer-centric stores--Bert's, Beer Store, Barb's, the Drinkery, just to name the few I know of in the Manchester-Nashua area--have been huge for the local beer scene. There have always been plenty of markets that have offered good beer within New Hampshire's limited distribution, but things really began to change when these new beer-focused stores came on the scene a few years ago. Part of it might be the novelty of a beer store, that it gets people otherwise uninterested in craft beer to take a look, and then once they're in, the selection, service and knowledge of the folks there creates some converts. I think another part is just giving the beer fans already around a place with a good selection and a focus on beer near home.

    Anyway, where I am now in Cambridge, I have to get out to the suburbs and a place like Craft Beer Cellar before I find anything like Bert's in terms of quality, selection, service/knowledge and friendliness. Sure, Mass has better selection but almost every store new me here is a liquor-store first with a (sometimes very good) beer selection, but I know of none near me where I can ask for recommendations and that sort of thing. That--plus New Hampshire's much more limited distribution--makes the number of good beer stores around Manchester/Nashua really impressive.

    On a bit of a tangent, in Portsmouth lately, I've been really glad to see the growth of craft beer into older places that previously only had a few offerings. The Press Room is an excellent example. And with the growing interest, I hope a similar trend takes hold in Manchester. I just saw that KC's Ribshack has opened up what looks like a great patio out back. I'm planning to get BBQ with some friends there soon, and if their beer selection was better, we'd probably spend the night. The same could be said of countless bars and restaurants in town. The beer scene and craft selection is improving all the time, but I'd love to see some of the old places come on board.
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