Carla Jean Lauter

The Beer Babe

Manchester, NH Beer Adventure – Strangebrew Tavern

The Strange Brew tavern is something of a legend ’round these parts. Whenever I mention the word beer around someone from NH they always ask me if I’ve gone to Strange Brew because they have a ‘ridiculous’ beer selection. When I say I haven’t they give me the disapproving stare that says in not so many words, “how can you live in NH, love beer, and never have gone there?!”

So, after a while of my friend Pat coyly trying to get me to come over into his neck of the woods, I gave in, and went after school on Friday. The bar is in the middle of Manchester, NH – which for those of you who’ve never been there – is as close to a “city” as NH gets. We parked on a hill and I walked up the cobblestone sidewalk in heels (very deftly, I might add). After a 5 minute wait for a table, we were seated right at the front of the stage.

I had examined their beer list before coming, and really had a plan for what I was going to try. Now, I was presented with a dilemma when I looked at this list originally. Yes, it has more than 60 beers on it, which is unheard of for a NH bar. However, most of them are solid craft beers that I could probably find in a six pack without a heaping ton of effort. That isn’t to say that’s a bad thing, but that I really had tried a lot of them through mix six packs from Smiley’s. To give you a taste, they have everything from Magic Hat, to Long Trail, to Sierra Nevada. 
I first ordered fried pickles, which if you have never tasted them, are AMAZING. I can’t tell you how awesome the vinegar of the pickles, the crunch and the starch go together. If you see these anywhere, just try them. Trust me, they rock.
I spied a “strange Brew Apricot” on their list and wanted that first – probably something I couldn’t get anywhere else. It was tapped out though, so I didn’t get the chance to do that. So, instead I went for a Leffe Blonde, which is actually very hard to find on tap near me, and I’d yet to have it. 
The Leffe Blonde was red in color (somehow I expected, well, yellow) and had a delightful warm smell of wheat. The taste was strong and sharp. It was drying, which I didn’t expect from a blonde, and it had an almost nutty taste, which I did enjoy. It was thick and filling. Glad I didn’t order this one as the last one of the evening.
I then tried my friend’s Leffe Brown to see the difference. The color was a translucent brown and it was actually a bit more watery and thinner than the blonde. It, too, was a little nutty and I enjoyed it, it was a typical brown ale.
Then, because it was on tap, I tried the Harpoon Oktoberfest. From what I can tell Harpoon & Shipyard must compete a bit, because I don’t see Harpoon stuff in my local bars when the Shipyard brews are around. So I had wanted to taste it for a while and decided to take the opportunity. This one has a slightly malty smell, and it is surprisingly dark for an Oktoberfest. This one was spicy yet dry. It was pretty good and reminded me of Sam Adams Oktoberfest.
Finally I got a little more adventurous and ordered a Unibroue Seigenuriale. Had no idea what it was, no idea how to say it, but I usually like Unibroue’s stuff so I decided to give it a go. It poured red and had a very odd tart smell that I couldn’t place at the time. I was thinking something caramel but sour, and turns out I was probably thinking of apricot, per Unibroue’s website. The taste was tart, punchy and sour. It has a very quick taste and I believe the sour is intentional. It is kind of a “hit and run” taste which really smacks hard then runs away from your mouth. It really reminded me of a lambic, though it wasn’t. It had only a 7.5% ABV also ao I doubt it was purely the alcohol taste. I honestly didn’t love this one as the taste was a bit too harsh for me.
As a whole, the Strange Brew seems like a great place to have fun with friends, and they have a full live music venue. We watched Tabasco Fiasco  and had fun there. This bar would be the perfect place to take a friend who isn’t as familiar with the classic craft beers, to introduce them to the styles. I could definitely have held a beer styles 101 impromptu class here. To the seasoned beer geek, however, this may be a little limited. 

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2 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Great location. Stands alone. I just heard about a place in concord that renovated their pub too, they will only have 35 draft lines though. heard it was a cool place, the Red Jacket or the Red Fox.

  2. Matt

    There’s a well known beer bar in DC, and I get the same reaction “You’ve never been to the Brickskeller!?!? GASP!!!” Maybe I’ll go soon, and make a similar post. It seems to be a *bit* more varied at your place, with over 1,000 beers in the bottle or on tap. 😛

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