Carla Jean Lauter

The Beer Babe

Portsmouth, NH Beer Adventure – Red Hook (the sequel)

Last time I wrote up a visit to Red Hook, it didn’t include a brewery tour, so when I decided spontaneously to go there for lunch the other day I figured it was about time that I took the tour. I took one on my twenty first birthday (which also happened to be the brewery’s 21st year) so I got a free dinner and growler out of it as well, and it was my first time tasting any of Red Hook’s brewings.

The tour was run by Byron, probably the oldest veteran of the brewery. A short, stout man with a friendly beard and punky demeanor, he gave us an express tour in order to “get to the tasting.” He also gave us the fabulous fact that if he drank 5 beers a day, every day, it would still take him 300 years to empty one fermenter’s worth of beer. That’s a lot of beer. 

I think that at first I was surprised by the brevity of the tour, but
 then I got a lot more valuable information (and insider information) during the tasting itself. I sampled the Longhammer IPA, Winter (not bad but I didn’t find it as warming as I’d hoped), ESB (quite nice), Nitro Porter (creamy and delicious), and the Double Black (coffee stout with a delicious sweetness – I’ll do a full review of it soon). I also smelled hops that they provided, which is a fun way to figure out which hops your favorite beers are using in their brewing. I spoke with a few other tasters enjoying the Longhammer (which I learned is the best selling IPA in the country – wow!). I also learned that the coffee laced Double Black has the beans processed with cold water so that it doesn’t add any bitterness to the taste. 
When I sat down to dinner, I ordered something Byron tipped us off to in the tour – a Brewmaster’s special. Red Hook occasionally gives their brewers free reign to create whatever they want, which was described by Byron the equivalent of “letting inmates have the keys to the asylum.” 

The “Saturanalia Double Red” is a brewing made only here, and only available until it runs out. It was described as “being hopped in every nook and cranny” and they weren’t kidding. It is hopped while it is in the Lauter ton, the mash ton, the wort, and three times during the boil, and even during the last whirlpooling. A total of three pounds of hops (which include Simcoe, Amarilla, Crystal, Cascade, Centennial and Chinook) goes into the batch. Dogfish Head would be jealous. To make it even more interesting, its served nitrogenated. How could I not try this monster of a brew?
It came to my table and looked too pretty to drink. A creamy head and falling bubbles from the nitrogen lit up the amber to red brew creating a gradient resembling a sunset. The smell was absolutely hoppy. The taste is strongly hopped but smooth, a gentle powerful brewing that uses the nitrogenation to mellow its bitter. This is something I would never have imagined could happen. I’ve also had nothing but dark beers through nitrogen, and this is something quite unique. If you come through this area soon and see a glowing red hook sign at the side of the Spaudling Turnpike, stop in and ask for the double red. You won’t regret it.

For dessert, we first ordered a Nitro Porter Float. How, to some, this would sound like blasphemy but hear me out. It was something interesting, and I wanted to know what the sugars would do to the porter. I was left a little disappointed but then Mike had a brilliant idea. The last time I had an ESB I discovered that it went very well with simple sugars like flan or creme brulee. So we asked politely for a float that was made with ESB instead of the porter. 
It arrived and we sipped it out of a straw – bliss. The bitter elements in the ESB light up and make a symphony in the mouth when combined with the vanilla elements in the ice cream. Its refreshing and delicious. I plan on coming in during the summer and ordering this regularly, no matter how weird of a look the waitstaff gives me. If I order it often enough, maybe they’ll throw it on the menu. Here’s hoping.

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3 Comments

  1. Betty

    My husband is the Brew drinker in this family and his favorite go to beer is RedHook.

  2. Jez

    Longhammer is probably the most widespread-sold IPA in the country. I see this in Wal Mart. How many other IPAs do you see in Wal Mart? Not being tart, I’m just saying, it’s pretty easy to be the biggest selling IPA in the U.S. if you strike a deal with the largest (most satanic) retailer in the country. Just kidding about the Satan reference there. Maybe.

    It is kind of cool, though. I was waiting for a flight at the Houston airport, saw a small beer stand selling Longhammer, and said, “I’ll get one of those later.” When I did finally decide to get one, the keg was gone. Good to know that I’m not the only one looking for IPAs.

  3. Dan

    When I visited the Cambridge Brewing Company in Boston (well, Cambridge…) I was too full to order the pale ale ice cream, which I’ll regret until I die. Or, y’know, until I go back to Boston again.

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