This weekend I had the privilege of attending and running a session at the First Annual NH Brewer’s Festival in Manchester New Hampshire. Born from an ember of the growingly successful Maine Brewers Festival, the NH Brewer’s Festival was opened with hopes that it would bring out the craft beer geeks, great small and local brewers and others, instead of just the “WOOOOOHH!!” drunk crowds that seem to plague some brewfests.

The day was very rainy – perfect for the indoor venue at a Raddison Hotel in Manchester. I got there very early to “setup” though I didn’t have much to do, being that my seminar was pretty low-tech. I got to share a table with the guys fromwww.drinkcraftbeer.com, and it was nice to meet Devon and Jeff for the first time in person.

The fest featured 14 different breweries from New England states, with a few pleasant surprises and a few conspicuous absences. I was pleased to see Kennebec River Brewing, Manchester Brewing, Milly’s Tavern and Sebago making a strong appearance. I wished that Pennichuck, Red Hook and White Birch had made it there, but there are very distinct and separate reasons that I think may have prevented each of their attendance.

While at the brewfest, I did a seminar about how to introduce someone to craft beer who doesn’t like it – like a girlfriend who hates beer and prefers wine, a father that drinks lime beer at Christmas, or younger brother that’s stuck on light macro brews. I brought with me a pitcher of Sea Dog’s Blueberry Ale and another ofMoat Mountain’s Hoffman Weiss, as good entry- level beers. I got a few women in the audience to actually admit to liking one or both of the brews, which was a lot of fun for me. The guys from Drink Craft Beer also did a wildy popular session on pairing beer with Taza chocolate. The pairings can be seen here on their website – some were inspired and very interesting.

Of the beers that I sampled, there were a few that stood out. The Manchester Brewing Company (Concord, NH) is a new-ish almost punk brewery that is gaining a bit of momentum. I sampled both their Emperor Norton’s Cinnamon Stout and Emperor Norton’s Peppermint Stout and really dug them a lot! The peppermint stout in particular is made with peppermint leaves, and reminds me of Peppermint Patty candies. I’ll be reviewing a bottle of this in full back on my blog for the holiday season. I also enjoyed the Kennebec River Brewery’s Sled Head Red, and I’m looking forward to trying and reviewing more of Kennebec River Brewery beers soon.

The space for the festival was huge, and the booths were setup with plenty of walking room in between. The “seminars” were in separate rooms down the hall from the main large room, but not far enough away for participants to be lost on the way there. The first session was not as busy as I think the event hosts hoped, but gave plenty of time for discussion with brewers, beer fans and a chance to get to the beer and food quickly. The food prices were very inexpensive (sandwiches for under $3.00) and I was happy to see that most people were very responsibly enjoying their sampled beers and no one got too insane. The second session was a lot more lively and full of people, which made for a fun atmosphere. I swear I saw a few people in roller skates drift by on the hardwood floors – I was told later that they were from a local roller derby (those still exist? woah!).

I’m proud of NH for getting a brewfest together. And with all these awesome breweries within the state alone, I think the fest has a lot of potential to grow. In fact, the website VisitNH.gov just created a great map and guide to beer in the granite state.

“We are all very pleased that VisitNH.gov is showcasing the state’s growing craft brewing industry. It’s very exciting for people from all over to start learning more about the great beer industry in the Granite State,” said Jay Riley, the creator and organizer of the NH Brewery Festival. (from www.learnyourbeer.com)

DOWNLOAD THE BREWERY MAP PDF

All and all, it was a very fun experience that I hope to be able to do again. My feet are still sore today from all the standing, but that was my own fault because of being decked out in cute shoes. I had my very own Beer Babe shirt on, too, so I looked pretty cute. There’s no photographic evidence of this of course. Just my tired feet :)