A few months ago, I lamented that one of my favorite places to hang out, Portsmouth NH, was devoid of just one good “craft beer bar.” Sure, there’s the Portsmouth brewery, and The Coat of Arms, but the Coat specializes in English beer, and you don’t always want to go to a brewery to pick up good beer on tap. So when I heard about plans for a 100+ tap bar right on Market Square, I got kind of excited.
I was able to visit in between their “soft” opening and their grand opening. Judging from the controlled chaos and the exhausted laughter of the servers, I figured out that they were a little overwhelmed by the immediate attention to their new and almost not-quite-ready venue opening. That’s okay though. Being super popular is a really good problem to have during a recession.
The unique space was renovated over the summer and used to contain a barbeque joint that I miss a lot (RIP Muddy River) but was dark and not a place that you really wanted to spend a lot of time in. The inside has been brightened up, and there are now huge TVs and projectors in the back room, showing various sports. There was both golfing and the Red Sox on when I ate there.
One unique feature that I wish every bar emulate is a chalkboard featuring a list of “Sorry I’m Kicked” and “Try Me I’m New!” which saved me a LOT of headaches of ordering something that was already out.
The tap list, officially holding 116 brews is well-rounded. It is not an epic list of hard-to-find rare, 12% beers that are hard to get your hands on. Rather, it’s a great mix of local favorites (Red Hook, Shipyard, Smuttynose, Moat), solid craft brews from around the country (Dogfish Head, North Coast, Oscar Blues, Stone, Sierra Nevada) and (unfortunately?) standard sports bar brews (Bud, Bud Light, PBR, etc.). However, while it isn’t a beer geek’s heaven, it is a good place to introduce someone to good beer, or to get used to the idea that you can order a nice brew while you’re watching a game and actually enjoy it.
It is filling the void in Portsmouth – a place to order beer beyond your standard choices, and a place to enjoy the game with friends while you do it. They do have food as well, which from what I saw and tasted is typical pub fare, but you never know what they might come up with as they get rolling.
So I say if you are visiting Portsmouth, and want a chance to sample a lot of local brews in one place, head over to the Thirsty Moose. But if you’re from NY, I’d keep that under your hat, especially if the Sox game is on.