Portsmouth Brewing Co.
Place: Portsmouth, NH
The Portsmouth Brewery, New Hampshire’s first brewpub, was founded in 1991, four years after its sister company, the Northampton Brewery, opened in Western Massachusetts. Today, it’s “sister company” is Smuttynose Brewing Co.
A head like freshly-fallen snow heralds a pale copper beer with a nose like the open door of a candy store. I’m getting lemon drops, sherbet, barley twist and licorice for starters with many more fruits, herbs and spices beneath. It’s a Damon Runyon beer! There is barley sweetness in the mouth, but that is balanced by a building hop bitterness with quinine-like intensity. The finish is dry, bitter, fruity, herbal and spicy. The warm, alcohol kick suggests this is on the strong side. It would make a good companion for a rich dessert—do you have bread-and-butter pudding, laced with dried grape fruits, your side of the Pond?
There’s wonderful sound here and a beautiful pour, with a grand head formation as well as an invitation to dance with this beer’s thick, dynamic taste profile. Hops that beg for attention, and malt that melds itself into your palate: “toffee-like,” indeed! And then some. This is a beer built for pleasure—betcha can’t have just one; but at this strength (almost 10%), that’s what I must recommend: “Just one—at a time.” Well worth a trip to New Hampshire. That’s certain.
Wheat wine? Just think “barleywine with wheat” for proper perspective. Its foundation is creamy, chewy sweetness (toffee, caramel), balanced by firm fruit (peaches, pineapple in syrup, plum), and a rustically bold, hoppy finish. The wheat adds some drinkability, and sherry undertones throughout (intentional oxidation from aging?) offer intrigue and complexity.