New England Brewery Series: Blue Lobster Brewing Company (North Hampton, NH)

Today I visited Blue Lobster Brewing Company in Hampton, NH with my father and sister.  Blue Lobster opened its doors last November and has garnered quite a lot of acclaim since then.  Located on Lafayette Road (One of the main roads of Hampton) and about five minutes from the beaches, they are in a rather odd but excellent area as far breweries in New Hampshire go.  Their tasting room and brewery are actually located in a nice, new shopping plaza with a gym on one side of them, and a grill and bar on the other (which conveniently is one of the few places that serves Blue Lobster on tap).  Blue Lobster’s owner, Michael Benoit, who was manning the taps during my visit, said that he wanted to locate Blue Lobster in a more classy area than breweries are traditionally found in, and seems to have picked a very nice place for the brewery.

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Blue Lobster’s space is large and open, with plenty of seating for large crowds, and with a lovely bar top with shells and other funky rocks encased into it.  The walls, while a little sparse, are painted a deep and majestic blue and feature maps of the local area, a beautiful large compass rose, and a vast painting, among other oddities.  The place is cool and inviting, if also modern and a bit sterile.  The decorum highlighted the awesome tap handles that the brewery had acquired, which looked like giant lobster claws colored gold, black, and blue.

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The brewery had five beers on tap, and my father and I tried all five.  They were poured in awesome mini snifter glasses that I really enjoyed sipping from, and wish I could have purchased…  To start we had their “flagship ale” the Golden Claw, a delicious and succulent American Pale Ale that was hugely tropical in the nose, and hugely drinkable on the palate.  This beer perfectly highlighted Blue Lobster’s brewer, David Sakolosky’s, time apprenticing at Hill Farmstead under the legendary Sean Hill.  The mouthfeel was crisp and perfectly clean, and the flavor was spot on.  This beer could give Edward a run for its money!  (Review of this beer to come… I grabbed a growler.)  Next we tried their wheat IPA, Stalckholm Syndrome, which also displayed a beautiful hoppiness, playing nicely between citrus, tropical, and pine flavors on the nose and palate, while providing a perfect creamy mouthfeel from the wheat, and a faint touch of wheat flake flavor.  With their first two offerings, this brewery showed that it really knows how to use hops, and that it is making some beautiful beers.

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The third beer, Excess Is Not Rebellion, a double IPA, was a bit of a letdown, however.   Where I was led to expect huge beautiful hops and a smooth mouthfeel I found a grittier beer with less of a crisp hop flavor.  The taste moved between woody and malty and the after taste touched upon wood and smoke which was a little bit odd.  This was not a bad beer by any means, and was actually rather enjoyable, but was off with what the two previous beers had led me to expect in a DIPA from the brewery.  After that we sampled A Life of Sundays, a Scotch Wee Heavy Ale that weighed in at 10% ABV, but was hugely drinkable if a bit bland in flavor.  The beer had nice reserved malt flavors and very light smoke, but I just wanted it to punch me a little with its flavors.  Benoit explained to me that they are actually barrel-aging the Wee Heavy in old port barrels, and will be releasing a port barrel-aged version in the coming fall, which sound delicious as this Wee Heavy was just begging for a bit more flavor to let me know I was drinking a 10% beer.  Benoit also mentioned that they are barrel aging a biere de miel saison with Brettanomyces yeast, and will be releasing that in caged bottles in February, which has me very excited as I would love to see what this brewery does with a funky saison.  The final beer we sampled was Ragged Neck, a peat malt smoked porter that was deliciously smoky with a touch of chocolate and lots of campfire notes.  Ragged Neck was exactly what I want in a smoked porter and was beautifully drinkable, even in the warmer weather of June.

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Overall my visit to the brewery was great, and the beer’s really blew me away.  I was a little let down by the DIPA, but I see that they have several in their lineup already, so it could just be that this DIPA was not to my palates liking.  Their lower ABV hoppy beers, however, were hugely drinkable, thirst quenching, and delicious.  I know this is an obvious connection to make, but I’m seeing a lot of Hill Farmstead’s style in these beers, and I am hugely excited about that. They are fresh, crisp, and very flavorful, and I can’t wait to try more of their beers!  Everyone else should just ignore them and let them stay small so that I don’t have to wait in lines to get their beers…  Good stuff!

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Hampton, New Hampshire

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