The city/town of Dover has really been on the up-and-up lately. I’ll admit that growing up we used to call it “dirty Dover,” but the downtown has gained some lovely little shops, and the food and beer scene is definitely promising.
Garrison City Beerworks is one of the newest additions to the downtown Dover scene. It was opened two weeks ago, right beside Yeastern Homebrew Supply, which is owned by one of the breweries co-founders. I’d already been hearing buzz from the seacoast brew crowd before the place even opened, and was looking forward to visiting the brewery on their opening day. Unfortunately, an ungodly hangover derailed such notions, and I was left to visit them on their second weekend of operations.
Before I even entered the building, I was impressed to find out that they were still offering the same lineup as the week prior, and that they hadn’t run out of any of their beers yet. (They did end up running out of the IPA by the time I left, but that was the only one to go.) It’s far too common these days for a new place to open up and blow out of everything in one weekend, leaving them dry for the next three as they try to make up for that one blowout. It’s nice to see that Garrison City took some logical planning into account before opening their doors. Well done.
As far as location goes, these guys are literally in downtown Dover, which will surely bring them lots of foot traffic, and places them right near by the finer eateries and watering holes. The brewery’s outside is part of a nice old brick building, and they have a nice sign clearly showing you where they are (too many new breweries also lack a sign, though that is often due to zoning issues). The inside is clean and simple with a light rustic touch that gives it a good “craft beer vibe,” if that makes sense. Pine wood is interspersed with a turquoise/sea-foam/I’m-colorblind-but-it-was-bluish-green walls, which give a light and bright feeling to the space, and there is lots of natural light flowing in, which is lovely for socializing over a sample, a pint, or even an evening.
The big highlight of Garrison City prior to their opening was the fact that they are the first New Hampshire brewery to offer a crowler. For those uninitiated, a crowler is literally a 32 oz. can that is filled from the tap (like a growler) and sealed right in front of you. Crowlers are also the same size as a half growler, so they’re basically a can-growler… a crowler. Someone is getting paid for naming that, which sometimes upsets me… The only way to sample Garrison City’s beers outside of their brewery is take home a crowler. Naturally I had to grab one, but first I grabbed a flight.
Garrison City serves their samplers on custom paddles that are shaped like a hop cone, which I found excellent and appealing to the eye. They have their visuals down well, and all of their beer featured a nice head, which is promising. The beer I had been hearing the most about was their Citra Pale Ale, and it lived up to its hype. The beer was a murky pale gold in the glass, and you could practically see the dissolving hop pellets inside, which I personally find to be sexy… On the nose, the beer shows its Citra well, with a big bouquet of tropical fruits, especially passion fruit. When the beer touched my lips, it was crisp, light and full of fruity hop flavor. It was a little thin, overall though, and I wish there was a little bit more of a malt character propping up the hops. The beer was endlessly crushable, though, and wispy on the palate, which is a perfect thing to build a brewery with. The second beer was Galaxy, which, surprise, surprise, featured Galaxy hops. It also had some Motueka hops in there, adding a nice lemon lime zest to the beer. Citra and Galaxy were similar in overall crushability and malt character, but they did a nice job of highlighting different hop blends. Galaxy had that nice, spicy-grassy, citrus character that I’ve come to expect in the galaxy hop. The beer was dry, and delicious, and had me ready for more.
Next off their menu was Bale Fire IPA, which I had high hopes for, given the beautiful hop character off of their pale ales. Bale Fire is billed as featuring Centennial and Simcoe hops, which ended up giving the beer a more “classic IPA” feel than the two pale ales. Bale Fire was definitely more substantial in malt and body, but came off a little bland after the pale ale juice-bombs, which let me down a little. There is a very good chance that I just ruined my palate early with the two pale ales, but Bale Fire came off a step below the pale ales as I sipped it. It was nice, but not really something to write home about. Garrison City’s final offering was their Crowbar Robust porter, which was properly black, and featured a nice tan head. The beer struck my palate fairly similarly to the Smutty Robust Porter, with a little more semi-sweet chocolate character, and a touch less coffee. It was a little too thin for what I look for when I reach for a porter, but that made it easily drinkable.
Overall, I am very impressed and excited about Garrison City Beerworks. They have a great location, their staff/volunteers were knowledgeable and friendly, and they seem to be poised to do great things. They also are reportedly already cooking up some Bretts, and are looking to do barrel-aging and wilds. I realize that for such a young brewery to say they are going to do this isn’t that shocking, but its great news in NH where the craft beer scene is just finally starting to take off and get weird. I was highly impressed with their pale ales, and left with a crowler of the Citra. It is now all gone. You can expect some more talk of GCB in the future on Beer in my Belly. This is a brewery to watch. Cheers to their beers!