New Non-Profit Seeks to Boost New Hampshire’s Craft Beer Economy

Light bulb moments, the kind that make you say, “A-ha!” can be had anywhere, anytime.

It’s no surprise, then, that when Smuttynose Brewing Co. spokesman J.T. Thompson and Scott Schaier, the executive director of the Beer Distributors of New Hampshire, came up with the idea of building craft beer awareness in the state, it was in a place that’s as well known for launching bad ideas as good ones.

“Like most good ideas, it started in a bar,” said Schaier, one of the organizers of a new nonprofit marketing cooperative called BrewNH (Brewers, Retailers, Entrepreneurs and Wholesalers of New Hampshire), which aims to boost the state’s craft beer economy.

BrewNH is being funded through donations from brewers and distributors and will celebrate its launch, tomorrow evening, at Smuttynose Brewing (105 Towle Farm Road in Hampton, N.H.). Gov. Maggie Hassan plans to speak at the event, alongside representatives from the New Hampshire’s departments of Resources and Economic Development, as well as Travel and Tourism. Schaier said that up to 25 brewers and distributors from across the state are expected to be in attendance.

“The group is bringing the separate parts of the industry together and focusing on promoting local businesses in the craft brewing sector,” he said. “That’s really the opportunity here. It’s about supporting state businesses and supporting the state economy.”

In recent years, New Hampshire’s craft beer industry has grown to approximately 30 breweries, Schaier said. But despite the uptick in category entrants, Schaier said consumption of locally produced craft beer still lags behind surrounding states like Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts — all of  which he believes have historically done a better job of promoting craft.

Bill Herlicka, the president of the Granite State Brewers Association and the owner of White Birch Brewing in Hooksett, N.H. recently told the Eagle Tribune that only about 1.3 percent of the craft beer sold in New Hampshire is actually brewed there. That’s compared to 20 percent in Vermont, he added.

Schaier said he hopes to see that number increase and believes that beer tourism could help grow that figure.

“Where we’re not really competing is in the beer tours sector and [in] total volume of locally made beer [consumed] in the state.”

Through a cooperative effort between brewers and distributors and with the aid of governmental support, BrewNH will work to raise awareness of the state’s overall beer culture.

To do this, BrewNH plans to aggregate event and new product information, from the state’s breweries, for widespread dissemination through social media and other promotional efforts. The organization also intends to work alongside distributors in placing an added emphasis on locally made products and consulting with various government entities to ensure craft beer becomes not just a part of the state, but its own attraction.