Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Isles of Shoals

The Isles of Shoals are a group of islands and tidal ledges about ten miles off the coast of the New Hampshire-Maine border region (Portsmouth, where we are located, is right on the Piscataqua River, which forms the border between the two states). There are nine islands in the chain, five belonging to Maine and four to New Hampshire. The islands have a long history, serving as seasonal fishing camps for Native American populations with the first Europeans arriving in the early 1600's.

The history of the Shoals encompasses a range of people and events so diverse, I'll just make a list: Captain John Smith, the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the legendary pirate Blackbeard, the poet Celia Thaxter, several hotels, an artist colony, a grisly ax murder, a Unitarian-Universalist retreat, and a 2000 film starring Elizabeth Hurley and Sean Penn.

The islands have also been a source of inspiration for our branding. If you've looked at the map above, you'll notice Star Island, Smuttynose Island and as well the name "Shoals." Our logo even boasts a harbor seal, which are commonly found around the backside of Star Island and occasionally in Gosport Harbor.

The Shoals are still a vibrant community now although there are no more incorporated towns.

The Unitarian-Universalist church has a retreat/conference center ( on Star Island, which is easily the most developed of the nine islands.

Smuttynose Island is still home to the Samuel Haley house, the structure on our Shoals Pale Ale label. There is also a replica period building next to it which serves as a caretaker's house.

Appledore Island plays host to the University of New Hampshire/Cornell University Marine Sciences lab.

Cedar Island and Lunging Island are privately owned.

Duck Island was once a naval bombing range but is now home to a wildlife sanctuary and a population of harbor seals.

White Island is home to the White Island Lighthouse and the light keeper's cottage. The structures are now currently owned by the State of New Hampshire and in need of some maintenance. A local charity, Lighthouse Kids ( has been raising funds to restore the light and the keeper's cottage with an ultimate goal of having a museum on site. Please visit their website to learn more about the work they're doing.

Sue Reynolds, a retired teacher and founder of Lighthouse Kids, also runs day-boat trips to the Isles as well as fishing charters on The Uncle Oscar, a converted lobster boat. She was kind enough to take me out to Star Island for a few hours. I had a great picnic lunch on Star Island and snapped some great photos which you'll see below. If you ever need to go to the Shoals, The Uncle Oscar ( provides an excellent experience. Our captain that day, Tom Davis possesses a wealth of information and knowledge about Shoals history and lore and he's not afraid to use it.

On to the photos:

This view from the side of Star Island provides a great vantage point to see the Unitarian-Universalist retreat center. The most interesting part of my visit was the sense of peace and calm you feel when you're on Star. It'd be a great place to get away for a week in the summer. I didn't see any mermaids or bright red beehives though...

The UU folk have great welcome station right on the dock. You can even make reservations to have lunch out there during the summer.

Gosport Chapel, on Star Island, is an austere and charming church. This simple, one-room chapel has such a presence that's apparent from your first step in the door.

The bridges of Portsmouth as seen from the Isles of Shoals. The largest bridge, though it looks like it might from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, is actually the Route 95 bridge that spans the great Bay and connects New Hampshire to Maine.

Looks like a great place for draft line!

Finally, the obligatory product shot! Two different sides of the Samuel Haley house, brought to you by Smuttynose Brewing Company.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Harvesting Pumpkin Ale

Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale is shipping out to all of our wholesalers and is filtering its way out to retail accounts as we speak. Yep, it's shipping in early August and I can assure you, we're still amazed how early Pumpkin season begins each year.

On the production side of things, we're in the middle of autumn and starting to plan for Winter Ale. The beer buying public is very fickle about when they buy seasonal beers. The demand seems to begin earlier each year though most seasons have a certain natural end point that's determined when people decide to stop buying the beer. It's really important for us to get the beer out into the supply channels early, and in large amounts.

This year, filling the supply channels with Pumpkin Ale was much easier. We contracted this year's run to F.X. Matt in Utica, N.Y. Their larger capacity enables us to ship the nearly all of the beer to our wholesalers right out of the gate.

Even if you don't have any pumpkins to carve, or leaves to rake yet; there's no better way to refresh yourself after sharpening your pumpkin carving knife or while watching preseason NFL games.

On a final note, the packaging for this year's six packs looks a little different. The sides of the six pack basket are a bit shorter,the bottles have a slightly different shape and the neck labels wrap the entire way around the bottle. Don't worry, the beer is just as delicious.

Here are some pictures of the new packages:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bikes, Ballistics, and Beer

Craft brewing has never been a particularly competitive community. Breweries tend to help each other out, sharing tips, tricks, ingredients, and pints with each other. In my mind, this is the most unique and best thing about our community. Despite the harmonious nature of our “industry,” we’ve decided to put our support behind two competitive endeavors; one involving spandex and muscle power and one involving projectiles and pressurized air.

We are the title sponsor for the Portsmouth Criterium. “The Crit” is a bicycle road race that takes place in the heart of downtown Portsmouth, passing right through Market Square. Six different categories of cyclists, ranging from kids to level two professionals, will race around the 1-kilometer, hay bale-lined course. Our owners, Peter and Joanne are avid cyclists and can be seen infrequently, clad in spandex, around the Portsmouth Brewery after a long ride. After all, studies have shown that beer is better than water for replenishing nutrients after strenuous exercise. The Portsmouth Brewery will be hosting a pancake breakfast for the public as well as a private reception for volunteers. For more information, visit The Crit's website.

Our second competition is something so wacky that we couldn’t help but say "yes" when we were approached for sponsorship. American Chunker is a Brookline, NH-based team of engineers and fabricators as well as the name of the world’s first fully automatic, air-powered pumpkin cannon. The team has been working since the middle of November 2009 to design and build a cannon that will launch a pumpkin over a mile and challenge for top honors at the World Championship Punkin’ Chunkin’ in Bridgewater, Delaware November 5-7, 2010. Check out their blog for New England events scheduled during September and October or go cheer them on in Delaware. We'll have more details on our cross promotions soon, so keep an eye on our Facebook page and our monthly email newsletter.