A tour of the New Hampshire seacoast’s craft breweries is a great idea.
Add a knowledgeable tour guide and a built-in designated driver and that idea becomes inspired.
This is the concept behind Granite State Growler Tours — a road trip designed to introduce people to the now-thriving craft brewing region.
It’s a pretty straightforward concept: Guests hop on a 14-passenger bus and are taken on a ride through the New Hampshire seacoast region to tour craft brew facilities, taste the product and learn about the brewing process. For owner David Adams, it was an opportunity that sprouted up in his own backyard.
“Breweries started popping up,” Adams said. “I live in North Hampton and a brewery opened a mile from my house. I was taking out-of-town friends to these breweries and I thought, ‘Let’s get a bus.’ ”
Buy a ticket, take the ride and here’s what you get: A chauffeured, multifunction bus shuttles guests to as many as four breweries and distilleries over the course of an afternoon. The stops may include the Throwback Brewery in North Hampton, Earth Eagle Brewings in Portsmouth, Blue Lobster Brewing in Hampton, the Sea Hagg Distillery in North Hampton and Top Shelf Brews in Hampton. One of the beauties of the trip — there’s no more than a few minutes between stops.
“I drive the bus and Mark (Chag, a longtime friend) is the tour guide, so he’ll be giving the beer story of New Hampshire,” Adams said. “People can learn about the history of brewing and other spirits in New Hampshire. If we see a local site along the way we may talk about it — the Isles of Shoals, sites like that we may pass along the way. There’s entertainment on the bus so people can learn something new about the area.”
There’s no actual drinking on the bus, but it is equipped with coolers of ice so that if anyone buys a growler jug of brew it can be kept cold. There’s water onboard if anyone should get thirsty, and locally baked pretzels for snacking.
“What we like about our tour is that we’re going to the smaller breweries before their operating hours,” Adams said. “They’re not open when we’re there, so you’re getting one-on-one time with the brewer. There aren’t 50 other people there, so you can talk to them and ask questions, something you don’t normally get to do on most brewery tours.”
Guests park at the Community Oven restaurant (845 Lafayette Road, Hampton) and board the bus. The restaurant also makes for a convenient end point.
“After we’re done with the tour, if people want a meal, we call ahead and get them a reservation so they don’t have to wait in line on a busy night,” Adams said.
And if by the end of the tour someone should feel a bit tipsy — although an unlikely eventuality since sample sizes at the breweries are limited to 4 ounces — your hosts will either drive you home or call a taxi.
“We don’t want bad things to happen to anybody,” Adams said. “(Guests) don’t have to worry about getting rowdy or loud.”
The region was already sudsy prior to the newer craft brewers popping up. Adams said breweries such as the Blue Lobster Brewing Co. (845 Lafayette Road, Hampton), Smuttynose Brewing Co. (225 Heritage Ave., Portsmouth) and the Redhook Brewery (1 Redhook Way, Pease International Trade Port, Portsmouth) made the region a fine location for beer enthusiasts. But it’s the addition of the smaller, more agile craft brewers that have brought a new approach to the area.
“They’re all unique in their own way,” Adams said. “That’s what I like about it. If you go to any one of these places, you’ll see they all have unique styles of beer with unique flavors. Each approach is unique. You get a different experience in each place.”
To prepare for introducing guests to each of the breweries, Adams had to conduct a little research — for science, of course. His findings and insights have been integrated into the tour.
“I have growlers from all the breweries,” he said. “I did test runs. What you’ll find is if you have something you like one week it may not be there next week, but they’ll have something else for you to try. There are limited brews of special beers — bacon, mushroom, chipotle stout — there’s no limit to what you can do with it, and they’re all experimenting and pushing the envelope.”
Hampton, N.H., is an hour’s drive north of Boston. Tours start around 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, and finish around 3:30 p.m. Tickets are $55 and tours start this weekend. To book, go to nhbeerbus.com or call 603-964-0284.