Taking On a Life of Its Own
Stoneface Brewery, and more specifically their IPA, is so commonly known that one would think they have been around for many years. The brewery is located in a sparse area of Newington, although the company is anything but sparse itself. Scores of visitors are greeted by the brewery’s righteous slogan, “Live Free, Drink Craft,” which alludes to New Hampshire’s infamous logo “Live Free or Die,” and the Man on the Mountain outlined by a hops plant adorns the labels on their bottled beer. Stoneface represents the Granite State’s liberating spirit, along with the exceptional, rising talent among New Hampshire’s craft breweries, making this state an ideal destination for beer lovers.
The facility and the employees are so modest that customers might think they are in a common taproom … until they taste the beer. There is a palpable aura of camaraderie between the employees; everyone seems to be doing everything and working very hard at the task at hand. “One thing we didn’t subscribe to on day one was ‘paying your dues’. Guys who come in with limited experience and a lot of passion would usually get told to scrub floors before they make it to packaging or the brew house. We don’t believe in that because it doesn’t utilize the passion that that person came in with and it doesn’t let us utilize them as important players across the brewery. [Equality] keeps [everyone] engaged and motivated.” The owners homebrewed for over ten years before they started to plan for the opening of the brewery in 2013, selling their first keg of beer in January of 2014. The owners met at a software company in Portsmouth, and while both Pete Beauregard and Erol Moe were successful in their other careers, Moe says, “you get to a point where you can’t think of anything better to do than starting a brewery.”
With more than 50 breweries in New Hampshire and ten to fifteen popping up in the next year, it’s surprising there is no competition in the micro brewing community. As Erol states, “There are no secrets and very little separation from brewery to brewery. There is a lot of collaboration. We all just want to make good beer so New Hampshire stays on the map and becomes a destination for beer people. If we are a part of that, that’s awesome.” Stoneface has done collaboration beers with Tributary Brewing and Redhook Brewery.
The Granite State Brewing Association, a guild for all of the local breweries, helps to create a cohesive community. Their priorities are marketing, tourism and legislative monitoring while also providing technical education so everyone is representing the best beer.
The biggest hurdle of owning a brewery in New Hampshire is its strict laws. A brewery can only pour one 4-ounce sample of beer per person per label, and must charge for the sample if the establishment does not sell food. “A restaurant would be great just so we could slide a pint across the table. We would open one if we had more space but we barely have enough room for our fermenters. Our beer has truly taken on a life of its own.” As a result, beer-making prodigies cannot simply focus on their brewing enthusiasm, but are forced into opening a restaurant just to serve a pint, which is a completely different passion and commitment.
Limited space also affects the amount of beer they can produce. Stoneface only has eight types of beer in the showroom, but rotation of the taps keeps people coming back. Growlers were not in the original business plan, but they became “a fun, cool way for people to connect with us and get something on draft that isn’t available in package outside of the brewery.” Another issue many breweries are running into is the availability of hops, one of beer’s key ingredients. Since there are so many large breweries and now an extensive amount of microbreweries emerging, the hops farms need to catch up.
Although small in size, the Stoneface Brewery’s accomplishments far exceed its modest dimensions. Winning the thirsty attentions of beer connoisseurs and the respects of fellow brewers alike, the burgeoning establishment was recently voted number three in USA Today’s “Best New Breweries.” We’ll raise a glass of New Hampshire craft to that.