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Monday, February 9, 2009

Talking Head: Smuttynose brings its New England craft beer tradition to Georgia

click to enlarge Thank You for Your Support: Smuttynose Finestkind IPA
  • Thank You for Your Support: Smuttynose Finestkind IPA

The name might produce a snicker, but there's nothing silly about the first-rate beers produced by Portsmouth, New Hampshire's Smuttynose Brewing Company. Established in 1994 by Peter Egelston and his sister Janet, the company has been gradually expanding its production to meet demand and is now being sold in Georgia. Peter, who serves as president of Smuttynose, says that they have purposely grown slowly to avoid what happened to many craft breweries in the 90s that expanded capacity well beyond demand and became overextended. Still, their growth has been strong enough that they plan to construct a new facility beginning next year.

The Egelstons have been at the forefront of the craft beer movement on the East Coast, having opened the Northampton Brewery in Massachussets in 1987, now the oldest operating brewpub in New England. They opened Portsmouth Brewery, also a brewpub, in New Hampshire in 1991. When a local microbrewery went out of business, Peter purchased the operation at auction with no marketing plan or name for his new brewery. He later settled on Smuttynose, the name of a small island off the coast of New Hampshire because it had a local connection and was "a funny, quirky name that once people got, it they would not forget it, and that seems to be the case."

With the proliferation of craft and craft wannabes in recent years, another line-up of pale ale, India pale ale, brown ale, porter and lager might elicit a collective "Ho-hum," from beer lovers looking for the Next Big Thing. However, Smuttynose produces one of the most well-regarded portfolios of year-round beers of any East Coast brewery. Egelston says that the brewery is not necessarily known for any one beer, but makes a wide variety of beers, all the way from accessible to sophisticated. "We have always felt very strongly about making sure that our full-time, everyday beers are ones that we can really stand behind," he says, "because you can't build your reputation entirely on extreme beer; you really do have to be able to deliver the goods day in and day out."

Smuttynose also produces 4 seasonals and an award-winning line of high-gravity specialty ales known as the Big Beer Series. In the past these beers were hard to find, since only only one batch was brewed, but this year the brewery will be doubling their output in hopes of getting these in demand beers to more customers and generating buzz for their year-round offerings. The selections for the Big Beer Series vary from year to year. The 2009 schedule includes among its 9 planned releases an imperial stout, a farmhouse ale, a wheat wine, and a doppelbock.

Smuttynose Finestkind IPA, Robust Porter, and Old Brown Dog Ale are arriving on shelves now, along with a mixed six pack with three bottles each of the IPA, pale ale, lager, and brown ale. Taco Mac will host kick-off parties for Smuttynose on Feb. 17 at the Metropolis location in Midtown and the Old Milton location on Feb. 18.

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