For 10 days each February, Portsmouth — a hub for microbreweries in the state — invites the area’s brewers, chefs and beer enthusiasts to enjoy back-to-back days filled with everything from tastings and beer brunches to movie screenings and bar crawls.
Sean Jansen, co-founder of Portsmouth Beer Week and 2BeerGuys.com, a site dedicated to craft beer education, said in a recent phone interview that the now seventh annual Portsmouth Beer Week was inspired by an event at the Portsmouth Brewery that he went to just under a decade ago. It revolved around Kate the Great, a Russian imperial stout the brewery used to make. Seeing how many people were drawn in by this one-day event, Jansen realized the then-untapped potential of Portsmouth’s craft beer scene.
“We really wanted to showcase what Portsmouth had to offer … the diversity it had to offer,” he said.
He and his brother penned a page-long letter and pitched it to 10 locations.
“At that point 2 Beer Guys for us was not that old, we didn’t know the players in Portsmouth and we worked in different industries,” he said. “We went around and pitched the idea and said, ‘Hey, this is what we want to do.’”
With three interested takers, they hosted their first beer, pizza and a movie night upstairs at Portsmouth Gas Light Co. Building on it each year, now they have over 50 different events taking place throughout the week, which always concludes on a Monday in honor of the Portsmouth Brewery and Kate the Great.
Due to a fire at Portsmouth Gas Light Co. late last year, the fifth annual Seacoast Winter Brewfest, a premier event that Jansen equated to a “mini extreme beer fest,” was canceled. Though the Gas Light fire has also impacted plans for Portsmouth Beer Week, Jansen took it in stride, noting that this year they’ll focus on a new showcase event — freshman orientation.
“The idea is that there are a bunch of breweries that started in 2015, so we’re trying to get an opportunity where people can ... go from booth to booth and meet the people who are making [the brews] and try their beer,” he said. “It’s basically speed dating with brewers.”
Inspired by a similar event at Portland’s Beer Week, the class of 2015 breweries from across the state include Great North Aleworks in Manchester, Mooselick Brewing Company in Troy, Garrison City in Dover and Neighborhood Brewing Company in Exeter. Hosted by Throwback Brewery in North Hampton on Saturday, Feb. 20, attendees will get to meet the brewers, try samples of their beers and enjoy appetizers.
Also new this year is the Brewer’s Pond Hockey Invitational on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at Labrie Family Skate at Strawbery Banke, where six breweries will play and guests can enjoy a beer social and snacks from Figtree Kitchen before the games begin.
For the full list of events throughout the week, go to the website, which will be continually updated. While the bigger events are typically held on the weekends, every day has at least two or three things to check out.