Bill Herlicka has tried beers from each of the breweries participating in this year’s Southern New Hampshire Brewers Festival. A brewer himself, he has respect for the work they have put into the art of craft beer.
Herlicka, owner of White Birch Brewing in Hooksett, founded the festival to showcase the new wave of craft beer of which he is a part.
“Beer is more than the couple of styles you see everywhere,” he said.
The second annual Southern New Hampshire Brewers Festival will be held at White Birch Brewing on Saturday, July 14. Herlicka called it an all-inclusive experience filled with food from high-quality restaurants and beer from 19 high-quality breweries around the country.
“I think the mix of the breweries is complementary. We don’t have all 19 serving the same styles,” Herlicka said. “I think, as a beer enthusiast, that there’s a lot to come down and check out. You’re not gong to walk through and after your third IPA say that you couldn’t notice the different anymore.”
“When you come to the festival, you will have 12 beers you will see nowhere else in the state,” he said.
Herlicka noted that while there is an increase in the number of participating breweries, he is not trying to build a festival of large proportions.
“I’m really interested in putting together the best list of small breweries that I can,” he said, adding that some of the breweries signed on for the 2012 festival have fewer than three staff members.
“That we can get them to come join us for a beer festival — that’s phenomenal,” he said.
Herlicka said he excited to host each of the visiting breweries for a number of reasons. Rising Tide because it has grown from a one-barrel operation in Portland to 15 barrels. Brewery Ommegang because he attends its Belgium Comes to Cooperstown Festival annually — “To be able to host them at my festival is an awesome turn of events,” Herlicka said — and Stone Brewing Co. from Escondido, Calif., because its head brewer is a former member of Brew Free or Die, a homebrewing club in New Hampshire.
Herlicka will pour his Belgian Style Pale Ale, Hop Session, Hooksett Ale, Crown of Gold, Hop to Wit, Aku (the creation of a recent apprentice graduate), Berliner Weisse and Oak Senex Torva Saison at the festival. Oak Senex Torva Saison is a wild oak aged saison, aged in a pinot noir barrel for 10 months. The beer is served off the barrel, uncarbonated. “It’s a fascinating chance to taste beer like that before it’s bottled and carbonated,” Herlicka said.
Herlicka opted not to use a food or drink ticket system for the festival, instead asking guests to pay only a general admission price. “While we don’t have drink tickets, like any festival we are making sure people are enjoying themselves responsibly,” he said, adding that his staff and the brewers have been trained to recognize whether someone has been over-served.
A limited number of designated driver tickets will be available for a reduced cost. Designated driver admission includes a commemorative tasting cup, water and food samples. A cigar tent, manned by the staff of Twins Smokeshop, will be set up at the festival so that guests may enjoy a stogie with their beer.
As Herlicka has always supported homebrewing, he invited Border Brew Supply in Salem to take part in this year’s event. The supply store will bring seven kegs of homemade soda (Herlicka said to expect ginger beer, birch beer and root beer) to the festival.
The BEERkery in Northfield will be serving yellow cupcakes topped with a caramel sauce made with White Birch Brewing’s Hooksett Ale; Burrito Me in Laconia and Plymouth will offer pork tacos made to order and filled with picante, beans and rice, and Firefly American Bistro & Bar in Manchester will dole out samples of its smoked beef chill with jalapeño cheddar corn bread muffins.
“Typically at a beer festival, designated drivers are just there to make sure their party gets home, there’s not really something for them there,” Herlicka said. “At our festival, designated drivers are welcome to enjoy the food … and I think with Border Brew Supply offering some fascinating homemade sodas as an alternative thing people can try, that will be fun.”