Beer tour helps Bostonians explore Portsmouth-area breweries

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The leaves were beginning to turn as the tour bus glided up Interstate 95 on a sunny fall Sunday heading to coastal New Hampshire. Excited passengers rummaged through their swag bags, trading pretzels for M&M’s before a day of touring breweries in and around Portsmouth.

For Allo Gilinsky, the trip marked his first as founder of Pints of Portsmouth Brew Tours. He plans to usher tour groups of craft beer lovers from the Boston area around the microbreweries that dot the city and region less than an hour’s drive north of Boston.

“It is a chance to see New England and escape Boston,” said Gilinsky, who also works full-time in guest services at enVision Hotel Boston. He first came up with the tour idea in January after visiting the Portsmouth area and noticing an absence of Boston-based services bringing people to breweries in the region. Gilinsky was a brewery tour guide in San Francisco before relocating to Boston about two years ago.

There are other brewery tour companies in New Hampshire, including Granite State Growler Tours, and similar businesses take local beer lovers to breweries in Maine, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

But Gilinksy’s service is focused on bringing enthusiasts from one city to sample the offerings of another and in that way delivering something different to patrons who may have already taken in the better-known Samuel Adams brewery in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood or the Harpoon beer works in South Boston.

In New Hampshire, Gilinsky plans on showcasing breweries that offer, “farm-to-glass drinking,” a concept similar to the “farm-to-table” culinary movement. For craft brewers, it means they use ingredients from local sources and in some cases, they make their beer right on the farm.

Tour group at Smuttynose Brewing Company (Beth Treffeisen)

Tour group at Smuttynose Brewing Company (Beth Treffeisen)

Microbreweries whose production is limited create one-of-a-kind beers. Because of those limitations, Gilinsky said, “they are constantly innovating and constantly changing, so if someone were to go on my tour twice, they wouldn’t be trying the same beer.”

The first stop on the debut tour brought the group of Gilinsky friends, family and co-workers to Smuttynose Brewing Co. in Hampton, New Hampshire. There, the visitors enjoyed roaming the beer garden, tasting American-fare at the company’s Hayseed restaurant and taking guided tours of the brewery. While checking out the tanks and bins, the visitors could try up to four brew varieties, including Frankenlager, an India-style pale lager and the Thelema, a golden Belgian ale.

Guests wear safety goggles as they tour through Smuttynose Brewery Company (Beth Treffeisen)

Guests wear safety goggles as they tour through Smuttynose Brewery Company (Beth Treffeisen)

Victoria McKillop, a Smuttynose tour guide, showed the Gilinsky group around, first handing out beers and then instructing everyone to put on safety glasses before entering the brewery. As she pointed around the vast room filled with stainless steel cylinders, visitors took in the scale of the works as they learned how the beer in their sample cups was made.

“The leftover grain is given to a local farmer,” McKillop said, explaining how the brewery tries to follow a sustainable approach. “Then that produce is here at our restaurant.”

After trying a few more beer samples and stopping for lunch, the tour continued at Beara Irish Brewing Co., a 10-minute drive away in Portsmouth. It is hidden away in a shopping mall next to a nail salon and a Papa Gino’s restaurant. Inside, a giant Cork, Ireland, flag hangs on a wall and co-owner Louise Potorti speaks with a thick Irish accent as she greets visitors with beer samples.

Potorti told the story behind one of the sample brews, called the “Survivor.” It is named after an Irish woman who survived the sinking of the Lusitania, a British ocean liner torpedoed by a German submarine during World War I. Her grandson, who lives in Cork, helped create the collaboration between Beara and the Rising Suns in Ireland to create the beer variety.

“The beer is probably our biggest seller,” Portorti said.

With some of the tour group feeling a little drowsy, filled with Irish-inspired ale, climbed back on the bus to drive a few minutes to the last stop on the day’s rounds: Throwback Brewery. Located in a renovated farmhouse with an outdoor patio (chicken coup included), the North Hampton brewer and bistro serves food and beer made from locally sourced ingredients.


The outdoor patio at Throwback Brewery (Beth Treffeisen)

Company President Nicole Carrier co-founded Throwback with Annette Lee. Carrier said she recently quit a corporate executive job with International Business Machines. Now, she is focusing on creating brews using techniques that have gone out style (hence the name Throwback) and updating a space that once held rams to house a restaurant and small-scale brewery.

“We love food a lot,” Carrier said as she carried a pitcher of jalapeño-flavored beer for visitors to sample. “We are going to get some pigs and go to town with it. I like to call us chefs with a whim.”

Nicole Carrier explains the microbrewery process to the tour group (Beth Treffeisen)

Nicole Carrier explains the microbrewery process to the tour group (Beth Treffeisen)

Together, Carrier and Lee concoct seasonal beers such as the Spicy Bohemian, a pilsner “dry-hopped” with fresh roasted New Hampshire-grown jalapeño peppers, the Rhubarb Wit, a tart, lemon-flavored Belgian white and Double Dippity, a brown ale made with grain smoked using local apple wood.

The day came to a close as the tired crowd piled back onto the tour bus, talking about their favorite brews – the Spicy Bohemian was a big hit – and for some, at least, looking forward to taking a nap on the drive back to Boston.

The next tour “Halloween Hangover” will be held Sunday, Nov. 1.

Contact Beth Treffeisen at [email protected] or @beth_treffeisen