Author’s Note: The Sheraton Hotel Portsmouth sponsored me to check out their hotel. The opinions expressed in this article are my own, but I was provided with a stay at the hotel in exchange for my commentary.
Seeking a taste of the local
One of my favorite things to do when visiting a new city is to try and explore the craft beer scene. With more than 2,500 breweries operating in the U.S., it is very likely that there are a few local breweries around any hotel in which I’ve stayed that could be on tap. But, more often than not, they aren’t. I’m usually greeted by a friendly server, and I ask him or her about what local beer they have available at the hotel’s bar or restaurant. And I get this answer: “For microbrews we have Samuel Adams and Shock Top.” From that answer, I know I can’t even ask him or her to recommend beer in the local area to try and seek out on my own, so I order a Sam Adams – a beer brewed a few hours away from where I live in Maine – while I’m visiting somewhere hundreds of miles away.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. There has been a recent increase in the acceptance of craft beer as a viable asset to a community – something that brings jobs, tourism and spending dollars to a city. It’s becoming clearer each year that this trend is here to stay, and that the dollars that people curious about local beer bring with them to spend are worth nurturing. I was asked to check out the Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside Hotel in Portsmouth, NH because of their beer-friendly reputation – and I was glad to oblige.
When I checked in, the people behind the desk were genuine, nice and happy! I say that in surprise not because of my expectations for this hotel, but that I had recently stayed in a different hotel in Portland for my wedding last month and was greeted by bleary-eyed people who clearly didn’t want to be there. The person that took my information here made sure I knew where everything was – it was so refreshing not having to ask any questions but to just have everything all laid out for me.
When I got up to the floor (which was the “Club” level of the hotel and has it’s own lounge) and found my room, I was happy to see a huge window that looked out over Portsmouth.
What also immediately impressed me was that in the literature left in the hotel, there were several key indicators that their craft beer reputation was deserved. When I peeked at the room service list, I noticed that in addition to a selection of wine and cocktails that all of the beer on the list was local and craft beer!
Secondly, the “Things To Do” listing in the hotel materials listed 10 things in the local area – including science museums and shopping – but two of the items on the list were the breweries
that were within walking distance of the hotel: Earth Eagle Brewings and The Portsmouth Brewing Company. I have to say I was surprised that beer made up a full 20% of a list of local attractions, but I’m also hoping to see that grow even more as new breweries join the fold in New Hampshire.
The Hotel Beer Master
First of all, let me tell you that this is the first hotel at which I’ve stayed that has not just a wine person, but a beer person. And the “Beer Master” – Brian Aldrich – recently wrote a book about New Hampshire beer, so his familiarity with both the beers that he was pouring for us and the questions I had about the local beer scene were fantastic.
The hotel hosts beer tastings of regional craft breweries and was hosting one at 4pm – I came downstairs to find Brian setup in the foyer of the lobby – not out of sight of guests – chatting about beer and books with several people with samples in their hand.
The featured brewery was Throwback Brewing – a woman-owned nanobrewery in Hampton, NH. Three beers were being poured – having been picked up only a few hours beforehand.
The fresh beer that was being offered to sample included the Love Me Long Time Pilsener – a cloudy but slightly sweet lighter brew that worked well on the sunny day. Second up was the Maple Kissed Wheat Porter which had a subtle maple note to what is a solid dark wheat beer. Last (and my favorite and my mom’s too) was the Spicy Bohemian – a once a year release of a beer brewed with jalapeños. Depending on the year the peppers can add just a hint of flavor and heat, or overwhelm you with their fire. This year seemed to land in the sweet spot – both imparting some fun spicy flavors and stopping short of taking over your mouth.
The Beer Master did a great job pouring up the samples and answering questions – both about the beers being tasted and the other breweries in the state. I heard him give dinner recommendations to several guests and tell people about brewery hours so that they could try even more of the local beer flavor.
At Brian’s recommendation, we stopped by Earth Eagle Brewing after the tasting and before heading to dinner. The brewery is literally steps away from the hotel, and had their doors open wide to greet visitors and locals alike.
We then headed out to WHYM (a beer-focused restaurant just outside of Portsmouth on Rt. 1) and treated ourselves to truffle fries (so good!). When we came back to our room, we found that a few local beers had been left there on ice as a nice gesture from the Beer Master himself.
Before I retreated into the softness of the huge hotel bed, I reflected on my day. I think that what I loved most about the experience of the weekend was that everyone I talked to had a recommendation – go here, check this out, sample this! And every single one was welcome. It’s that type of interpersonal connections that can help to grow the craft beer industry – whether you live in a place or are only there for a week, a night, or a day.
When a hotel invests time, energy and funds into creating an atmosphere like this, it can only help to grow the craft brewing economy in the local area. I have to give the Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside Hotel major credit for fully embracing the idea – and for creating a welcoming atmosphere in which it can thrive.
If only I could be so lucky every time I traveled.
- Sheraton Harborside Hotel, Portsmouth NH - http://www.sheratonportsmouth.com/
- Brian Aldrich – Seacoast Beverage Lab – http://www.seacoastbeveragelab.com