Highlights from the Network: An Interview with Nicole Carrier of Throwback Brewery

Jessica Newnan

Monday, February 1, 2016

Author: Melissa Groves


Throwback Brewery is a locally owned and operated brewery, pub—and now, farmlocated in North Hampton, NH. Founded in 2010 by Annette Lee and Nicole Carrier, Throwback is commited to the idea of a local food system. Their goal is to source not only all of the ingredients for their beers, but also for all of the food served in their restaurant, from within 200 miles of the brewery. They estimate that they are about 70% to 90% of the way to reaching their goal, and they have recently made even more headway by acquiring their own farm. Jessica Newnan, the NH Food Alliance Project Fellow, recently spoke with Nicole to find out more about their inspirational business model. 

Evolution of a Company

True to its name, Throwback started off as a small brewing company with a clear goal: source all ingredients as locally as possible and share the resulting small batches of high-quality, artisanal beers with the surrounding community. As Lee and Carrier discovered, though, sourcing local ingredients for beer can be difficult in New England, because, although hops are native to the region, they are no longer commonly grown here. With a little effort, they were able to find local grains from Maine Malt House in Maine and Valley Malt in Massachusetts. Other ingredients for their beer recipes come from local farms, including New Roots Farm in Newmarket, NH, which supplies the jalapeños for their Spicy Bohemian beer.

Throwback started brewing beer in 2010, and their first sales came in 2011. Back then, Annette and Nicole had no plans to expand into the restaurant business. But, NH law states that if you want to pour pints of beer for your patrons to drink, you also have to serve food. Luckily, Throwback was soon presented with the opportunity to expand. "We were a year into business. We were in this little space, and this beautiful farm property opened up right across the street," says Nicole. It took some time and a lot of work, but this past July, Throwback was able to move to the historic Hobbs Farm property on Lafayette Road. If you've happened to drive by in the last year or so, you couldn't help but notice all of the activity going on there, as they underwent construction to renovate the buildings and the land.

Now, Throwback is a true brew-pub, with "a great chef who is inspired by the same mission and philosophy." Now patrons can enjoy delicious local food alongside one of Throwback's unique brews in their large, yet cozy tasting room. The restaurant, which is open Wednesdays through Sundays, serves appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, cheese plates, desserts, and more. On a recent visit during Sunday brunch, the menu featured several crepe specials. The space is family-friendly, and the menu even features a section just for kids. Most menu items include a suggestion for which beer pairs best. Sourcing local ingredients for their seasonal menu has proven quite a bit easier than sourcing for their beers. Distribution services such as the Three River Farmers Alliance make consistent access to local foods possible for Throwback.

Sustainability in the Details

In addition to their vision to source 100% of their ingredients from within a 200-mile radius, Throwback Brewery is committed to sustainability in many other ways. One major accomplishment for Throwback was the legalization of beer sales at farmers markets. As part of their market development plan, Throwback sponsored a bill that would allow beer sales at farmers' markets. The law passed, and Throwback was able to expand their sales to include markets such as Portsmouth and Exeter in the summer and Exeter and Rollinsford in the winter.

The everyday operations of Throwback are designed with sustainability in mind, as well. The brewing of beer leaves the company with spent grains and saturated brewing materials. These spent materials are anything but waste, however. The grains are used in baking bread and cookies for the pub, and grains that can't be used in cooking are sent to local farms for use as livestock feed. Ingredients used for flavoring the beer, such as the jalapeños from the Spicy Bohemian and the cocoa nibs from the Fat Alberta, are incorporated into the menu, as well. The jalapeños go into a hot pepper jelly, while the cocoa nibs flavor breads and desserts. This use of the materials often considered wastes and byproducts of the beer brewing process closes the nutrient cycle of beer brewing. Creating this closed system is an impressive feat, and one that is important to Throwback. Nicole wants to eventually take it even further: "I really want to have pigs here...one of my passions is making sausage." Having pigs at the brewery would allow the cycle to start with the grains from local farms, which would be used for brewing beer, after which they would be fed to the pigs, which would then be used for making sausage for the pub. Any organic wastes not used for cooking or fed to livestock are composted.

Greatness in the Making

Throwback is busily expanding into the farming business on top of its brewery and pub. Visitors enjoying their food and beverages in Throwback's beer garden have a view of the farm's chickens. Throwback has recently hired a farmer, who, along with Annette and Nicole, is currently working on their summer crop plan. The farm already has several thousand feet of raspberries and blueberries; a small orchard of apples, pears, and peaches; rhubarbs; and a hops garden. The cultivation of the farm will provide ingredients for brewing the beer and supply the pub with homegrown produce. "We have a whole list of things that we want to grow for the kitchen." While the farm will not be able to meet the demands of both the brewery and the pub, it will significantly supplement the local produce they are already buying. "It will be a mixture of what we grow and what the seacoast growers can provide."

In addition to their new ventures in farming, Throwback has some other exciting new releases in the works. They will soon launch a line of canned beers, providing a more easily recycled container for their beverages compared with their current growlers, which must be brought back for refilling. In the upcoming months, Throwback fans can look forward to purchasing these cans of beer, as well as jars of the brewery's famous beer mustard.  Throwback is also planning to bring more than just beer to the farmers' markets. This summer, customers will be able to find their produce, beer mustard, and more, for sale at their stalls at the Portsmouth and Exeter markets.

Throwback Brewery is an incredible model of a viable food business focused on utilizing local ingredients. Between their market development work and their land resource utilization, they are well on their way to instituting viability on a wider scale. Their future work reflects this path, leading them to include consumer education about local eating and sourcing, particularly as it relates to beer. They have high hopes for businesses such as theirs. Nicole believes that "having like businesses be more cooperative and less competitive" is the key to increasing the viability of local food systems. The idea of collaboration between businesses when it comes to sourcing materials and resources is a powerful concept, and one that is shared by many in the food system. 

To learn more about Throwback Brewery or to plan a visit, please check out their website.