A magical journey to Northwoods Brewing Company

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BREWERY SCENE

by Jeff Rogers


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brewery scene logoI would not expect a brewery visit to conjure up a scene from The Wizard of Oz, but this one did. Great beer, great pizza, and (in an unexpected surprise), amazingly delicious crullers. (I’ve been advised by my legal team not to call them “doughnuts.”) So by the time we got home this lyric was running through my head: “Crullers and pizza and beer! Oh my!” With apologies to Dorothy. But we all know the lion would have happily joined in.

So where was this mystical place? Northwood, New Hampshire, of course, home of Northwoods Brewing Company, about 40 minutes driving from downtown Manchester. And, in keeping with the dream in my head (just like Dorothy), their building could easily be an updated version of Dorothy’s barn in Kansas, with its red paint, white trim, and cupolas on top. Luckily, I had no run-in with a witch of any kind. Though it might be fair to refer to some of their brewers as wizards – they do work magic! I met their newest brewer (and tasted one of his recipes – Stormtrooper Imperial Pilsner) and with his long red beard he could easily fit the part.


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The Space

Northwoods Brewing is on the north side of NH Turnpike in Northwood, right across the road from the Northwood Diner, not far from Northwood Lake, a bit east of the Heritage True Value store and a bit west of the Post Office. Old-timers will recognize this as the long-time home of Johnson’s Seafood & Steak, there since the 1940s. Johnson’s is still there; Northwoods Brewing is in the newer big red building right next to it.

Northwoods Brewing is a fairly young institution, opened in late 2018, so a bit over 5 years in business. They squeezed in about a year of normal operation pre-pandemic, then had to scramble and adapt like everyone else. Today, things certainly felt back to normal — though, as a first-time visitor, how would I know?

Visiting in early February, there were no tables outside, but from various photos I’ve seen, it looks like in warmer weather they have outdoor seating larger than their indoor space. The indoor space was comfortable and welcoming. Like many such places, the taproom has large glass windows that display the bright shiny tanks of the brewing space.


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Music inside the taproom was at a fairly low volume. At no point did it even threaten to interfere with conversation. But it was also easy to hear enough of a song to identify it. That is, assuming you know the song well enough to recognize it.

While we were there the music was much newer than at many of the other breweries we’ve visited. Nonetheless, it was a great mix, never unwelcoming nor alienating despite being more youthful than much of what I hear. During our entire visit we heard only one song recorded before 2000: Sabotage by The Beastie Boys. Other music ranged from 2002 Red Hot Chili Peppers to 2023 Hozier. Also sprinkled in were songs by Glass Animals, Cage the Elephant, Black Keys, Linkin Park. I walked out with some bands to hear more of.

The Food

There is of course a full menu next door at Johnson’s. But we visited only the taproom so that’s all I can talk about here. The taproom offers many great pizzas, nachos, wings, and pretzels.


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White pizza

We had two pizzas (’cause you can’t try just one). And holy crap, they’re good-sized, not delicate dainty little things, so we brought plenty home with us (leftovers are always good). They do offer pizzas with half one topping and half another – in the future we might go that way. I got a veggie pizza (baby spinach, twice baked potato, green pepper, red onion, mushroom, kalamatas, red sauce, mozzarella, provolone) while my wife got a white pizza (black garlic, roasted garlic, olive oil, ricotta, mozzarella, provolone, swiss, garlic butter crust). Both were delicious, I will happily have another slice or two today. Having baked potato on a veggie pizza was a new experience for me, and while it was fine, I can’t say it added much.


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Veggie pizza

We were advised by other patrons that the nacho servings are enormous.

Now, the crullers were a delightful surprise and were amazingly delicious! Clever pricing convinced us that we needed a half-dozen, and they made it all the way home before we tore into them. Of course, we got six different ones. When ordering I selected Maple Glazed and was then asked (providing even more happy surprise), “with bacon?” Naturally I said yes. And that’s the first one I tried back at home. Absolutely mouth-wateringly delicious. And while I personally would not have chosen Mint-Oreo (one of my wife’s picks), I did have a taste and it was pretty darned good. I would drive back to this place just for the crullers.


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Visible here: Red Velvet, Chocolate, Honey. Off right edge were Salted Caramel.

The Beers


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When we visited they had 15 beers on tap (they often have more): 

    7 IPAs, 1 stout, 1 porter, 3 lagers,
    1 pilsner, 1 dopplebock, 1 barleywine

Plus 1 seltzer on tap. And they had still more beers in refrigerated cans to go, plus some in bottles.


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They sell flights and full pours, plus cans & bottles to go, but no growlers. Not all of their beers get canned or bottled; for those, you’ll have to visit their taproom (or Johnson’s next door).

At the bar they have pencils and cards for ordering flights of four small pours, so we ordered two flights, coordinating so as not to duplicate. 


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Flight 1

  • Stormtrooper Imperial Pilsner – 8.5% ABV
  • The Great AK Dopplebock – 8.4% ABV
  • 5th Anniversary Smallbier – 4.5% ABV
  • Coffee Porter – 4.7% ABV

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Flight 2

  • It’s a Cruller-ful Life Imperial Pastry Stout – 8% ABV
  • I Appreciate It American Light Lager – 5.2% ABV
  • Black Napkins Black IPA – 6.66% ABV
  • Clear Sky: Pheonix Hard Seltzer – 6.3% ABV

After our flights we shared one full pour of

  • Czechmate Czech-style Dark Lager – 4.8% ABV

Our notes follow:

  • Stormtrooper Imperial Pilsner – 8.5% ABV

Made with 100% NH malts. Strong malt profile with a touch of herbal and minty hop aroma. An extremely good pilsner, with overall much more flavor than a typical pilsner. (Imagine your favorite pilsner, turned up to eleven.)

  • The Great AK Dopplebock – 8.4% ABV

The description says gingerbread is added, and it is definitely noticeable both on the nose and on the palate. But both are mild sensations, not too much, just right. This was my favorite of all the beers we tasted.

  • 5th Anniversary Smallbier – 4.5% ABV

A good light IPA. Very clear with a bit of citrus.

  • Coffee Porter – 4.7% ABV

A very good coffee porter, with an extremely strong coffee flavor. I can easily imagine pairing this with one of their delicious crullers. Breakfast!

  • It’s a Cruller-ful Life Imperial Pastry Stout – 8% ABV

Good, with a definite sweetness. For a while I liked this one best, but my ranking changed through the afternoon.

  • I Appreciate It American Light Lager – 5.2% ABV

Amazing light clear lager.

  • Black Napkins Black IPA – 6.66% ABV

Very good, in ways hard to articulate. This was my wife’s favorite.

  • Clear Sky: Pheonix Hard Seltzer – 6.3% ABV

Great seltzer with very subtle flavors.

  • Czechmate Czech-style dark lager – 4.8% ABV

Extremely flavorful lager, with a nice bit of roasted flavor, maybe even nutty.


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The pastry case.

Just the Facts

Northwoods Brewing Company is located at:

1334 1st NH Turnpike
Northwood, NH 03261

Phone number: 603-942-6400

Hours:

Sun-Thu — 8 am – 8 pm
Fri-Sat — 8 am – 9 pm

Email: info@northwoodsbrewingcompany.com
    (for private events: events@northwoodsbrewingcompany.com)

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About this Author

Jeff Rogers

Jeff Rogers is a native Hoosier who’s lived in the Granite State for 30+ years. He’s worked on airborne radar systems and written a lot of software. Today he lives in Manchester where he seeks to answer the age-old question: saison, lager, ale or stout?