After six years of brewing and selling craft beer in southern New Hampshire, one of the two co-founders of Litherman’s Limited Brewery in Concord has decided to quit the business.
Michael Hauptly-Pierce left the company last September, following about two and a half years of soul searching. When he decided he wanted out, he sold his half of the company to his former partner Stephen “Doc” Bradbury.
Hauptly-Pierce said he got into the business in 2015 because he loved craft beer and fell in love with the scene as a homebrewer and a host of one of the first craft beer podcasts in the state, The Tap Handle Show, which ran from 2014 to 2019. Already a known media personality, Hauptly-Pierce was often the face of the company.
But ultimately, Hauptly-Pierce said he came to be unhappy.
“I just don’t know that I was cut out to run a business,” he said.
There were times when he would have wanted to focus on building relationships with clients and looking for creative ways to add value, but his day-to-day responsibilities, which included taking orders and delivering product, took up most of his time.
“I was just so caught up in the minutiae that I spent all my time working in the business. I never got to work on the business,” Hauptly-Pierce said.
He said he began to realize he wasn’t happy a few years ago when he couldn’t relax while on vacation with his wife’s family on a midwestern lake that had no cell service. And with the help of some “prodding” loved ones, he faced what he was feeling.
When they started the business, Hauptly-Pierce was still working his full-time job selling wholesale granite countertops, and he said Bradbury was still in his pharmaceutical sales job.
“At the beginning, we both wore all the hats,” he said.
As the business grew, they were able to focus on the brewery full time and a division of labor developed. In the aftermath of his departure, Hauptly-Pierce is still navigating his relationship with Bradbury.
In an email responding to an interview request, Bradbury offered the following.
“My former partner, Michael, asked to (be) bought out of the business last summer and we were able to accomplish this for him,” Bradbury said in the email. He did not respond to subsequent messages.
Still, Hauptly-Pierce said he’s proud of the work he put into the business and wants to see it succeed.
“It’s like I built a racecar and sold it for less than the price of the parts,” Hauptly-Pierce said. “But I still want to see it win.”
Much of Hauptly-Pierce’s fingerprints can still be found on the company. Its name was originally inspired by an Old English word-a-day calendar that described a “lithermon’s-load” as “a greater load that can be easily carried at one time.” Lither means lazy, and when a lazy man carries too much groceries in one trip, for example, they ironically make more work for themselves, Hauptly-Pierce explains.
He unwittingly remembered the spelling of Lithermon’s-load differently, which has had the happy effect of making the company brand internationally Googlable.
Litherman’s current head brewer, Sharon “Dropkick” Curley earned the title of 2021 Brewer of the Year by the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association. Hauptly-Pierce said he got Curley the job and christened her Dropkick after a fateful playlist mishap left the Dropkick Murphys on a day-long loop.
Around 2007 or 2008, Hauptly-Pierce said he and Bradbury started a hip-hop band called Litherman’s Load. When they started the brewery business, the name carried over. And so did the musical influences.
The various beer labels are a play on popular song names or lyrics and the taproom decor in front of its Hall Street industrial space is music-themed as well.
Hauptly-Pierce playfully dubbed his Manchester home the Southern Litherlounge on Facebook, from where he hosts the occasional live stream of his current band Jam Tomorrow with guitarist and drummer Mark Vadnais.
A lack of music in his life for many years was another cause of unhappiness, Hauptly-Pierce said. Before the brewery launched, he was in a band from 2009 called Chemical Distance.
He reconnected with Vadnais (an acquaintance through his previous job) in 2020 during the lockdowns. They’ve since written 15 original songs and Jam Tomorrow has begun booking live shows.
Coming up, they will be performing at Strange Brew in Manchester on Thursday nights from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Jan. 27, March 24, April 28 and May 26. They’ll also be at the To Share Brewing Company in Manchester on Saturday, Feb. 5 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
In November, Hauptly-Pierce got a new job selling water treatment products to commercial clients for SecondWind Water Systems in Manchester. Some of those clients might be breweries, he said, but the products are also in demand at schools and some small housing developments.
He also said you can expect to see more from his semi-regular Sips column in New Hampshire Magazine, as well as a new experiential restaurant column.
In the past six years, Litherman’s has seen rapid growth. What started as a 1,500-square-foot space and a three-barrel system that sold approximately 100 barrels of beer in the first year grew to a 6,000-square-foot facility, a 15-barrel system and sales of up to 1,300 barrels a year, according to Hauptly-Pierce.
But he cautions anyone interested in starting a brewery because they like brewing beer. It’s not always as glamorous as people think, he said; it involves a lot of cleaning and heavy lifting and the occasional chemical burns. And brewing itself inevitably gets delegated to others.
“Even if you’re a sole proprietor, you’re only going to be spending five to 10 percent of the time brewing beer,” Hauptly-Pierce said. “Inevitably, if you open a brewery because you want to brew beer, you’re going to be disappointed.”
If you want to give commercial brewing a shot, he recommends offering to volunteer at a local brewhouse. But he said it’s not the same as hanging with buddies, smoking cigars and making 5-gallon beers in the driveway.