No one was injured when an electrical panel caught fire at their brewing facility in Derry, but their schedule did get delayed a bit.
But let me back up some…
Woodstacker Beer Company held a grand opening at their tap room on Elm Street way back on July 21. Silly me, I let life and other commitments get in the way, so I didn’t make it. Luckily Carol Robidoux visited them and produced a nice article.
Later, after carefully extracting myself from my foolish overcommitment, I finally made it to Woodstacker’s taproom downtown, a mere two weeks plus one day after their grand opening. About time! After a busy day it was nice to walk into a relaxing and intimate space.
I went in at about 4 p.m. on Saturday, and there were maybe a half-dozen patrons there already. As soon as I entered I was greeted warmly by the owner Mike Fusco who was behind the bar.
Mike has a day job with the ACS, a chemistry society. At a site visit with a client he watched as an AI-based supercomputer designed a brand-new series of molecules. When they sold for billions he realized the computers were coming and he might need a backup plan.
Mike had already done some home brewing. After some work changes during the pandemic, dreams of his own brewery began dancing in his head. At one point he landed on the idea of selling his beer at farmers’ markets. Then he looked into insurance. It turns out that selling alcohol at a farmer’s market would involve outrageous costs for insurance. So, he crossed out that idea.
Next he looked for retail space close to his home in Derry. Discouraged after many unfruitful discussions with local landlords, he took a break and came to Manchester for dinner. While walking down Elm Street, he noticed some available space. He subsequently reached out to the landlord, after which the stars aligned rapidly like the Millennium Falcon dropping out of hyperspace.
Suddenly Mike had a location. Some unsolicited comments were negative about downtown Manchester. (It seems our poor city has a bad rep in some quarters. Say it ain’t so!) But Mike lived in Boston for 15 years, and during that time he traveled to large cities around the globe, so he can handle a little bit of urbanity. So far his experience with his location, and the city overall, has been overwhelmingly positive. He especially appreciates how Manchester feels like a town in many ways, yet is actually a big city. He describes that as a rare quality to find.
To help make his retail taproom space less sterile, he thought art on the walls would be a huge help. So he found several local artists to supply art to hang (all for sale, except for what’s behind the bar, plus one specific piece by his favorite artist — if you ask he’ll happily point it out). Art on display is expected to periodically rotate. Oh, and four pieces have already sold, so don’t dawdle!
Looking at the walls, I was happily surprised to see familiar photographs of European graffiti by Claudia Rippee. So this is where they’ve landed after Republic and Campo Enoteca! It was nice to see them again, like old friends. (Although they did make me pine for a Moroccan old-fashioned.)
While gazing at Claudia’s photographs, I inadvertently invaded the space of a couple sitting under one of them. We struck up a conversation, and I learned that they are transplants to Manchester from Keene, having moved here just before the pandemic hit. So after having lived here secluded for a couple of years, now they are enjoying being able to venture out and explore the city and what it has to offer. Both Woodstacker and To Share are high up on their list of discoveries.
Following the tap room’s grand opening, Mike was reviewing numbers and was amazed to discover that his sales had far outstripped anything he’d expected. In fact, he realized was going to run out of beer soon unless he increased his production. (As he was relating this, I sensed the happy vitality of someone thoroughly engaged in creative problem-solving.) So, how to step up production?
For one thing, he would need some new fermenters. Luckily, Spyglass Brewing in Nashua had some for sale (after they, also chasing greater production, bought some larger ones from Night Shift brewing in Everett, MA).
But could he afford the additional investment? Mike scraped together every last personal penny he had to make the acquisition happen. And then –BOOM– the electrical panel caught fire. Luckily the fire was not huge and was discovered quickly.
But every setback can be viewed as temporary. It can even be used as some bonus time in which to plan for the future. That seems to be Mike’s attitude. After telling me about the fire, he quickly rattled off the next four beers he plans to have available (one will be a NEIPA). So it was apparent this this would become just one more small bump in the road.
During my first visit, Mike had four beers available, of which I tried two. During my second visit in late August, following the fire, nothing new was available, so I tried a third which I’d missed the first time around. Descriptions follow…
Thaws Well That Ends Well — a white ale brewed with subtle and delicious spices. Mike keeps a sample of the spices behind the bar and happily waves them under your nose to let you catch the aroma. Many folks compare this one to Allagash White, which I think is an apt comparison. However, I think I would give “Thaws” the edge. Maybe it’s the local ingredients & smaller-scale production; who can say? But I did bring home a four-pack.
English Premier Beer — a brown ale, dark but neither heavy nor bitter. Close your eyes and you would not suspect you were drinking a dark beer. Very flavorful. I brought home a four-pack of this one too.
Bears and Beers — extremely flavorful pale ale. Not an IPA! Hops are mild in this one. Hazy and golden in color. I had this during my second visit and it was delicious. I left with two four-packs.
Mike also has a seasonal harvest beer called Stack Session brewed solely with New Hampshire ingredients. Grain from Morrill farm and hops from Hell Hollow Hops combine with Mike’s pristine and unaltered artesian well water to create a purely NH beer experience. He’s not sure, but he thinks he may be one of the only, if not the only, brewery doing this with regularity at harvest.
Woodstacker Beer Company’s taproom is many things. It is, of course, a place to stop in and have a few pints or grab some craft beer to-go. It’s also an art gallery, a retail apparel store for local clothing brands, a market for local artists and crafters, a congregation space for community and private events, and a business committed to local ingredients from local farmers that highlight our region of the world.
Woodstacker Beer Company’s taproom is located at…
850 Elm Street
Manchester, NH, 03101
Thu: 4 – 8 p.m.
Fri-Sat: noon – 7 p.m.