MANCHESTER, NH – My wife and I first ventured to Candia Road Brewing Company (or CRBC) in April to hear a friend DJ there. We immediately looked at each other with the same question: why haven’t we been here before? It appears to have had a prior life as a private residence and has all the charm you might expect from a house converted to a brewery, right down to creaking floors. But the creakiness definitely stops at the floors. CRBC has a lively taproom, comfortable space indoors and out, generally a dozen beers on tap, and a delicious vegan-friendly menu.
I next visited on a Wednesday around 6:30 p.m. and the bar was packed, every stool full plus people standing. Luckily plenty of tables were open so I took one. Outside, the three tables on the busy and noisy Candia Road were empty, but the six quieter tables around back were mostly occupied.
After I arrived, the bar gradually emptied (was it me? you never know) and several folks hugged goodbye, adding to the warm comfortable vibe.
Occasionally they have live music or DJs, sometimes inside, sometimes outside. Our friend Pete had spun reggae vinyl inside. Local band Girlspit had played out back the previous Sunday, and while I was there the band’s guitarist Aleesha was enjoying a beer with friends.
In general, the patrons were of all ages, 20s to 50s, plus a few retirees, and a few young families with baby carriers in their hands.
A couple of French-speaking Canadian families ventured in. While one family had been vacationing in Vermont, their daughter had been vacationing with the other family in Boston. They had literally picked CRBC at random on a map as a convenient place to rendezvous and get daughters sorted. Once seated and with beers ordered, they seemed pretty happy.
Bartender Matt regaled me with some history during my second visit. Then as I was leaving, I passed the rear double doors which were open to ventilate the brewing space. Head brewer Mike was there doing some cleaning (a never-ending task at breweries). I stopped and he was happy to chat as he cleaned.
The building has been a family-run brewery for a dozen years. Mike’s brother Tom used to be head brewer, and at that time their focus was on producing Nepenthe Ales (I can testify that those were delicious). Eventually, Mike’s brother moved on and Mike took over. Then they expanded the variety of their beers, rebranded as CRBC, and four years ago opened their taproom.
And they are nothing if not idiosyncratic — show me another brewery with a Van de Graaf generator sitting in the taproom window!
Food is not often a strength for breweries, but CRBC has a vibrant, eclectic, and delicious menu. Ian the chef is himself vegan, so many menu items’ descriptions will include “Want it vegan? Just say so!” He is happy to oblige. I had the nori dog (a hot dog with nori, wasabi mayo, hoisin sauce, sesame seeds, and panko flakes) and it was delicious. My wife had a falafel burger and loved it. I also heartily recommend the “Dog the Bahn Mi Hunter,” for a dog with a spicy kick.
CRBC doesn’t do flights, so I still haven’t tried all their beers — I guess more research is warranted. Darn! On my first visit I had Sidewalk Chalk, a very good fruited sour. (I later discovered that they use different fruits on every brewing. Mine was dark berries and was terrific; currently it is lemon and key lime.)
On my second visit I had a Subtle Banana, their wheat ale. Great for summer. I followed that up with a Spruce Goose. Bartender Ryan told me it is brewed with local fresh spruce tips hand-gathered by the staff on day trips. These impart a delicious flavor, subtle but distinctive.
On a third visit I had a Willzifico, their take on a Mexican-style brew, again very good for a hot day. I also tried just a taste of one of their newest beers, modestly titled “IPA beer.” This one includes some wheat along with Styrian Wolf, Topaz, and HBC-472 hops, producing subtle notes of vanilla and coconut. Flavor-wise, I think it was my favorite, though I’ll have to venture back for a full pour to confirm. Again, oh darn!
Some CRBC beers and their Van de Graaf generator.
CRBC also doesn’t do growlers. So to take something home, cans are your only option (or go big and get a keg). Typically most, but not all, of their beers will be available in cans, in a cooler just inside the front door.
Candia Road Brewing Company (CRBC) is located at 840 Candia Road, Manchester NH 03109.
They are open: Wednesday – Saturday 12-9 p.m., Sunday 12-6 p.m.