When people discuss this column with me, recommendations always enter the mix. Which is great, many minds together are better than mine alone. I’m always happy to hear suggestions. That’s how I discovered Vulgar Brewing. I was totally unaware of them until one day I was chatting with Aaron Share, owner of Manchester’s own To Share Brewing, and he suggested that Vulgar Brewing would be very much worth a visit and a review. And, after a totally unwarranted delay, I’m delighted to say he was unassailably correct.
Vulgar Brewing is a bit further afield than most places I’ve ventured to for this column, but not prohibitively so. It’s in beautiful downtown Franklin, not far from where the Merrimack River is formed from the confluence of the Pemigewasset and the Winnipesaukee rivers. About a half-mile north from that point lies Vulgar Brewing, set a few blocks inland from the river.
According to my phone (AKA the source of all knowledge) it’s a 48-minute drive from Manchester. And that proved about right. I took the interstate most of the way, but on my next visit (and there WILL be one) I might relax and take some back roads — after I left the interstate the scenery became much more interesting.
My phone steered me through a few towns before finally reaching Franklin. In Northwood I passed a place called BOONEDOXZ PUB. Intriguing, I thought, but maybe for another day. Then I passed Park Street Pub & Tavern. Boy, a lot of pubs up there. Patience, patience. Then a left turn on NH 132 — right would’ve taken me to the Tilt’n Diner and nearby shopping outlets, a possible good destination for other members of your party, should you travel there with companions. After a bit more driving, on my left was a really impressive elevated train trestle. So many sights that invited further investigation, but I was after beer! So on I drove. Just a bit further, and there was Vulgar Brewing on my right. I circled the block, found parking on the street nearby, then walked in. There also appeared to be plenty of parking in a lot behind Vulgar’s building.
(I later discovered that the train trestle is part of Franklin’s Mill City Part at Franklin Falls, where they are doing significant revitalization focused on whitewater kayaking.)
Coffee preceded my drive, and beer was yet to come, so a visit to the facilities was in order. Inside on the wall in a place of prominence was a poster showing multiple variations on the saying “Love thy neighbor.” This made for a very pleasant and welcoming start to my visit.
Finding a seat at the bar was easy — this was a weekday afternoon and only two other patrons were present. Behind the bar is a brick wall painted black, except for a very large image of their mascot, which is a purple finch (the state bird of NH) wearing a fedora like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.
The bartender Shelly (also one of the owners) wore a T-shirt that said, “Nandor Laszlo Nadja & Colin not you Guillermo.” So of course I had to ask. She enthusiastically explained that it was a reference to the TV show “What We Do in the Shadows,” wherein the first four named characters often do things together and explicitly exclude Guillermo, who is not a full-fledged vampire like the others. OK, one more show to add to my list.
Opposite the bar are two glass-paned vertically-sliding garage-style doors that can be opened on nice days, with outdoor seating on the other side. During my visit it was a bit steamy outside, so they kept the doors closed.
They had plenty of food options, and several creative ones.
As soon as I saw that they had a Thai pizza, the curious lobe of my brain started to tingle and I knew I would be ordering that. I asked a server if she knew who was responsible for such a wild combo (well, wild-seeming to me … Italian + Thai), but she wasn’t sure, saying that it was essentially lost in the mists of time, going back to someone working in the kitchen when they first opened. But it proved popular and so remained on the menu. That’s good enough for me — some blessings should be appreciated, without needing to obsessively examine their every detail.
Another pizza was named Demogorgonzola, which conjured recollections of late-night games of Dungeons & Dragons.
Shelly also revealed to me that later in the summer they’ll be adding another pizza to their menu, called The Royale With Cheese. As you might guess, this one is essentially a giant cheeseburger in the form of a pizza, complete with shredded lettuce on top. I may have to return for that. She says it’s always a big hit when they have it. I forgot to ask whether it would be accompanied by music from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.
A short while later my Thai pizza arrived and it was delicious, and a couple days later the leftovers were still delicious.
After ordering the pizza it was time for a flight of three 4-ounce pours to try their different beers. I had:
- Ground Balloon
- Hail Saison
…then later followed those with:
- Missed Opportunity
- Black Shuck
Of them all, Horse-Bird-Muffin was far and away my favorite. While their menu called it a stout, to me it tasted more like a lager. But maybe my eyes were getting in the way, because it was golden in color, not dark like many stouts. Just my luck to like that one best, because their supply was getting low so they had no cans to take home, it was available on-premises only. Oh well, c’est la vie vulgaire in Franklin.
Black Shuck came to the rescue. It is an ACTUAL German lager, but dark in color (seriously, what are they trying to pull here with the color swap?) with a very tasty flavor. Thankfully, they did have four-packs to go. Whew!
Hail Saison was also very good, a bit lighter in mouth feel than the two above, with a bit of noticeable clove flavor.
Also quite good was Missed Opportunity, a really clean lager.
Ground Balloon, while billed as a sour, was to my palate one of the mildest sours I’ve ever had, conjuring up only the vaguest recollection of a pucker. However, it had plenty of fruit flavor. Quite good overall.
On September 16th Vulgar Brewing will be hosting Lagerfest from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., which will feature beers from several brewers and will focus on lagers made using local ingredients.
According to Vulgar’s website, each year they “allocate a budget to support our community through contributions. We strive to help as many organizations as we are able to and prioritize those that directly benefit Franklin, support our company ethos, and organizations with a 501(c)(3) status.” I personally applaud that kind of community focus and find it very much worth supporting.
To echo Aaron Share, Vulgar Brewing is very much worth a visit, and I heartily recommend it.