MANCHESTER, NH – As so many other big dreams began, Michael Fusco manifested his brewery during the time of COVID.
“I had been traveling for work but that all stopped because of COVID, and so I was home and noticed that there were all these trees that were growing too close to my house and I started dropping trees and chopping wood and stacking it,” Fusco recalls.
And as neighborhoods in small towns like Derry go, there was a woman whose daily routine was to walk her pomeranian past Fusco’s place, and weigh in.
That is pivotal to the story.
In his best impression of the neighborly retired dog-walking housewife with a heavy New England accent, Fusco says, “What a good wood-stackah you ahhh,” to complete the short story of how he was inspired to start a brewery called Woodstacker Beer Co.
“I never got to tell her that she was the inspiration for the name, but I hope she hears about it,” says Fusco who, on July 15, welcomed family and friends for a soft opening of the intimate retail space where he will serve up his brews.
The grand opening is set for July 21 at Woodstacker’s Elm Street retail shop, 850 Elm St., where you can sit down Thursday through Saturday, noon to 7 p.m., and try a couple of beers and purchase your favorites to enjoy at home. He does all the brewing offsite at his beer shed in Derry.
Although he is limited when it comes to space, thanks to the spirit of collaboration, Woodstacker’s downtown next-door neighbor, Diz’s Cafe, has created a special Woodstacker “Stack Snacks” menu so those who come in for a beer can order via QR code for delivery, or just walk next door to grab something to eat while they enjoy a cold brew.
Fusco also is partnering with local artists who will take over the wall space with a rotating eclectic mix of pieces for sale. His logo was locally sourced and printed directly on the cans so that the cans are 100 percent recyclable as well.
It’s his personal commitment to keeping things local and sustainable, which extends from the ingredients he sources for his beer (New Hampshire-grown hops from Hell Hollow Hops and New England-grown grains to the actual bar (hewn by a guy who saws and mills his wood).
He considers it a generational return to things that aren’t automated, electronic or digital.
“I’m sick of Amazon and that whole ‘instant gratification’ idea. My hope is that people will start buying stuff off the wall and spend their money on things made right here rather than in China,” says Fusco.
A sporadic home brewer for the past dozen years or so, Fusco finally decided to invest in better equipment during COVID, after it occurred to him that having a Plan B is always a good idea because, turns out, life is unpredictable.
For his opening, Fusco is featuring three of his signature brews – a pair of pale ales, Stack Sessions and Bears and Beers, and a white ale, Thaws Well That Ends Well, with more on the way.
“Ninety-eight percent of everything I use in the brewing process is from here,” Fusco says, noting that his white ale features spices from India. But even at that, they are sole-sourced from a clean, organic regenerative family-operated farm.
The other thing he’s enamored of is Manchester and its vibe.
“The second we moved in it was clear we picked the right place. My neighbors are a bookstore and a restaurant, both with really nice and helpful people. I felt like I hit the lottery. And when I met Judi [Window, of Diz’s] I said ‘I’ve just met the real mayor of Manchester – she’s the type of person who’s so connected to everyone, and she’s really been good to us.”
Having worked in the restaurant industry himself for 16 years, he totally gets that the struggle is real – and collaborating with Diz’s to provide the eats for his guests allows him to focus on brewing the beer.
When there was a glitch in their air conditioning matrix last Friday – the day before the soft opening, Fusco reached out to Liz Hitchcock, his landlord, who had someone come out to evaluate on the spot. They set them up with a temporary fix.
“That just doesn’t happen in most cases, so I feel lucky to find this spot,” Fusco says. He came to check it out when it was a pop-up called Campery during last holiday season.
“It had no plumbing and I figured it might make a good art gallery or retail space, but once we thought about it, we realized it was exactly what we were looking for, so we put in some plumbing,” Fusco says. “I really wanted to be part of this community. It looks a lot like Boston and Brighton to me, and I believe it will take off. I can feel it.”
Find Woodstacker Beer Co. on Instagram @woodstacker_beer_co
And find some more photos below.