Brand Spotlight: Smuttynose

When most people think about the early days of the craft beer movement, they think about the Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest, which is perfectly understandable given that most of the early breweries were based out west. But it’s important that we don’t forget the East Coast craft beer forefathers, like Peter Egelston, founder of New Hampshire’s Smuttynose Brewing Company.

The story of Smuttynose begins at a kitchen table in Brooklyn in 1987. Egelston was a high school teacher in New York City at the time and was hosting his sister and her boyfriend while they were in the city. His sister and her boyfriend traveled quite a bit as a part of their jobs and were regaling Egelston with tales of the wonderful new type of restaurant that was popping up all around San Francisco at the time: the brewpub. After a few homebrews and a couple hours of discussion, the trio decided that they should open a brewpub of their own on the East Coast. Later that year, they opened the Northampton Brewpub in western Massachusetts.

After four successful years, Egelston decided to open another brewpub, this one across the border in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In 1991, the Portsmouth Brewery opened in Downtown Portsmouth and became the state’s first brew pub.  Two years later, with the new brewpub proving to be another success for Egelston, it would be an act of sheer curiosity that took him from local restaurateur to craft beer legend.

In December of 1993, Egelston attended the bankruptcy auction of a local brewery, curious to see what it took to brew beer on a large scale. While he certainly didn’t go to the auction with the intention of buying anything, he wound up buying enough of the assets to form his own brewery. The next year, that’s exactly what he did.

First order of business was picking a name. Egelston wanted to choose a name that honored the New Hampshire coastline that he called home but also had a unique quality to it. He found the perfect name in a small island near the Maine border known as Smuttynose Island. An uninhabited island, Smuttynose was once an important outpost for the cod fishing industry that used to be a main driver of the New Hampshire economy. It was also a favored hideout of pirates and smugglers making it the perfect match for a craft brewery that prides itself on its roguish personality.

While the early equipment wasn’t exactly state of the art (their first brew kettle had a gas fire ring that had to be lit with a match that was taped to a broom handle), their focus on quality beer with character led to consistently great beer that has continued to this day.


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