Craft Beer Cellar Opens Portsmouth Franchise

Friday, January 10, 2014

Beer geeks have a new playground.

The Craft Beer Cellar at 767 Islington St. , Portsmouth, NH, opened its doors to customers for the first time on Thursday. It is the seventh store in the chain, and the first to open in New Hampshire.

At a glance CRAFT BEER CELLAR Franchise owner: Mike Lynch Address: 767 Islington St., Portsmouth Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday to Saturday; noon to 6 p.m., Sunday Customers entering the store across from Plaza 800 are immediately greeted with shelves of craft beer brewed in New Hampshire, a selection that includes Whipple's Wheat from the Henniker Brewing Co., the IPAs, pale ales and amber ale of the 603 Brewery in Londonderry, and the popular brews of Smuttynose Brewing Co. made famous in Portsmouth.

"We sell beer the way we like to buy beer," company spokesman Lee Movic explained of the floor layout, which features all the beers arranged geographically. "We have a huge commitment to local stuff." But beyond the local craft beers are brews from across the country and around world. Beers from Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois and the West Coast as well as imports from Germany, England, Scotland, Brazil and elsewhere can all be found filling the store shelves.

Eighty-nine craft breweries have products in the store, totaling 298 different craft beers so far. The options range from some of the more famous craft beers such as Sierra Nevada, Dogfish Head and Rogue Ales, to more unusual selections such as the Fascist Pig Ale from Finch's Beer Co. in Chicago and maple wines from the Sap House Meadery in Center Ossipee.

The store also features a small grocery section with meats, cheeses, mustards and crackers.

Mike Lynch, owner of the local franchise, said it was easy to see the market for a craft beer specialty store in downtown Portsmouth.

"They're a thirsty town. They'd really appreciate craft beer," he said.

Lynch said he first learned of the Craft Beer Cellar as a customer, and when he found out founders Suzanne Schalow and Kate Baker were seeking franchisees, he knew he had to get involved.

"As a consumer, I love it," he said.

Schalow and Baker were on hand for the opening day, which saw many curious beer connoisseurs poke their heads inside and peruse the wares.

Schalow said she and Baker have a background in the restaurant business, but their real passion is beer.

"It was just happenstance (that we started the Craft Beer Cellar). We just wanted to take a break from the restaurant," she said. "We didn't know if there were enough beer geeks (to make it work)." Now they know. Their first Craft Beer Cellar, opened in Belmont, Mass., about three years ago, now sells 1,200 types of beer. Schalow said she wouldn't be surprised if the Portsmouth location doubles its offerings by the summer.

Among those who stopped into the new store on Thursday was J.T. Thompson of Smuttynose. Thompson was excited to see the store opening the same week as the launch of Brew N.H., a new cooperative marketing effort to raise awareness of the state's flourishing craft beer industry.

"To have this happening the same week is great synchronicity," he said. "The theme for this week is the more the merrier. Hooray beer!"

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