Photo by Adam Barker
Combine the Mount Washington Valley’s half-dozen ski areas with its three breweries, and you end up with an après scene that is robustly local. Nothing tastes so good at the end of a day of skiing as a finely crafted beer, and there are plenty of brews to choose from in these mountains. What to drink when you’re skiing the Valley? Here’s a primer.
Named for a small range—Middle, North, and South Moat Mountain—this North Conway brewery crafts its beer in the basement of the MOAT Mountain Smokehouse and in the company’s nearby Brew Barn & Cannery. Opened in 2000 by chef-turned-beer-brewer—and Mount Washington Valley native—Steve Johnson, who considers his a “true-to-style brewery,” MOAT Mountain is a favorite après hangout and great food joint for both visiting skiers and locals. The latter includes two-time Olympic ski racer Leanne Smith, who’s been coming into the Smokehouse since she was a kid. Now, she has a beer named after her: a Belgian ale dubbed the Gate Crusher. “The beer kind of crushes you, because it’s over nine percent alcohol,” says Johnson in explaining the name. “Last time we brewed it, I saw Leanne go out with three growlers of it to go ice fishing.” The Smokehouse is open starting at 11:30 a.m., serving up made-from-scratch food into the wee hours, along with about a dozen beers on tap—both MOAT Mountain brews and selections from other regional brewers.
Named for the East’s most famous ski destination, Mount Washington’s Tuckerman Ravine, this Conway-based brewery has been producing its regional favorite Tuckerman Pale Ale since 1998. In the years since, the brewery has added a handful of gold standard offerings, along with seasonal brews. Skiers will want to try the kolsch style TRale, named for Bode Miller’s Turtle Ridge Foundation (the brewery donates a portion of proceeds from TRale sales to TRF) and the Headwall Alt, a traditional German brown ale. Visit the tasting room, open daily from noon to 6 p.m., to try out special brews on tap, like the Fall Line 2016 Harvest, made with freshly harvested cascade hops from Maine. Beyond the taproom (where you can also pick up a keg or fill a growler), you’ll find Tuckerman brews on tap at almost every eating and drinking establishment in the Valley.
Joining the Mount Washington Valley beer scene in 2015, Sea Dog Brewing is affiliated with the well-established Maine-based Shipyard Brewing and has locations from Maine to Florida. While many of Sea Dog’s brews are nautically-inspired, Wildcat Amber and Railway Red are crafted with Mount Washington Valley beer drinkers in mind. Skiers also go for Sea Dog’s darker beers, the ones with a bit more bite: Old East IPA, Hazelnut Porter, and Sea Dog Stout. Ski area pubs throughout the Valley pour Sea Dog brews, as do many of the restaurants. But really, there’s no reason to go anywhere other than Sea Dog’s post-and-beam Red Barn in the center of North Conway, where there’s a fire blazing away in the fireplace, more than a dozen beers on tap, and a full dining menu to refuel after a day on the hill.