As children we like to read stories and have stories read to us but it isn’t often, as adults, that we are told a story, without words, while drinking beer. However anyone who has been into Able Ebenezer in Merrimack, located on Columbia Circle, has heard not one, not two, but many wordless stories of the past and present.
This past Wednesday afternoon I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the co owners, co founders and a personal friend of my favorite craft brewery. With just thirty minutes on the clock until the bar opened we sat in the lounge area and discussed everything from how the A.E. brand came to fruition too what’s with the books on the shelf and lastly; what’s next.
Having been transplanted from California to New England, nearly twenty-seven years ago, if you were to ask me what event from New England’s past stands out the most, in their fight against British oppression, I would have said; The Boston Tea Party. This is however before I learned the story of Ebenezer Mudgett.
As my friend told me the first, of many, stories in the journey to making A.E. a reality and brand, he recounted the time he spent appeasing his inner “history nerd” by researching local history; which is how he came across the Pine Tree Riots of 1772. As history tells it, Mudgett chanced purchasing property in the town of Wear, started business dealings in Ale, Spirits and the logging of White Pines from his property. Enter the British and the Pine Tree Law granting them ownership of all Colonial White Pines, twelve-plus inches in diameter for ship building purposes. Needless to say, Mudgett, along with many others, rioted against the British claim to their property, refused to submit, went on the lamb, were eventually arrested and then set free by the local courts. Mudgett then joins the 1st NH Regiment under John Stark in the Revolutionary War, an act that attributes to the White Pine Tree being used as a symbol on flags of the revolution.
Paying homage to Mudgett and the White Pine, my friend and his partner Fri, both transplants to N.E., wanting more from their post military lives, purchased space in NH and opened A.E; a craft brewery and bar serving nine different beers. Having had its name, and “cool bar story”, derived from Mudgett’s, visitors and faithful patrons to A.E. can see where the White Pine comes into play; there’s the company logo designed by Fri, white pine tap handles made by local farmers, a hand crafted white pine bar top and the white pine slatted floor in the bar area. Though it should be noted that these aren’t the only stories A.E has to tell.
Each beer that comes out of the Ale Room has its own story of creation:
– A Smokey IPA, Burn the Ships; named after Alexander the Greats famed quote.
– Victory Nor Defeat; a double IPA inspired by Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in The Arena” speech of 1910.
– Auburn; the American Red Ale (my personal favorite), and homage to my friends hometown where it all started.
– Broad Arrow; an India Pale Ale named after the Kings symbol burned into the pine trees during the American Revolution.
– Kilgore; a coffee Porter developed in partnership with a local Coffee Roaster and created by one of A.E’s own employees with the name inspired by his favorite author Kurt Vonnegut.
– The summery Wheat Ale Emma Wood; backed with a serious sentimental value to Fri, who had his families help in naming it after the California beach where he shared the news of his upcoming move to N.E.
– The pumpkin encompassing Homecoming; a harvest Ale that pays homage to the New England tradition of using fermentables, other than grain, to make beer. A.E uses locally sourced sugar pumpkins.
– An apricot amber Ale, Tabula Rasa; named after the Latin phrase for “blank slate” coined by John Locke.
– La Mere Marianne; culinary Ale developed in partnership with BVI using locally sourced apples and pears, and named after a French culinary technique.
It would be remiss of me to not mention that each of A.E’s six-member team has a compelling story to tell. Highlighting individual passions for music, coaching lacrosse at Merrimack High School and road cycling. But that’s not all, if patrons wish to hold a tangible story in their hands, A.E offers a host of books on their “Library Wall” though not for sale, you can peruse while imbibing.
A random question to my friend, I asked if there was a method to the collection which he responded by saying that it “started with his and Fri’s own books taking on a life of it’s own”. It is worth noting that he believes you can tell a lot about their customer base by the titles on the shelves, which have been donated. My Friend further assured me, that while the bookshelf is a “thing” that just works, it holds mostly appropriate titles, joking that one of Fri’s books; 50 Shades of Grey, is among the collection. Clearly, whether your out on the town for a casual drink, celebrating or looking to have some face time with the local “Renaissance Man”, you cant go wrong with A.E.
When asked what’s next for A.E, my friend mentioned that they plan to stay in the existing location adding new brewing equipment, which arrives in the next couple of weeks, being the expansion plan for the next two years. New equipment will double their capacity on the production side, allowing them to remain deliberate and take on new opportunities as they come. This addition will also allow the running of the canning line two to three times a week versus per month, with the possibility of later adding a third beer to the current 16oz offerings. My friend believes that the current, simple, small and lean business approach is where they are supposed to be right now, “in the sweet spot, killing it in Southern New England”.