The Smuttynose Brewery Company sold out of its newly released UNH-themed beer, “1866,” the week after its initial release on March 13. According to Smuttynose Brewery Communications Specialist Doug Horner, the process of brewing and canning the beer took about two weeks before distribution and delivery to locations all throughout the seacoast. Smuttynose crafted the beer to celebrate UNH’s 150th anniversary.
“[One hundred fifty] years of anything is worth celebrating, but to be an educational cornerstone of our state is something truly special,” Horner said. “Having the chance to help celebrate such a landmark milestone with such a landmark organization is a real honor for everyone here at Smuttynose, including our numerous UNH alumni.”
Horner noted that brewer Hannah Johnson, a 2013 graduate of UNH, helps to brew the beer.
“The beer style, an American Best Bitter, is a real rarity in the American beer scene,” Horner said. “When getting this project off the ground, everyone here at Smuttynose knew that UNH deserved a beer that stands out as much as 150 years of history does.”
According to Horner, the flavor of the 1866 is created by the precise use of some British malts to bring a soft bready and toasty component to the flavor. He said that the hops chosen were a blend of American hops to give some of the citrusy and fruity notes that are trademarks of American hops. Hints of spice and floral were also added to give a traditional English hops sensation.
“There is also a very interesting correlation to UNH as this style was certainly being brewed and consumed in 1866,” Horner said. “I think the 1866 is a great vehicle to bring back a beer style that have been around since UNH was founded.”
The flavor of 1866 uses a slight American twist on the Traditional British Best Bitter style. Horner said that Best Bitter is a drinkable style yet balanced between malt and hops with a lower alcohol percentage. He said that today, the Best Bitter style is not very common in the U.S., especially with the current focus on very hoppy and higher ABV (alcohol by volume) beers.
“I think  is unique because there are very few beers of this style being produced in America,” Horner said. “It also fits our heritage in New England that harkens back to the U.K., yet we like to make it our own way. Truly in the Yankee (not the NYC baseball team) spirit.”
According to Horner, his interpretation for the UNH beer is that the malt needs to be slightly sweet and have some bread crust notes. He said that the malt of the 1866 is made with enough hop flavor and bitterness to slightly pull the needle to the hop side. Smuttynose finished the 1866 with some light fruity esters from the fermentation, complimented by a mix of citrus and spicy hop aromas.
“If you get the mix just right, the drinkability is very high,” Horner said. “This is necessary for a beer to be truly session-able, or as I like to say a ‘social lubricant.’”
Horner said that UNH wanted a beer that would appeal to a broad and diverse audience, yet be unique like the UNH community at the same time.
“That is a tough set of criteria given that the beer drinker of today is much different than the beer drinker of five, 10, 20 and certainly 30 years ago,” Horner said.