Hops in Hooksett
New specialty beer shop, not for beer geeks only
By Linda A. Thompson-Odum firstname.lastname@example.org
Bert Bingel and Ron Parker have been friends since their days at Franklin High School. More than 35 years later, their friendship reached a new level when the pair opened Bert’s Better Beers in Hooksett. Now they introduce customers to the enjoyment of craft beers, many from this region.
This new venture was a couple of years in the works. Parker worked at a local family-owned manufacturing company for a number of years, and Bingel spent the past 25 years as a network administrator. They would get together to talk about their families, play their guitars and drink beer.
Parker left his company and the two started to come up with business ideas they could do together.
“We came up with some crazy stuff. Everything from a hot dog stand to a guitar store,” Bingel said.
Then Bingel was laid off from his job last year and they began to get serious about starting a business. And the one area they both were well-educated in was beer. Bingel is a home brewer, a member of the Brew Free or Die brew club and a certified beer judge.
“I’m the taster,” Parker said. “He would bring over his latest creation to see what I thought.”
As Bingel put it, “Beer is something we know. So we thought, ‘How about a beer store?’ We looked at all the studies and trends in the marketplace and found it could work.”
Bert’s Better Beers is a specialty shop. Bingel and Parker don’t carry the mass-market brands. Their specialty is craft beers, a number of which are produced in New Hampshire and the New England region. And every beer has a shelf-tag that tells about the beer — its color, hoppiness and flavor profile, what glass to use, and food pairing suggestions.
“We try to carry everything allowed in the state of New Hampshire,” Bingle said. “Here the beers are treated like you would wines in a fine wine shop.” Then he added, “I’ll put the flavor profile of some of these beers up against a bottle of fine wine anytime. That’s how much the desire for fine beers has grown. Some of these beers have been around for hundreds of years.”
Customers are allowed to create their own six-packs, either from the chilled bottles in the cooler cases or from the shelves around the store. The cost varies depending on what is selected — usually somewhere between $9 and $24. For customers who are in a hurry or unable to decide, there are custom six-packs ready to grab and go, complete with tasting notes about each beer.
Bingel and Parker also make game-day six-packs that change with the sports season. When the Boston Red Sox played the Los Angeles Angels in the playoffs, the six-packs contained beers from both New England and California, along with a bag of salted cashews, a bottle opener and coasters. “We like to have a little fun and mix it up a bit. As other events come along, we’ll make other themed packs,” Bingel said.
The shop has a special section of seasonal beers, plus organic and gluten-free selections. And there’s lots of beer paraphernalia, and occasional scheduled tastings. Also available are meads and hard ciders, including New Hampshire’s Piscassic Winery meads and Farnum Hill ciders. One cooler has specialty sodas and New Hampshire farmstead cheeses.
“We’re very much about local and want to carry as much local product as possible,” Bingel said.
Bingel noted that the shop’s customers range from the hard-core beer geeks to people who just want to try something different. They also get a lot of people shopping for gifts. Parker described their customers as “human, alive and thirsty. We’re non-judgmental. We won’t criticize them for what they drink or have been drinking. If they want to expand their palate, we can help.”