Hops in Hooksett
New brewery tastes like Belgium
By Linda A. Thompson-Odum firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Herlicka is a self-professed beer geek. A home brewer for 15 years, he recently started White Birch Brewing to sell his creations to the public.
“I started making beer with a god-awful kit I got at the 1994 Boston Beer Festival,” Herlicka said. “The beer wasn’t good, but I got hooked on the idea.”
Herlicka became enamored with Belgium-style beers — Dubbels, Tripels and strong dark ales. He then moved to Russian Imperial Stouts, English barleywines and wild ales. His friends and family were the benefactors of his creations. When he tired of his healthcare career, where he’d spent the past 12 years developing wellness programs for various companies, his wife suggested he try commercial brewing instead.
White Birch Brewing is in a small commercial space in a Hooksett industrial park. Some of the beers age in large glass containers, while others develop inside barrels that came from a Kentucky distillery. Herlicka popped the top off each barrel and checked the aroma before he decided on what beer to age inside. All the beers are unfiltered and bottle-conditioned — they continue to develop flavor and carbonation inside the bottles.
“Many brewers talk about beer development in terms of weeks, and then it’s out the door,” Herlicka said. “Our barrel-aged beers can go from a month to a year. We’re all about the passion for the beer and the variety of flavors. This is not a ‘punch a hole in the bottom of the can and see how fast we can drink it’ type of beer.”
The types of beer available vary with production. The styles can include these:
Belgian Style Pale — a straw-colored beer with a richness that belies its light color. It has flavors of spice, lemon and hops. The finish is crisp and dry. Herlicka suggests pairing this beer with spicy foods, grilled steaks, grilled chicken and mandarin salad.
Dubbel — a reddish-brown ale with an off-white head and flavors of ripe fruit and dark malt, with a dry finish. The alcohol level is between 6.3 and 6.7 percent, “but the finish is so soft you wouldn’t know it was that high,” Herlicka said.
Tripel — has a slightly hazy golden color with earthy and light citric hop notes, light spicy flavors, soft lightly sweet malts and a crisp dry finish. Can be cellared for up to two years.
Oak-aged Tripel — traditional Tripel aged with oak chips that were conditioned with rye whiskey. The result is a beer with a balance of light malts, vanilla, oak, rye and cracked pepper flavors and a light, crisp finish.
Saison — brewed in the summer, because Saison yeast loves to ferment at higher temperatures. The beer is a slightly hazy golden orange beer with spicy pepper notes and a crisp dry finish.
Winter Warmer — an ale that will be available around the holidays.
English Barleywine — aged in bourbon barrels.
Scotch Wee Heavy — aged in bourbon barrels.
Herlicka suggested the beers be served between 55 and 60 degrees in a tulip- or chalice-styled glass to enhance their aromas and flavors.
As of now, White Birch beers can be found at Bert’s Better Brews in Hooksett, Jaspers Homebrew and Winemaking Supply Store in Nashua, and Johnson’s Markeplace in New Durham, with more stores to be added in the future.