Retired Henniker businessman now a beermaker
HENNIKER - David Currier could have kicked back and relaxed after retiring from his successful medical supply company, but with an empty building on his hands and an urge to try something new, Currier founded the Henniker Brewing Co.
Henniker has been Currier's home since he came to town in 1968 to attend New England College. For 10 years after graduating, he ran the Pat's Peak Ski Area, but in 1978 the fledgling entrepreneur started a small emergency medical supply company that became Bound Tree Medical.
Over three decades, Currier grew Bound Tree to become a familiar name among emergency services professionals, but in 2002, Currier retired.
For more than a decade, the company continued to run out of Currier's building on Centervale Road, but in 2011, Bound Tree's new owners decided to take the business out of state, leaving Currier with an empty space.
Currier said he immediately began looking for a new way to use the building, and he decided to try making beer.
"I looked at the various industries around the state to figure out what I wanted to do, and I noticed that there were no production breweries between Portsmouth and Keene," he said.
Not wanting to leave Southern New Hampshire without a brewery to call its own, Currier created Henniker Brewing Co., and in January delivered the first bottles and kegs of Amber Apparition and Hop Slinger to bars, restaurants and stores throughout the region.
Amber Apparition, an amber ale, and Hop Slinger, an India pale ale, are the company's two flagship beers designed to put it on the map with beer drinkers. Currier said he's hoping to introduce a third beer at some point this year with the help of his head brewer, Chris Shea. Once those beers are established, the goal is to produce four seasonal varieties annually to mix things up a bit, Currier said.
"We'll also make some specialty beers here and there," he said. "Our goal is to become an 8,000-barrel-a-year facility."
JT Thompson of the New Hampshire Craft Brewers Association believes Currier's goal is right in line with what the state's seven other production brewers are producing. Production breweries are those that create beer for retail sales).
At the top of the spectrum are Smuttynose and Red Hook, which are both making more than 10,000 barrels a year, while Tuckerman, Throwback, Woodstock, White Birch and Mountain make less beer. To put those numbers in perspective, the Boston Beer Co., maker of Sam Adams, is the top craft brewery in the United States and produces 2 million barrels annually.
But producing nearly 250,000 gallons of beer a year is going to require better equipment and more than four employees to handle the labor-intensive bottling process.
"Bottling is an all-hands-on-deck process," said Currier, who generally gets stuck rinsing the bottles. "We hope to upgrade the bottling line soon."
For Shea, who just started at the Henniker Brewing Co. this week, the key in the immediate future is ensuring that the quality of the beer remains consistent so customers get what they're looking for.
"It's an extremely scientific process, and you have to follow the formula precisely," said Shea, who got his start making beer when his brother bought him a home-brew kit.
And much of what he does as a head brewer lacks the romantic ideal many folks have of beer-makers.
"People think we're cool artists and stuff, but mostly we're just janitors," Shea said.
But making a good beer people like is the end goal, and he said the Henniker Brewing Co. is doing just that.
The brewery is open to the public from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon to 2 p.m. Saturday. Amber Apparition and Hop Slinger can be found in restaurants and retail outlets across the region, and Currier said the beers will enter statewide distribution starting next week.
For more information, visit www.hennikerbrewing.com.