It’s a brewery, it’s a farm, it’s a restaurant .. it’s Throwback Brewery! Yep, you read that right. I had the pleasure of interviewing Annette Lee and Nicole Carrier, the co-founders and owners of Throwback Brewery. Here’s what they had to say about their business.
“I’m Annette Lee.”
“My name is Nicole Carrier.”
“Who are we? We own Throwback Brewery. We are a sustainably minded brewery, restaurant, and farm.”
“We blame Annette.” That was the response of Nicole, when asked to tell the story of how Throwback was started. “You can blame me,” says Annette, laughing. Nicole and Annette started out homebrewing and they fell in love with it. Brewing is very different from both of their previous careers – Annette an environmental engineer and Nicole an executive at IBM. But in 2010, when Annette was looking for a career change, they decided to launch a brewery. The original brewery was operated on a three-barrel system in an old warehouse where the entire menu consisted of beer nuts and charcuterie boards. It wasn’t until 2015 that they moved locations to where they are now and opened the restaurant. “In 2012 this farm, Hobbs Farm, became available and we were in a spot where we needed to expand anyhow, so we decided to really expand and add a restaurant and a farm to the brewery”, recalls Annette.
Hobbs Farm is a historical 12-acre farm located in North Hampton, NH that was established in the 1860’s. Annette and Nicole renovated the old barn into the brewhouse and restaurant, and have kept the farm operational since relocating Throwback there. The farm and restaurant are both integral parts of the business, as important as the brewery itself. Nicole puts it nicely: “We see our business as three legs of a stool: there’s the brewery, there’s the restaurant, and there’s the farm aspect. And we think that the magic of what we do is really when all three work together. It’s like 1+1+1 = 10.” It is clear, upon visiting the property, that those three aspects work harmoniously together to create an enchanting experience for anyone who visits.
It’s not very often that when you go out to eat you get to witness a real life farm in action. But at Throwback Brewery, you do. “I think it’s just important for people to see active farms, and a lot of people, unless they go out of their way, don’t get to see that. So I think for people to come to a restaurant and see an active farm, that’s important”, states Annette. Connecting people to their food (and their beer) and where it comes from is just one of the missions of Throwback. Nicole says, “I think some of the things we do here are to just show and educate consumers about what you can grow in New England. Like hops for example, we don’t have a huge hop yard but people constantly are surprised that you can grow hops in New Hampshire.” You can truly taste the love in each of the dishes served. The nearby grown produce in the summer, the stocks and sauces all made from scratch, the pork that’s raised onsite – many hours of labor and love go into each plate and you can tell when you’re eating the food.
“We think food tastes better when you use local stuff and there’s nothing more local than having the farmer walk the food from the actual farm into the kitchen.” Nicole Carrier
While they can’t grow everything for the brewery and restaurant, that doesn’t mean their ingredients aren’t local. Annette estimates that about 60% of the food served from the restaurant is locally produced, year-round. The head chef, Carrie, utilizes the Three Rivers Alliance to easily source ingredients from many different farms in the area. Throwback Brewery stands out amongst the sea of craft breweries that is the Portsmouth area by being the only brewery focused on using 100% local grains in their beers. All of their beers are made with malt from Valley Malt in Holyoke, MA. Hops are a little more difficult to source locally, but there are still special small-batch beers that they brew with hops from their own farm.
As sister companies, Throwback Brewery and Hobbs Farm are centered around sustainability. The farm utilizes regenerative and organic practices including the use of cover crops, crop rotation, no-till practices and incorporating the farm animals to reduce the use of fossil fuels. The pigs that are raised for meat for the restaurant are fed the kitchen scraps and the spent grain from the brewing process, eliminating food waste and lessening the need to ship in animal feed. Not that there is much food waste in the Throwback Brewery kitchen. “Our kitchen is from scratch, everything utilized. So if we’re roasting local chickens, we pick them and then Carrie uses the bones to make stock. Or with the pigs, when we get the pigs back from the processor, we use everything, we even make head cheese so nothing goes to waste”, says Nicole.
On the farm, they use a microirrigation system to water the crops, a system which delivers water slowly and directly to the plants’ roots, minimizing water waste and using 20-50% less than a traditional overhead sprinkler irrigation system. The brewery is also focused on limiting water waste, saving the water that is used to cool down the beer for the next day’s brewing process. It is clear that Throwback is invested in being sustainable. They have a 40 kW solar array, which gives about 35-40% of the total energy needed to run the brewery, restaurant, and farm. That’s pretty impressive, especially considering how much equipment needs to be run to brew beer.
There are many other aspects that make Throwback stand out as a leader in sustainability amongst businesses, including installing a climate battery to heat and cool their greenhouse and having LED lighting, just to name a couple more.
Annette and Nicole care deeply about their community, and it shines through in the way their business is operated. Throwback is a place to get good beer and food, but also a place to gather.
“I think that’s one of the best parts of owning this space and this place is that every day is about community building. All the people that come here and bring their families and their kids, and to me that’s community. It’s doing the yoga and the cribbage and the book club and having people that have never met before, become friends, expanding their network, and just having a good time and conversation over a good beer.” Nicole Carrier
They host regular events like trivia, open mic nights, cribbage tournaments, and a book club, that give people a space to meet and an opportunity to get to know their community better. There are also bigger events such as cornhole tournament benefits, a 5K in October to raise money for Seacoast Eat Local (that’s us!), and the HoliGay Makers’ Market (which if you haven’t checked out yet, you should!).
Not only does Throwback provide a space for community, but it also acts as a role model for the current and future generations. It is not common to come across a women-owned and run brewery, but Throwback shows us that they exist and they are thriving. The owners talk about the excitement amongst customers, especially amongst fellow women, when they realize that the brewery is women-owned. Brewing, farming, and owning a restaurant are three traditionally male-dominated fields, but here they are, two women, doing all three. Annette tells us, “We’ve had fathers come in, thanking us because their daughters see us doing this kind of work and it inspires them to take on more male dominated fields.”
When you look around the farm, brewery, and restaurant at Throwback, you’ll notice that a large majority of the staff are female. Nicole says that she’s been jokingly accused of not hiring men, but she tells us that the majority of employees who are drawn to Throwback are women. “I think that a lot of women think it’s cool to work for a women-owned business where almost all the departments are managed by women and so that’s who applies to work here”, states Nicole.
It is clear that Throwback Brewery is unique. Incorporating a farm, restaurant and brewery together to create one rare and exceptional business that feeds the community and provides a space for people to gather and be inspired, all while brewing dang good beer.
You can support Throwback Brewery by:
Drinking and dining at their brewery and restaurant, located at 7 Hobbs Rd, North Hampton, NH 03862
Purchasing Throwback Brewery merchandise (such as t-shirts, hats, pint glasses and more!)
Attending an event at the brewery or sponsored by them