BrewReview: Smuttlabs Brewery and Kitchen
Updated: Jul 10, 2020
By: Steve Solito
Smuttlabs – Dover, NH
BeerSeekers on the Job: Steve, Tim and Nick
Smuttynose Brewing Co. is likely the most well-known craft brewery in New Hampshire, distributing its beer well beyond the borders of the state and the New England region.
Opening in 1994, Smuttynose has had plenty of time to perfect its craft (pun intended), but it wasn’t until very recently that craft beer enthusiasts like ourselves could see where all the magic happens.
Doing its best Breaking Bad impression, Smuttynose introduced its first-ever “experimental arm” to the main brewery in November of 2019 with Smuttlabs Brewery and Kitchen.
But this isn’t just a way to test out beer recipes. Some of the brewery’s experimental beers find their way into experimental appetizers and meals!
We indulged to say the least. Let’s dig in!
Dover has a great vibe. It’s one of those old mill towns that has repurposed its industrial roots into a young, up-and-coming community. Old mill towns turned modern have a certain charm to them, and Smuttlabs set up shop in the most historic factory building in town - Cocheco Mills - fitting the brewery perfectly into the local scene.
Having opened less than a year ago, Smuttlabs’ inside has a brand-new, beautifully restored industrial setting. Thick wooden beams, pipes snaking their way around the ceiling, and two-foot-thick brick walls; all, we were told, were original pieces of the structure.
Here in the age of social distancing, the taproom has a very long bar, as well as a large enough seating area to fit plenty of parties, even if at a distance. The dimly lit taproom has a great view of the kettles where the ideas of the Smuttlab “scientists” come to life.
Speaking of which, let’s get to the beer!
The Beer (and the Food!)
Being a libation laboratory, you are bound to find some very unique brews on the menu. You MUST go to Smuttlabs with an open mind and ready to branch out. They have a great variety of experimental beers that you just aren’t going to be able to try anywhere you go.
Ingredients such as ghost pepper and maple syrup highlight the menu, but if you aren’t feeling adventurous, they’ve got you covered with a couple IPAs and a German Helles that should do the trick.
Before we get to my picks, I have to discuss the food. This isn’t just your standard bar food.
The team at Smuttlabs, led by chef Anthony Ricco, made us some high-quality apps and dinners. But there are some twists to the food menu too, adding beers to the food recipes. I’m no foodie, so I will just name a few things we ordered:
Pretzel bites with House Bier honey mustard
Cast iron nachos
O.G. chicken wings (try their ghost pepper and blueberry “Boo Berry” Sauce)
Pulled pork sandwich
Chicken and waffles
Okay, time for beer picks!
Bikini Bottom (Gose) 3.7% ABV
Before you judge me for picking the bikini beer at 3.7% ABV, let me explain...
Gose is admittedly a new style of beer to me. It actually has an interesting history if you feel so inclined to look it up. I wanted to give it a shot to continue understanding what Goses are all about, but I was warned that this one didn’t actually come out the way they expected. All the more intriguing!
Typically a Gose comes in somewhere between 4-5%, so that part wasn’t far off. I wasn’t overly concerned with that anyway just trying a sample.
The interesting part about this one was it essentially came out a sour. I’m not a sour guy, but interestingly enough, the sour hits you early in the sip, really on the front of your tongue rather than squeezing your face on the way down. The pineapple aromas and flavors were there as planned, though, and I’d have happily taken down a couple.
Cheers to experimentation!
Griddle Cakes (Lactose Pale Ale) 6.5% ABV
We were told the goal for this one was blueberry pancakes. Makes sense considering it’s brewed with maple syrup and blueberry puree. This experiment went accordingly!
My worry with any beer that lists fruit ingredients and flavors is that it has the potential for those elements to overshadow the beer itself, which did not happen with this one.
The first flavors I noticed were the syrup and the fact that it does taste just like a pancake. A hint of blueberry mixed in next and the finish was soft and smooth with enough hoppiness to keep it a beer. Give Griddle Cakes a shot.
Backswing IPA 5.3% ABV
The Backswing IPA brings the IPA taste you are craving while also delivering a refreshing summer beer. The low ABV compared to most IPAs makes this a crushable beer for any summer occasion, whether that’s at the beach, a barbecue, on a golf course (appropriate, we know) or out on the deck after work. We’re all about the experiences here at BeerSighted!
Some IPAs can be a little bitter for some beer drinkers, but Backswing is on the easier side while still hitting the IPA spot. Sounds like a recipe for success.
Being able to try this beer at Smuttlabs was a great opportunity. All three of us were impressed and, if we had to guess, you’ll find this one in the big leagues at Smuttynose one day.
That’s right, chicken wings.
Don’t get Nick wrong, he thoroughly enjoyed the beer. The food just had to be highlighted! These chicken wings had that crispy skin to them that really locked in the juiciness of the meat.
Head chef Anthony Ricco supplied us with all the fixings too. The wide variety of sauces make the wings suitable for any wing lover.
Two of the sauces in particular stood out:
Truffalo Sauce: You guessed it, a truffle and buffalo mix.
The delicious Boo Berry Sauce: As mentioned, the ghost pepper and blueberry sauce combo sounds crazy, but it truly struck a great balance!
The experimental nature of Smuttlabs was enough intrigue to make it worth a trip. With that said, it’s a brewery that any beer drinker will enjoy. Its purpose is to create a little something for everyone.
If you are feeling a little crazy, you can drink a beer with ghost pepper in it (I was not feeling that crazy), or you can crush lager.
I personally loved the fact we were trying beers that were recently just ideas created to see how people would take to them, with the potential of seeing them at Smuttynose one day. With the added bonus of a delicious food menu, it was well worth the trip.
Special thanks to Anthony, Tyson and Colleen for being great hosts. Cheers!
If you find yourself anywhere between Boston, MA, and Portland, ME, you’re
close enough to take a drive to Dover to check out Smuttlabs! You can also
visit them online to see what’s going on in the lab or at Smuttynose itself. And
don’t forget to follow them on social @doversmuttlabs.