When Gabe Rogers talks about beer, it’s with the casual confidence of an expert chemist. Rogers is the co-founder of Garrison City Beerworks in Dover, New Hampshire. It’s that depth of knowledge – which translates into the quality of his beers - that first caught the attention of his business partner Mike Nadeau.
Rogers, who became interested in home brewing as a hobby nearly a decade ago, has owned and operated Yeastern Home Brew Supply since 2010. Nadeau, a fellow hobbyist, started to frequent the supply store and trade home brews with Rogers.
“He slowly started critiquing my beers,” says Nadeau, “and he was very kind - very constructive criticism. But then he let me try a few of his beers and that’s kind of where it started.”
Nadeau, a graduate of the University of New Hampshire Whittemore School of Business, saw marketing potential in Rogers’ beers. With a decade of experience working at various start-ups in New Hampshire under his belt, he proposed that the two launch a microbrewery.
“I just realized, okay, that’s where I wish I could be. But clearly I wasn’t even close. That’s when I knew there was something special there. So the business side kind of kicked in. I’m like, hm, I know my limitations, and I love this industry, and this would be a cool way to kind of get into it.”
Then Rogers’ mother - who owned a thrift store in downtown Dover – retired, leaving vacant a prime space for a brewery. Rogers and Nadeau moved in, and opened Garrison City Beerworks in December of 2014. Their tasting room is an echoing space, full of tall chairs, farm tables and a gleaming bar. Rogers and Nadeau say they’ve had a steady flow of customers from day one.
Rogers partially attributes this to a growing interest in small-batch, locally made goods, “I think people, they want to know who’s making their beer. And also, I think, flavor wise, what people are doing on the craft scene is a lot different than the macro breweries making lagers. You know, people are just starting to kind of gravitate toward being a little more conscious of what’s being put into their bodies, or just want something more local.”
This is nothing new – the craft beer industry has been growing nationwide for years. Production volume went up 18 percent in 2014 alone. What sets Garrison City apart at the bar are their Brettanomyces beers – made with a wild yeast that Rogers favors for its complexity. Brett beers, as they’re called, are new on the local scene. As is Garrison City’s answer to the classic beer growler – they’re serving up brews in 32 ounce cans poured straight from the tap and sealed before your eyes. They call it a crowler, a technique started by Oscar Blues Brewery in Colorado.
“I think, for us,” Rogers says, “the major benefits are how it protects our beer. You don’t have to worry about light. As far as the oxygen pick up, there isn’t much. We purge that can with CO2 so we’re taking every precaution to keep our beer as fresh as possible. So when it does get to the consumer, when they pick it up here, they’re drinking it as its prime.”
Rogers is the sole brewer at Garrison City. He makes beer three days a week but is always nursing his brews.
“Yeah, he doesn’t sleep much,” says Nadeau, “We actually have a couch downstairs for him. We kind of kid, like one day we’ll get bunk beds, we’ll just never sleep or whatever. So it’s kind of funny. But it’s his passion, you can tell.
The next experiment in the works is barrel-aging beers, and Nadeau is confident it will turn out as drinkable as the rest, “He’s an artist! That’s just what you get. So, I love it. That’s what you want. So, I’m not quite sure. But I hear it’s gonna be good. He’s excited about it.”
Garrison City has started distributing to a few bars, and if business stays this good they may one day expand operations. But their primary concern for now is to keep the beer flowing.