Thursday, January 26, 2012

Portsmouth Brewing Company

The beer warehouse of the original Portsmouth Brewing Company is located at 121 Bow Street.

Brewers have been crafting beer in Portsmouth for more than 300 years. The first person to be granted the right to brew and sell beer was Samuel Wentworth, in 1670. The first commercial brewery was opened in 1766 by Robert Trail, comptroller of the Port of Portsmouth until the Revolutionary War. His business was located on the corner of Court and Fleet Streets.

In 1871, Arthur Harris partnered with a man named Mathes to establish the Harris & Mathes Company. Within three years, Harris became president of the firm, which he renamed Arthur Harris & Company.

It became the Portsmouth Brewing Company in 1875. 

Before Prohibition, Portsmouth was an important New England beer producer. There were three major breweries in the city: the Portsmouth Brewing Company, the Eldredge Brewing Company, and the Frank Jones Brewing Company. The smallest of these was Portsmouth Brewing Company, which should not be confused with today’s Portsmouth Brewery.

According to Beer, Its History as a National Beverage, published in 1880, New Hampshire had 5 breweries in 1878 that sold 127,071 barrels of beer. The numbers for Portsmouth were 66,398 barrels by Frank Jones Brewing; 40,181 by Eldredge Brewing; and 15,634 for the Portsmouth Brewing Company.

India pale ale, stock and cream ales, hop beer, and old brown stout were sold by the Portsmouth Brewing Company. They also advertised a variety called Portsburger Lager Beer.

Like many brewers in America, the company went out of business around 1919, when the Eighteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution prohibited “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors” in the United States.

The original warehouse is still recognizable, although several upper floors were added in 1905 and the adjoining glass lobby in 1980. The old Portsmouth Brewing Company warehouse is now occupied by several businesses, including Ale House Inn and Seacoast Repertory Theatre.

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