Nate Wolfenden prepares a flight of beers for a customer at Kettlehead Brewing in Tilton. The seven-barrel brewery has gotten off to a great start since opening on Nov. 1. Right, The Agent, Kettlehead Brewing’s flagship beer, is a New England-style IPA that is rated “exceptional” by beeradvocate.com. (Courtesy photos)
By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN
TILTON — A small but very busy brewpub opened late last year, and has succeeded in bringing the right kind of beer – and food – at the right time. Kettlehead Brewing, which opened on West Main Street in November, is the extension of a friendship that was founded on a shared interest.
“Sam and I started brewing together eight years ago,” said Nate Wolfenden, one of the owners and brewers at Kettlehead. He was introduced to Sam Morrissette through mutual friends, as the two of them were both interested in homebrewing. Soon, they were getting together regularly to experiment with techniques and recipes. After several years, they decided that their beer was good enough to share with the public.
“We got to the point where we started talking about opening up a brewery – it just kind of grew from there,” Wolfenden said.
The two self-taught brewers, 37 and 38, are joined by a third owner, Bill Coulter, in Kettlehead. They first looked for a location in the New Boston area, but couldn’t find quite the right fit. They landed in Tilton because Morrissette and Coulter also own an electrical service company, which purchased a building at 407 West Main Street and had space to spare.
Tilton, it turned out, was thirsty for a brewpub. Kettlehead is a seven-barrel brewery, and Wolfenden and Morrissette had brewed all of the beer they could store before it opened a few months ago, and since then they’ve been brewing non-stop to keep up with the demand.
Kettlehead has been making its mark with the relatively new New England-style India Pale Ale.
IPAs have dominated the domestic craft beer market for a long time. Originally named for beers brewed in England for export to India, brewers in North America found the basic IPA recipe to be a good jumping-off point to develop their own signature styles. A distinct style of IPA emerged, American IPA, utilizing greater hop flavor and correspondingly heavier malt to balance. That led to further IPA fragmentation as the number of craft brewers in the country exploded.
The New England-style IPA is defined as a very hop-forward ale, showcasing hops that impart fruity, even tropical, flavors, and a cloudy appearance. At Kettlehead, the beers are dry-hopped – meaning that hops are added to the barrels during fermentation, not just during the boil – and Morrissette and Wolfenden don’t filter their beers. A pint of their beer is opaque, with the suspended sediment providing a soft mouth feel, and the fruitiness of the hops is so strong that you’d believe it if they told you there was juice added, even though there (usually) isn’t.
The beer at Kettlehead has been enthusiastically received. The 82 reviews posted already to beeradvocate.com give the brewery an average score of 4.08 out of 5, which translates to “exceptional.” The brewery’s flagship IPA, “The Agent” gets an average of 4.18.
Nearly all of their beer is sold out of the brewer, either poured into glasses or carried out in cans. Only one restaurant, The Local Eatery in Laconia, is currently pouring Kettlehead beer. Morrissette and Wolfenden have their hands full keeping their own 12 taps stocked.
“We’re having a hard time keeping up with this place,” said Morrissette.
To give guests something to wash down, Caily Wolfenden, Nate’s wife, runs the kitchen at Kettlehead. Caily brings a bias toward traditional food preparation to Kettlehead. Everything is prepared fresh daily using fresh ingredients and New England-raised meats free of growth hormones. She eschews vegetable oils, preferring instead to fry french fries in beef tallow.
The menu that she has created could be described as upscale pub fare with a strong Asian twist. The menu rotates with the seasons, but the most popular items so far are the Korean fried chicken sandwich, with gochujang and kimchi, and the hand-cut and tallow-fried pretzel bites.
Kettlehead Brewing seats 60 and is open Wednesdays through Sundays at 407 W. Main St. in Tilton. See more at https://kettleheadbrewing.com/
The Ahi poke tuna special, with ginger, garlic, sesame, green onion, soy dressing, served with seaweed salad and a fried sushi rice ball. (Courtesy photo)