Finding the Magic
at The Flying Goose Brew Pub
Story and photos by Carolyn Choate
Fiddlehead Contributing Writer
The Flying Goose Brew Pub & Grille in New London has raised the bar on sustainability.
It claims to be most eco-friendly microbrewery in the state – and its beer and locally sourced pub food has set new standards as well.
“Back in the early 1990s there was nothing special about this restaurant and we knew it,” said Tom Mills of his family business, which was known as Four Corners Grille at the time. “We needed some magic in a big way.”
Originally from Chappaqua, N.Y., with degrees in math and economics from Bowdoin College, Mills began looking for the ultimate sorcery that would turn the financially lackluster New London property into a niche destination. Ideally located just off Interstate 89 in one of New Hampshire’s premier tourist regions, he knew he had to do something radical.
That’s when he and a good friend Doug Perry, an avowed beer lover, started researching the microbrewery phenomenon just as it was taking off in select parts of the country. Field trips to Portland – east coast and west – as well as Martha’s Exchange in Nashua and the Ipswich Ale Brewery in Massachusetts, which opened in 1991, would prove the inspiration for Flying Goose Brew Pub & Grille.
After considerable changes to the main floor of the restaurant to partition a separate bar area, the basement was completely renovated to install the brewery. The restaurant land now features a well-tended plot of hops flourishing in summer just beyond the dining room’s picture windows with a spectacular view of Mt. Kearsarge. There’s also a 41-kilowatt solar farm next to the parking lot.
Brew Master Rik Marley makes some 20 flavorful varieties on a regular basis. Flying Goose Pale Ale, Honey, I Shrunk the IPA and Pleasant Lake Pilsner, to name a few, are chilled and poured in frosty glasses and served upstairs in the restaurant and in the pub that’s part New England ski lodge, part flea market and always a comfortable place to gather regardless of the season.
When Marley spouts off about the Lupulin Suplex Double IPA he’s making of late and how he barely keeps up with the demand, he beams and goes on to talk about the brewery’s new equipment for better decoction mashing as if it’s a fine Italian sports car.
“Job? If you like what you do, you don’t work a day in your life,” said Marley.
A craft beer convert going on 20 years, Marley started brewing his own more potent, flavorful varieties rather than settle for the watered-down commercial labels. He knew he was onto something when, from an old van, he sold 30 cases at a Phish concert in Montana and fans begged for more at the next gig.
“At night, I dream about beer recipes,” said Marley. He gestures to all the new stainless steel brew tanks and computer panels. “The Flying Goose is one of the most technically advanced breweries in the state for its size – both in equipment and its use of alternative energy.”
According to the website, flyinggoose.com, that 180-panel solar photovoltaic array next to the parking lot generates about 30 percent of the electricity used by the brew pub, offsetting its carbon footprint by more than 100 tons, which is comparable to nine acres of trees. Despite a considerable investment, Mills says it easily paid for itself in five years.
Marley, who has been part of the Flying Goose family for five years, said craft beer continues to break social norms. No longer just the common working man’s libation of choice, it continues to gain popular appeal and respect among the well-heeled. And given its enormous flavor profile possibilities, he thinks it pairs better with food than wine.
Enter Marley’s equally talented counterpart Chef JoJo Paquin.
“On weekends, we easily have three seatings for the 80-seat dining room and the busy pub for another 97,” said Paquin. “The teriyaki steak, with Maine Family Farms grass-fed beef, is one of our best-selling entrees and, thanks to this renovation, we can do a lot more prep work in more spacious conditions.”
There’s been an overall uptick in sales and interest since Paquin introduced locally sourced poultry, grass-fed beef and pork about three years ago. This year he’s added organic salmon from Wood Mountain Fish in Boston and is excited about announcing a partnership with a New Hampshire farm for seasonal vegetables.
Paquin is especially proud of the crowd-pleasing burger selection, which is entirely locally sourced. And whether you’re up for the Miles Smith grass-fed beef Goose Burger, the Battles Farm Beefalo Burger or the Misty Knoll Farm Turkey Burger, there’s a 100 percent chance you’ll find the perfect Flying Goose beer to pair with it.
Up for something a little more sophisticated? Choose from the oodles of Paquin’s creative comfort concoctions on the full menu like Battles Farm lamb kebobs, Misty Knoll chicken broccoli lasagna or the organic pan-seared salmon. Smaller appetites will appreciate the variety offered in appetizers, soups and salads. The Jonah crab-stuffed avocado and the ale and onion soup are uncommon and uncommonly good.
It looks like Mills found that magic he was looking for in the form of sustainability, good food and awesome beer.