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Community Helps Build New Brewery In Dover

Eight years ago, Josh Henry's wife got him a home brewing kit, and he and his friend Dave Boynton made a batch of Imperial Brown Ale.

They labeled the batch “7th Settlement,” in honor of the Dover-Portsmouth area's status as the seventh permanent European settlement in America.

For plenty of home brewers the story would end there.

But Boynton happens to be the director of Seacoast Local, an organization that promotes local food and local business, and Henry is a construction contractor who's really into beer, and pretty sick of construction.

So Henry, Boynton, and a third partner, a carpenter and fellow home brewer named Nate Sephton, are renovating an old mill space in Dover for their 7th Settlement Brewery. 

“We've got about a 41 foot bar, going on down the exterior-window side of the building,” Henry says, pointing to the metal supports.

It's still more construction site than brewpub, but Henry can already see it.

“Over here is the brewery with the three windows looking in, so everybody in the bar-restaurant will be able to watch us brew beer,” he continues.

“Down at the far end will be the dining area, and the kitchen will be up to the left there, at the back.”

The three men are getting a lot of help from Henry's construction company, and from Boynton's local-food associates.

“It's actually been a rewarding process for Josh and I to let people say, 'I sanded those beams, I'm part of this brewery,'” says Boynton, “Or, 'I'm growing food for that brew pub, it's pretty awesome.'”

The partners are taking that spirit of community involvement a step further, using an adaptation of the community supported agriculture model to help get started. “It's been obvious to us that you support your neighbor, keep your dollars in your community,” Henry explains. “It just made sense to use that CSA model and turn it into a CSB format.”

For $100 a year, 'CSB' members get their own mugs at the pub, and beer at reduced prices. The more dedicated can get a mug or growler with half-price refills, for seven years, for $1 thousand.

So far, six people have committed to seven years of half-price beer, and about 50 have signed on for the one-year mug deal. Boyton says that's a little less than half the number of memberships the brewery will be able to handle, at least to start, but he's happy so many people have already invested in beer they haven't even tasted yet.

Henry says payments up front help kick off the process of actually making that beer. “It'll help to pay for seed,” he explains. “Heron Pond and a couple of other farmers around will be growing our barley, which will get shipped down to Hadley, MA. Valley Malt is the closest, most local place for malting around us, and then we'll go pick it up and bring it back.

“By doing that we're saving little bits every step of the way, and that's how we're able to offer our beer on a small scale at the same price as all the big guys.”

Boynton agrees the big guys are the competition, not the other little guys. “We could have three breweries in Dover, if everyone who drank beer drank craft beer,” he says, smiling at the thought.

Once 7th Settlement gets going, they’ll offer other local beers on tap alongside their own. One Love Brewery will even operate out of the same space, sharing the kettles and tanks and other equipment.

During construction, 7th Settlement is also letting Heron Pond Farm pass out its CSA shares at the site.

But there's still a lot of work to be done before this brewpub opens, and to be ready by September, Henry says everyone's working hours that even a farmer might find daunting.

“I got up at 3:00 and was here around 4:15,” he says. “It makes it not so bad, because it's ours, and we know this is what we want to do.”

They hope customers will be able to taste that passion for good beer, and for local, community-supported business, in every pint, whether someone helped build the place, provided literal seed money or figurative seed money, grew the ingredients, or just came by for a beer.

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