There’s a lot of breweries in New Hampshire — over 100, actually. That’s a lot! We want the good people of the Granite State to get to know all the brave souls who mash, hop and malt their way to victory at those 100-something breweries. So, we’re doing a monthly “Meet the Brewer” Q&A series, where we let brewers wax poetic on their craft and get to know the humans behind the hops.
For our latest Q&A, meet Randy Booth, head brewer at Twin Barns Brewing Co. in Meredith. Twin Barns is a two-vessel, 10-barrel brewery and taproom occupying two renovated antique barns originally constructed in the 19th century. They offer a quarter-acre beer garden and a nine-hole disc golf course, all just a stone’s throw away from northwest Lake Winnipesaukee. Last October, Twin Barns opened up a second taproom in North Woodstock, giving them a northern presence and increased business during the winter months.
I sat down with Randy on an unusually warm February Friday at the Meredith taproom, where we discussed the innate intricacy of a good lager, the wonders of a spicy bloody mary and his winding career path to becoming a household name in the Granite State beer scene. The following conversation has been lightly edited for content and clarity.
NHM: What’s your annual production size, in barrels?
RB: In 2022, we brewed a little over 800 bbls of beer.
NHM: Do you specialize in any specific style?
RB: Here we brew a little bit of everything. I love brewing lagers — they’re what I want to brew the most. We just kicked Dunkel, which is a fan favorite here; Longridge Lager is our Czech-style lager that I love, it’s one of my favorite beers that I’ve ever brewed; we have an Italian pilsner that’s in the tank right now; and then we’re getting ready to brew Open Road, which is our corn lager for bike week. We try to load up on lagers because, after that, it’s blondes and IPAs and things we can turn around in two to three weeks during the summer when it’s busier. I would say, if anything, I lean toward the lagers for sure. It’s my favorite thing to brew, it’s my favorite thing to drink. They’re harder to brew. They’re a little more technically challenging because there’s less to hide behind. With an IPA, it’s like, you put a lot of hops in it and get those flavors. With a lager, there’s two malts, two hops and that’s it — yeast and water after that. So you really have to be dialed in on your process and ingredients to make one that stands out.
NHM: Because there’s less flash to it; it is what it is.
RB: There’s definitely people who brew IPAs who have gone, “I don’t really like this; let’s add some more hops to it.” But with a lager, you can’t really do that. If your brew day doesn’t go well, if your fermentation doesn’t go well, then it’s probably going down the drain. This one we just did, the Belknap Pils, was named a “Top 20 Beer of 2022” by Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine, and they do a blind tasting. They get submissions from all over the world, so that was pretty cool. It’s just a nice, easy drinking beer, with a little bit of hop character, a little bit of an earthy, herbal spice character to it, and just really clean and nice.
NHM: That must’ve been a really cool moment, for it to be nationally awarded like that.
RB: I was pumped for it. To get that sort of recognition from people that really know their beer…They do it 100 percent blind; there’s no bias. When you get feedback like that it just gives you the backing that you’re making good beer; it validates that you’re doing something right. I even remember when I started, I thought I was brewing good beer but I didn’t really know because we’re all biased to our own things. I can go home and cook a meal and think it’s the best meal in the world, but if I give it to my chef he’ll probably be like, “No, it’s terrible. What’re you doing?” Everyone tells you you’re really good, but you don’t really know until you get that good feedback.
NHM: Where’d you brew previously, before coming to Twin Barns?
RB: I was the head brewer at Hobbs (Brewing Company) in Ossipee. I started there in 2016 and I was there for three and a half years, so toward the end of 2019 I came to Twin Barns shortly after they opened, and I’ve been brewing here since. Before that I started in Colorado, working at Wiley Roots Brewing Company in Greeley, Colorado, just getting my start in the industry. I started as a bartender; I had a 14-hour-a-week taproom job where I was pouring beer, and then I did whatever else I could. I started doing sales and marketing and social media and distribution and, before I knew it, I was 40 hours a week, and then I was brewing at the end of the day. We’d close up shop and me and the assistant brewer would take the little pilot system and start brewing recipes on that, so that’s where the real brewing started. I was there not even a year before I got offered the Hobbs job and came back to New Hampshire.
NHM: Did you grow up out here then?
RB: Yeah, I grew up in New Durham. Not Durham, but New Durham, so other side of Winnipesaukee — Alton, Farmington area. I grew up there and pretty much lived in New Hampshire almost my whole life until I moved to Colorado for a little bit of a spell and then came back. I’m probably not going anywhere now; I love New Hampshire and didn’t realize how much I’d miss it until I came back. My experience in Colorado was great — I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t move to Colorado — but coming back to New Hampshire, it was like, “Yeah, I love New Hampshire. This is my home.”
NHM: It seems like a lot of people move from New Hampshire to Colorado.
RB: It’s a sexy place to go and just experience it. I really liked it out there, but it’s funny, because you think you’re going out to the mountains, and there’s mountains out there — one big cluster of mountains — but the rest of it is pretty much desert. I always say, I never got to see the mountains because when I drove to work in the afternoon, I would drive away from the mountains, and when I left work at night, I couldn’t see the mountains. It’s definitely a fun area. It’s very different from New Hampshire, but it’s a fun area.
NHM: How would you say it’s different?
RB: The people. New Hampshire is salt-of-the-earth, blue-collar, and, obviously, I love the people of New Hampshire, and then you go to Colorado and its younger people for the most part. You’re getting a lot of the people who’re right out of college, and I think it’s a little more chill out there, a little more laid back. When I went to Colorado, me and my buddy, we stood out a little bit because we just busted our butt. We worked really hard. I think that was part of it: He’s from New York, I’m from New Hampshire, and we just grinded. We just put the time and energy in and other people were tired after a 20-hour work week and would be done…Great experience. Had to go out there and do it. I wouldn’t be where I am unless I took that journey. It was a fun little experience, but coming back, my family’s here. I tell people, go. If you have an interest in going somewhere, go while you can and experience it. You might love it, you might hate it, you might come back, you might not. But it’s always worth going.
NHM: And you were out there a year?
RB: Just 10 months. It was a quick turnaround, but gotta do what you gotta do, when an opportunity arises… And I absolutely was not prepared for the job at Hobbs. I told the guy that hired me, “I don’t know everything I need to know to do this job, but I’m going to figure it out.” It was working on the job to study and learn and read and watch, and I met people in the industry who I’ve leaned on for help, and when you’ve got resources like that, you can kind of do anything. You put the time and energy in and try to get better every single day. I’ve called my buddy Devin — he just opened Wildbloom up in Littleton — I don’t know how many times, running through problems and figuring it out together. Having people like that is invaluable. I look back now and I’m like, “Man, I did a lot of stuff that’s like…Why would I do that?” But I didn’t know any better. I learned pretty quick in terms of changing certain things or techniques or whatever it might be to make better beer. It takes time; everything takes time.
NHM: How long did you work at Hobbs for?
RB: Three and a half years at Hobbs. So I spent three and a half years there, and have spent three and a half years here so far.
NHM: When Twin Barns hired you, had they just opened? Or were they just looking for a new brewer?
RB: They were only opened a few months, probably about three months; I think I literally brewed batches 22 and 23 — those were my first batches — and next week we brew batch 300. So I started really, really early on with them, and it’s been really good ever since.
NHM: What about Twin Barns made you want to join what they were doing?
RB: At Hobbs, we were growing and growing, getting bigger and bigger, and Hobbs was going toward distribution, building a production brewery, and I didn’t really want to do that. When this became available, I saw the facility, I saw the vision that Dave and Bruce (Twin Barns’ co-owners) were trying to achieve, and I liked that it was going to be a little bit smaller and a little bit more focused. At Hobbs I brewed a bunch of different things; I threw everything at the wall. I tried different flavors and styles, x, y and z. Here I’ve radically reduced that, because my goal was, “I want to brew less new stuff and really just hammer down and make the best versions of certain things as good as possible.” I like the idea of tightening everything up and trying to be very specific and trying to get really good at certain things.
NHM: What atmosphere do you strive for the taproom to have?
RB: It’s driven to be a fun atmosphere, a beer-drinking atmosphere. We do great burgers; we have a nice little variety on the menu, but we’re known for our burgers. You come in, you get quality food, you get quality beer. As long as I’m here, you’re not going to come in and get some sort of marshmallow-lactose-double-raspberry concoction out of the taps, so you’re not going to get any of that weird EXPLETIVE, but we have a really wide variety of beers while still staying really specific. Right now we have a black IPA, we have a Kölsch. We just want people to come in and have a good time.
NHM: How often do you rotate the tap list?
RB: Every couple of weeks we introduce a new beer. We try to keep a couple customer favorites on all the time: Palmer’s Town (a New England IPA), Lake Cruiser (a double IPA) and Sandbar Blonde.
NHM: What about the New Hampshire craft beer environment made you want to come back?
RB: I mean, it’s home. I came back because it’s home. I just love it, too. I’ve served on the New Hampshire Brewers Association Board, I was on that board for four years and I was a technical director for two or three years, helping set up the NHBA conference. I want to make New Hampshire a great beer state, not only through the beer we’re making but also helping other brewers. New Hampshire always gets overlooked — you have Maine, you have Vermont and you have Mass, so we’re circled by great beer states. New Hampshire always gets overlooked, when we’re making really great beer, too. I wanted to up our reputation; I wanted New Hampshire to gain that reputation of being a beer state, so I figured, why not go home and do that? It’s just in my DNA.
NHM: Favorite beer style/food combo?
RB: I’m going to be very specific here: One of the best beer/food combos is sushi and Sapporo, especially if you get one of the 24-ounce awkwardly-shaped cans of Sapporo, with sushi, is unbeatable. I was going to say Modelo and chips and salsa, but that’s cliché. Let’s go sushi and Sapporo, which is definitely a favorite of mine.
NHM: What was the first beer that sparked your interest past consumption?
RB: Long Trail Ale. I remember I was at Keene State and we’d go to the bar and get beer, and I didn’t really like any of the Budweisers or anything like that, and then one day I ordered a Long Trail Ale and I was like, “This is really good and has some flavor. I didn’t really know beer could taste this way.” So I started drinking Long Trail, I started drinking Harpoon, I started drinking Rogue — Rogue was huge down there — and then, all of a sudden, I was like, “This is pretty cool.” And I’m trying everything and anything and then started homebrewing after college. Long Trail Ale was my gateway beer. I had that beer and finally realized that beer could taste really good.
NHM: When were you at Keene State?
RB: I graduated ’09. Graduating then, with the whole financial crisis, newspapers were taking a nosedive. I worked at a few different newspapers, but it was a bad time to graduate. In the end I made it work, figured it out. Once again, if I didn’t do all that, I wouldn’t be here. If I didn’t tell my publisher that day to go EXPLETIVE himself, I wouldn’t be here.
NHM: After you quit that newspaper, did you move to Colorado?
RB: I ended up moving up north. I lived in Errol, New Hampshire, for a couple years, and I worked at this huge sporting goods store and started selling archery equipment, I learned how to fix and sell bows and all that stuff, so I did that for a couple years. I love it and it’s still a passion of mine — I actually still do some stuff on the side in the archery industry — but I got burnt out from that job after a couple years and that’s when I moved to Colorado. My buddy was moving to Colorado with his girlfriend and they asked if I wanted to go, and I was like, “Screw it, let’s go.” Sold like 95 percent of what I owned and just drove to Colorado. It’s a good story. I’ve done a little bit of everything.
NHM: Where can the people purchase and drink your brews?
RB: Outside of our two taprooms, we have about 70 accounts that range as far south as Concord and as far north as Lincoln.
NHM: Go-to hangover remedy?
RB: Bloody Mary. The spiciest Bloody Mary you can possibly make. That is absolutely the go-to. That is on the docket for Super Bowl Sunday for sure, whether there’s a hangover or not. People either love them or hate them…they’re very polarizing. I go light vodka and I go really hot spice; I want to sweat. I want to have to take my hat off because my head is sweating so much. There’s a really good mix you can buy from the liquor store; it’s usually that, lime juice, if you have olives it’s awesome, I usually hit it with black pepper, then my father-in-law makes some awesome hot sauces and I’ll just take a tablespoon or two and drop it in there.
NHM: What’s a one-sentence pitch for why someone should stop by Twin Barns?
RB: Twin Barns is built to deliver good beer, good food and good times.