In my attempt to forget April ever happened, the husband and I decided to take a day trip to the nearby town of Portsmouth New Hampshire, as a way to start May off on the right foot. “The right foot” for us, pretty much involves new books and beer because as my favorite Lannister put it, “It’s what I do. I drink and I know things.”
Park in the garage in the center of town for easy access to pretty much the entire town. It was $15 for the entire day, and was so conveniently located that we could shop and then drop stuff off at the car when walking to the next location. Get there early though, it was full by 1PM.
SHEAFE STREET BOOKS
29 Sheafe Street, Portsmouth NH
This was by far my favorite stop while in Portsmouth. The owner was extremely nice and had a little of everything. Pretty much every available surface in the small store is covered with piles of books–most shelves had two rows per shelf. Don’t let that discourage you though! The owner is very knowledgeable and I asked for a few random specific titles and he walked to the shelf, moved a group of books and pulled it out first try. This on it’s own wouldn’t be impressive, but he did this at least 4 more times in my quest for hard to find paperbacks. Not only that, but for one of the harder to find scifi titles, he even knew the EDITIONS he had in stock!
There were a few small chairs inside, as you can see from the second photo. There is also a small “bargain” shelf outside the front steps. Hard to find editions collectible are between $20-30, and most books fall in the $4-8 range.
This isn’t a store where you’ll have a huge haul of $1 finds, but the experience chatting with the owner, and the wide selection crammed into the small space makes it a place you’ll want to come back to.
BOOK AND BAR
40 Pleasant St, Portsmouth NH
This was my second favorite literary location and probably would be my favorite place to just hang out and read or meet friends for board games. Several people had card games going, others were writing and some were passing the time with a drink like we were. We actually went here twice, the first time to check out the books and the second time to have a drink and kill some time before our dinner reservation.
They have a good selection of used books but you really would go here for the atmosphere. Everyone there was in a good mood and tried to make room for the ever growing crowd. The beer selection was really good and you’re sure to find SOMETHING you like on tap or in bottles/cans. They have a rotating tap and the cheapest I’ve EVER seen Downeast Cider–only $3.75 per can! For those that don’t like beer or cider, they also have a short wine selection and a couple of mixed drinks to choose from.
The food looked great, though we didn’t have any. Dr Hops did have tea and I had a homemade hot chocolate– both were great. They have a pretty large selection of teas, all sourced from two NH tea shops.
No free wifi on the weekends, I’m assuming because they were pretty packed when we came back late in the afternoon on Saturday. Live music from New England and New York based bands. In the corner where the photo is taken there is a cluster of soft upholstered chairs and sofas, around a coffee table that just SCREAMS for a game of Agricola.
142 Fleet St, Portsmouth NH
This was the only location that had both new and used books. It’s roughly the size of Book and Bar, but is the only venue that had signed copies of books from local authors. They also have a pretty extensive meet and greet list, so it looks like they have readings and signings pretty frequently.
The “Staff Picks” wall was also interesting and highlighted a variety of genres.
Only one woman was working when I stopped by and she didn’t seem to actually know that much about the store or the books it contained. There were only a few people in the store and I wasn’t greeted. She did attempt to answer a question from another customer while I was browsing and couldn’t. She wasn’t rude, it was more “flustered” and the man she was attempting to help and he just left while she was still talking “at” him.
I was a little surprised, because this bookstore had the highest rating out of the three that I visited. My go to section is science fiction and my husband asked where it was located, and the woman replied, “on the wall.” … which was pretty obvious because all of the open wall space was lined with shelves… At least she eliminated that it wasn’t on one of the tables scattered around the room. I chalk this up to a poor experience with a customer prior to my coming in the store.
They have bargain bins under the front table, where you can pick up a book for a couple of dollars. Which I rummaged through a bit but was so turned off by the way I was treated while in the store, I really just quickly scanned the shelves and bins and then decided my money was better spent elsewhere.
I’ll give them another shot the next time I’m in town (and will update this post accordingly), because everyone has off days and who knows what happened with previous customers, but it won’t be first on my list of places to visit.
EARTH EAGLE BREWINGS
165 High Street, Portsmouth NH
If you took my advice and parked in the garage, this is only about a 3 minute walk from your car, so it makes putting the beer you’ll buy SO much easier to put away. The staff was extremely friendly, and while we didn’t order food, all the people around us did and it looked great!
The place is pretty small so the earlier you get there the easier it will be to get a table. We ended up in a booth and they opened up the large windows that line the back of the room making it an indoor/outdoor experience. The walls are lined with turkey themed art.
No brew tour, unfortunately, but still a great experience. Dr Hops picked up a 64 oz growler for somewhere around $25, and he’s already lamenting that it’s gone. Dr Hops substituted “Gold Digger” for “Funky Monk” as he’s not a huge fan of Kolsch style beer outside of a few we had in Cologne, Germany. We ended up taking the Funky Monk home with us to share with friends and everyone loved it!
If you want something a little different, or just don’t like beer, they also offer a wide selection of gruits. For the record, they totally missed a naming opportunity on that one, “I am gruit” would have been an awesome name!
We both wished we had a little extra time to spend here and will definitely stop by again on our next trip to Portsmouth.
56 Market St, Portsmouth NH
This was our last book and beer themed stop prior to dinner reservations and we ended up cutting it short. There was a two hour wait for the brewery tour, which we ended up skipping out on because of the poor experience we had in the restaurant. The next time we go we’re going to aim for an earlier time of day as when we went by earlier in the day it was a different experience.
When we walked in it was pretty busy and we were told there would be a 20 minute wait, which was expected considering the time of day. We gave them a cell number so they could text when it was our turn, and took a stroll through the surrounding shops. The first major problem was the service. They seemed incredibly confused and we had two different people attempt to take our order. We got a small appetizer as well as drinks but it took FOREVER to get both. By that time we were both out of water and after waiting so long for the first drink, we decided to cap it at one and get on our way. Because of where we live, Dr Hops has had a large number of the beers offered, but I highly recommend the North Country Cider. I had the “Sugar Shack” (it was great!) which is described as follows:
Sugar Shack: A semi-dry cider flavored with extra dark amber maple syrup, fresh-pressed ginger, and a touch of black walnut. We describe it as a “party in you’re mouth”. The perfect way to celebrate the arrival of spring. New Hampshire and Maine grown apples. 5% ABV (Spring Seasonal)
On the positive side, the restaurant was very family friendly… Which was also a bad thing. We were in a back room and every table around us had multiple small children… none of whom were happy about being there. This isn’t the restaurant’s fault, but it just made the already painfully slow service even harder to endure.
It was a great day trip, and is about an hour drive from Boston. We’ll definitely make another trip before the end of the summer. If you have recommendations on additional things to do or shops I’ve missed please let me know!