Butter’s Tavern was a fixture of Concord, NH in the eighteenth century. Inspired by their loggerhead ale, we’ve created a Smoked Imperial Brown Ale. Hearty malts, with a nuanced smokiness and smooth finish create our interpretation of this historic ale. We hope you enjoy this slice of New Hampshire history.
In November of 2011 we were proud to learned that Draft Magazine recognized our Tavern Ale as one of the Top 25 beers of 2011!
WHEN MAIN STREET WAS BORN- THE STORY OF BUTTER’S
From Butter’s Fine Food & Wine Blog, October 16, 2010
You probably know Butter’s Fine Food and Wine simply as Butter’s. It has been a familiar name in Concord for hundreds of years. Butter’s earned its notoriety as a tavern visited by the many working men of the late eighteenth century building the roads bridges and railroads and that would Concord with other neighboring towns and states. The tavern was in business for just under one hundred years – its success likely hindered by the Temperance Reform movement in Concord which began around 1827 and the birth of the Concord Railroad in 1842 which rerouted traffic that had previously been directed to the location. Butter’s was first registered as a tavern in 1780 under the ownership of Samuel Butters whose family arrived in America from Scotland just a few generations earlier and later by his sons, Samuel Jr. and Timothy. Butter’s Tavern was not an inn for visitors in fancy clothes; rather, it was a reputable ‘hostelry’ for the workers of the day, serving food and drink and a place to sleep while on the job. It is said that Butter’s was the working man’s first choice for lodgings and was often fully booked, forcing overflow customers to another nearby tavern.
At the corner of present day South Main Street and Water Street you can stand at what was once known as Butter’s Corner (131 South Main Street). Samuel Butters purchased a hillside tract of land which would be the location of the homestead and tavern and later Samuel Jr’s general store across the way. As was the case with many taverns of the time, Butter’s was a place for business, legislation, celebration and the sharing of news. In the late eighteenth century New Englanders were very much concerned with shaping the future of their post-Revolution country and local politics was a popular endeavor. Samuel was appointed to several minor offices of the time including fence-viewer, hogreeve, surveyor of highways and selectman and as such he was involved in the daily monitoring of boundaries (and hogs) and maintaining the many newly developed roads in town. Concord was in the midst of changes that were rapidly increasing the number of travelers from around the state and New England who could easily access the city; roads were being straightened and rerouted to improve the network of coach roads and local entrepreneurs like Samuel were beginning to realize the convenience of travel routes that could easily cross the Merrimack River. Goods that were not readily available in Concord were brought up from Boston and at the time, the cargo traveled slowly and at great expense.
Samuel and his family also owned Butter’s Ferry which allowed them to gather tolls from travelers wishing to cross the Merrimack River. In 1792 a group of local men met at Butter’s to discuss their plans for the construction of a toll bridge across the river. A sum was agreed upon and the group purchased Butter’s Ferry; the Concord Bridge was completed 10 months later near the location of the present day Manchester Street Bridge. Several years later a second bridge spanning the river was constructed near the center of town and the ‘turnpike’ to the seacoast improved; these improvements allowed Butter’s and the other businesses in the area direct access to travelers from the New Hampshire and Massachusetts coasts, and everywhere in between.
There are very few pictures of Butter’s and little to no description of the interior; it seems to have been so widely known by the townspeople that it didn’t seem necessary to anyone to describe it in writing. We know that it was in the Federal style and likely had four rooms on each of its two floors, two chimneys and a central staircase bisecting the layout symmetrically. Photographs were still too expensive for the average business owner or family to afford, but there are a few photographs of Butter’s Corner and the tavern building in existence. It is said that the full ‘menu’ at Butter’s would cost you 50 cents and bring you supper, lodging and breakfast; included were a glass of rum and a cigar. New England ‘rum’ was sold in great quantities at the time, riding on the tide of the triangle trade which brought Africans to the West Indies as slaves and molasses and sugar cane from the Indies to New England. In addition to rum one of the most popular beverages of the day was called ‘flip’. It was a combination of dark malted beer and a sweetener such as sugar or molasses that was frothed by inserting a glowing hot loggerhead into the mixture. After the requisite froth was achieved a small measure of rum was added to the brew, as well as spices such as nutmeg and perhaps even pumpkin. The finished product was dark and bitter and served in a ‘flip mug’ a glass or pewter mug sometimes with a lid to contain the hot liquid. Right around this time of year – as Octoberfest and pumpkin flavored beers reappear – it’s tempting to imagine the New England ‘flip’ served in taverns like Butter’s might be their ancestor. There do not seem to be any remaining descriptions of the tavern’s food but it’s likely that meals were served in what would now be called ‘family style’ and would consist of whatever roasted meat, vegetable and bread were available or in season.
Butter’s Tavern was the epicenter of a successful Concord family engrossed in the business of improving not only their personal lives but also the rapidly developing local government and community. Samuel’s father was a successful businessman in Wilmington, Massachusetts and was likely a source of support for his son. Similarly, Samuel encouraged his son Samuel Jr. to go into business at the age of 25. By 1815 the Merrimack River was connected to Boston through a series of canals and goods were more easily exchanged using this water route. It seems no coincidence that Samuel Butters Jr. was the agent of the Merrimack Boating Company. He received deliveries of cargo at the base of Butter’s Hill twice a week and continued to prosper as the general store proprietor.
Life in the Butters’ era was difficult and unrefined; cattle still roamed the streets freely in the 1790’s and liquor was in high demand partly because it was safer to drink than the water. People had little by way of material pleasures to call their own; very few books or toys or trinkets were to be found in the average home. Families worked hard and often worked together to make a living. Like any family the Butters endured family dramas and tragedies. Samuel’s first wife Tabitha died in 1808 and he remarried a year later; his new wife, Elizabeth Eastman signed a prenuptial agreement and gave birth to a child only 6 months after the wedding. It is thought that her husband had abandoned her and their unborn daughter and the marriage was a fitting solution. The owners of the Federal Bridge – the North Concord alternative to the Concord Bridge – attempted to attain a monopoly on the river trade, creating a serious business rivalry between the two groups. Soldiers who were housed at the inn during the War of 1812 were thought to have been a possible point of entry for the scarlet fever outbreak that reached Concord and took the lives of Timothy Butters, his sister Mary and Elizabeth Eastman Butters all in 1813. The tavern was owned by other families (and bore their names) after 1814 until it closed in 1845. It was a private residence for a time, was abandoned after a fire by 1911. It sat empty for years and became a popular place for posting signs and for young children to explore. Finally, in1936 the building was demolished to make way for a gas and oil station. It seems only fitting that Butter’s is part of bustling Main Street Concord again, bearing a proud name and carrying on the tradition of a place known well by its customers simply as Butter’s.