New Hampshire’s Tiniest Brewery, Growing Recklessly

Imagine pulling the snowblower, riding mower and weed-wacker out of your shed, taking a look at the empty space and saying, hmmmm….this would be an ideal place to start a brewery!

That’s not exactly how it went down at Bethlehem NH’s Rek’-Lis Brewing Company, but it could be. Operating in a very small quasi-cabin in Ian and Marlaina Dowling’s back yard, it occupies the size and location where most sensible people would put a swing set. But this hard working duo has too much energy for that, and they’ve always been just a bit rek’-lis in their approach to life.

BeertheEast’s visit began with a group of thirsty skiers looking at Google Maps for any unknown (and unlikely) breweries between Bretton Woods NH and Burke Mountain VT, when a blip popped up on US 302 in Bethlehem. Showing a tiny dot rather than their usual place marker, it was as if Google already knew that this was smaller than anything else on the map. After a phone call confirmed that indeed we had a reached a brewery — albeit closed — we were instructed to come anyway, park down the street, and walk up to the house.

Comments among the group ranged from “are you sure there’s a brewery here” to “what the hell are we doing” as we trudged up a snowy side road in a quiet neighborhood. After spying a shingle promising beer, we were greeted happily by small dog, and an attractive lady carrying a massive sack of 2-row on her shoulder. Marlaina was smiling as if all of this were business as usual, greeted us, and introduced herself. We chatted for a minute or two, and she encouraged us to step into the brewery and meet Ian, he’ll be glad to help us.

Did I mention she still had the heavy sack on her shoulder?

Well we piled into the brewery, which was already crowded with two people, Ian and a local growler fill customer. Marlaina soon followed us in, and any movement by brewers or customers required everyone else to shuffle around to make way. Equipment was cleverly stowed here and there, sort of a brewery version of the currently popular “tiny house” movement.

Proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and for all of this miniature madness, Rek’-Lis Brewing is turning out some fantastic beer. The tasting caused another complex shuffle and much movement of glasses, but Ian had obviously done this before and it all went smoothly. None of us could agree on a favorite, so we departed with multiple growlers and a rousing, happy send off from another small dog.

During our visit Ian explained that they were considering a move to larger quarters down on the main drag. Contacted recently for an update, he confirmed: “We are moving to Main Street – an event that’s occupying much of our time and energy. We’re shooting for an opening date of October or November, but we’ll be open at our current location until then.”

Although Bethlehem is no longer crammed with vacation hotels, it still receives a steady stream of traffic, and this will launch Rek’-lis well beyond their current level of production and sales. Brand awareness and demand will skyrocket. It’s a daunting endeavor; reckless perhaps. But make no mistake — Ian, Marlaina, family, friends and assorted dogs — are definitely up to the task.