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Iron Furnace hopes to re-ignite downtown Franconia



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Pictured, left to right: Tim Clough, Sally Samaha, Jeremy Liveston, Joshua Superchi, Leah Superchi, and Greg Superchi. (Photo by Justin Roshak) (click for larger version)
August 15, 2018
FRANCONIA—"A 20-year dream" was how Iron Furnace Brewing founder Tim Clough described his new business in the first hour of its opening day, this past Saturday.

"It's everything I could have asked for," Clough said, who added that the project has extracted "a lot of blood and sweat and tears."

Iron Furnace sits alongside the Ammonoosuc, across from its namesake, at 115 Main St., at the junctions of the Sugar Hill and Bethlehem Roads, routes 117 and 18. The building was, at one point, office space. Iron Furnace purchased the property just under six months ago, and the whole team, family, and friends, have spent many a long weekend in the space, ripping, rebuilding, and repainting.

The crew "tore down to the studs," Clough said, and aimed to make the space feel big, and create a sense of the outdoors even in the tap room and lounge. A covered, exposed "beer barn" adjoins the building, which retains its barn shape.

The four founders, Tim, Josh, Jeremy, and Jason, all grew up in Lisbon, and with the exception of Tim, graduated in the same class. Since then, they've stayed close, and found their way back in one form or another.

Iron Furnace aims to be a "Nano-Plus" brew pub. By law, they must serve food, which at Iron Furnace means bar snacks and sandwiches, such as the "LVCC," a ham sandwich named for an old Lisbon country club, long closed but still remembered. However, patrons do not have to buy food in order to drink.

On Saturday, several of their family members were hard at work in the kitchens: Sally Samaha, Jeremy's wife, helped create the menu, and aimed for family friendly, filling foods. The grilled cheese, for instance, is kid-tested and approved. Leah Superchi also lent a hand in the kitchen; both women expect their direct involvement to ebb over time, as full time employees join the team, but on Saturday, they were the team.

Jeremy Liveston, who worked behind the bar Saturday, lives and works in Massachusetts in the field of information technology, and called on his degrees in architecture and art to help design the interior. His aim was to preserve the "bones" of the structure while re-doing much of the décor in fresh farm board. His brother, Jason, designed much of their website and swag, including t-shirts and caps.

The brewery currently has six beers on tap, most of them made in the aromatic, "American" style, according to head brewer Josh Superchi. This contrasts with Littleton's Shilling's Central European theme, and is a little closer to some of Bethlehem's Rek'-lis's British and American ales. In brewing terms, he likes to add the hops, the pungent flavoring herbs, late in the process, which preserves their aroma in the final product. Currently on tap are two ales, two blondes, a stout, and a saison. Josh began homebrewing more than a decade ago. For folks who don't normally like hoppy beers, he recommends his "Summer Peach", a blond with a touch of fruit.

Iron Furnace currently operates a one-barrel system, which brews three to four 31-gallon batches a week. That's smaller than Rek'lis's output, much, much smaller than Schilling, and a good fit for Iron Furnace's founders, all of whom have full time jobs elsewhere.

Greg Superchi jokingly calls himself his brother's "Igor," after Dr. Frankenstein's put upon lab assistant, and serves as assistant brewer. He lives in Landaff, teachers High School math full time, and says that beer combines the best of art and science. His two sides, creativity and precision, both have a place in the brewing cellar. When the Superchis started brewing, local flavors and craft production was almost unknown in northern New Hampshire, where commercial light beers reigned unchallenged. Nowadays, he says the secret is out, and encouraged anyone interested in the craft to pick up a book (How to Brew is his "bible") or start online, where a rich community of home brewers has blossomed over the past decade.

Many of Iron Furnace's beers take influence from local names and locales. The "Gale," for instance, is named for the river that flows past brewery and iron furnace alike, and incorporates a German hops.

Iron Furnace has a half dozen employees ready to start—the posts will be part time jobs, and Tim Clough says wages will be "competitive." The building can seat about 70, and hold more than twice that.

Clough plans to host acoustic musicians, and expects that bikers and hikers, and especially skiers, will form a key component of his clientele. He hopes that Iron Furnace will help create a "rising tide" for downtown Franconia, which has seen several historic stores close in the past year.

Every member of the founding leadership team has young or youngish kids. All have full-time jobs, and most live out of town, in Massachusetts or Connecticut. The Cloughs live in Franconia, and often host their business partners when they come to visit.

Iron Furnace plans to be open Fridays 3-8 p.m. and Saturdays 11 a.m.-8 p.m., though this could change.

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