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Mar 27, 2016 2:29 PM

North Hampton distillery wants to make whiskey, schnapps out of expired beer

NORTH HAMPTON — A company that wants to make whiskey from expired beer ran into a snag when it learned state law would have to be changed to accommodate the process.

Heather Hughes and Ron Vars opened Sea Hagg, an artisanal distillery in North Hampton, three years ago. They produce a variety of special products and now have plans to distill expired Smuttynose beer, turning what would otherwise go to waste into beer schnapps and whiskey, according to

"How much fun would it be to sit with your favorite beer and a whiskey made from that beer?" Vars asked.

To make this happen, Sea Hagg needed the state Liquor Commission to classify Smuttynose beer that's due to be dumped or destroyed as a "raw ingredient." They also need permission to "rectify" the beer, another definition with limits in state law.

"It's an evolving industry," said Jim Wilson, chief of the Liquor Commission's Bureau of Enforcement. New products don't "always fit in the statutory scheme," he noted.

And while he's advising the commission that they can't approve Sea Hagg's request, he's left the door open for someone to pursue statutory changes.

"This is a great way to recycle and repurpose," Vars said, while explaining beer schnapps is "big in Germany and California."

Smuttynose is supportive of the effort. "The problem is very simple; we have a product we can't sell and is no longer useful to us," Smuttynose president Peter Egleston said. "For a distiller it's very valuable. We'll make it work."

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