NORTH HAMPTON — “If you build it, they will come.”
That line from the iconic movie “Field of Dreams” was certainly appropriate this weekend judging from the overflowing parking lot and the frenetic mass of skaters careening back and forth at the new outdoor rink at Throwback Brewery.
With nearby fire pits to huddle around and the ability to order anything from a frosty draught to a bowl of chili rinkside, the new 44-foot by 88-foot sheet of ice certainly appears to be a hit with families across the Seacoast.
“We were going to go to (the rink) at Strawbery Banke (in Portsmouth) like we normally do but decided this was better because you have the food and the fire,” said Exeter’s Rob Abel, who brought his whole family to enjoy the ice. “It’s a perfect combination.”
The idea to build an outdoor rink came about last year when the brewery’s taproom and restaurant were closed due to the pandemic and Throwback co-founders Nicole Carrier and Annette Lee were looking for creative ways to draw people to the brewery.
“We already had the fire pits and a bunch of us loved to skate, so it seemed like a no-brainer,” said Carrier.
The first attempt at a rink last winter was short-lived due to some leveling issues, but Lee, who played hockey at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was undaunted and came up with plans to build back better this winter. Rye Landscaping was brought in to provide sand for the base and the rink was reconfigured to run perpendicular to the taproom and restaurant.
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“Annette is an MIT engineer and everything she does she approaches it with that engineering mindset,” said Carrier. “It’s definitely well engineered. It has Annette’s stamp all over it.”
The rink is open from noon-3 p.m., Friday through Sunday, and is free to all customers. Skaters need to bring their own skates, sign a liability release, and minors must be accompanied by a parent.
The sight of children whizzing around the ice while their parents enjoyed a frosty beer and connected with friends rinkside Sunday fits nicely into the overall vision for the brewery which sits on picturesque Hobbs Farm.
“I knew it would be popular, but it was pretty exciting to see all the kids out there having fun,” Carrier said. “Part of our name is that we want to ‘throw back’ to this community-oriented tavern that is a gathering space. For us, it is really cool to be able to provide something like that where the community can come.”
Count Hampton’s Whitney Forbes as someone who definitely will be back.
“This is great,” said Forbes, who brought her sons, Roarke and Rogan, to enjoy the ice and to work on their hockey stops. “It’s so pretty and I’m seeing friends who I have not seen since high school.”
Along with his own family, Rob Abel brought his brother, Ed, who was visiting from Maryland to get a slice of a quintessential New Hampshire winter weekend.
“He said this is such a New England thing and that you guys go out and have a fire and have your drinks and then go out and skate,” Abel said with a smile. “Of course he’s in the car now, it’s too cold for him.”
This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Throwback Brewery opens outdoor skating rink in North Hampton NH