Smuttynose’s Hayseed Restaurant goes green while preserving a corner of local history.
The first thing you notice about Hayseed Restaurant, a new dining venture from Smuttynose Brewing Company, is its close proximity to the popular brewery’s facility in Hampton. In other words, fresh, cold, craft beer is never in short supply. The next thing you’ll notice about the restaurant is that it doesn’t look like a restaurant at all. Built into a Victorian-era farmhouse, Hayseed has taken sustainability to a new level, working with local farms and fisheries for its menu items, and preserving and repurposing a historic landmark that harkens back to this seaside town’s farming past.
Smuttynose’s 14-acre campus in Hampton was designed and built from the ground up, always with sustainability in mind. Since breaking ground on the project in 2012, Smuttynose’s owner, Peter Egelston, knew he wanted to save as many of the property’s original structures as possible. That included two barns and the Towle (pronounced toll) family home. With its intricate turn-of-the 19th century design, including gabled roofs, decorative window accents, and wood clapboard siding, the house is a unique relic that stands out on the property in Victorian grandeur.
“It was perfect for a restaurant and, by creating Hayseed, we were able to save and repurpose a really unique building,” says JT Thompson, Smuttynose’s official “Minister of Propaganda.
”Walking into Hayseed feels almost as if you’re surreptitiously entering the Towle family home while they’ve stepped out. It’s a compliment to Smuttynose on their preservation work. At the same time, Hayseed was retrofitted with the latest energy-efficient technology to keep in tune with Smuttynose’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint. It wasn’t easy. Setbacks, both financially and during the construction process, delayed the opening of the brewery at this location until 2014, and delayed Hayseed’s grand opening until February of this year.
The restaurant became a pet project for Clark James, Smuttynose’s facilities manager. Much of Hayseed’s interior was renovated, save for the time-worn staircase, to bring the restaurant up to date without sacrificing its charm. Green innovations included systems to keep Hayseed comfortable during both New Hampshire’s frigid winter and humid summer season. “We took an old, leaky building and tightened up the thermal envelope using modern, thermally efficient doors and windows, as well as polyurethane spray foam insulation,” James says. “The result is a building that can be conditioned—heated and cooled—very efficiently.
”Energy recovery ventilators supply fresh air for the interior of the building and recover thermal energy from the conditioned exhaust air system. There is also a condensing, gas-fired water heater on-site to provide domestic hot water quickly. And the system can store the water for long periods of time without losing temperature, while operating at a thermal efficiency greater than 90 percent.
Hayseed’s energy savings continue in the kitchen. “Our dishwasher is an innovative, vent-less design that captures the vapor produced during the wash cycle, recovering the thermal energy and using it to preheat the water for the next batch of dishes. As opposed to simply venting all of that hot vapor to the atmosphere,” James explains.
Additionally, kitchen staff rotates food from the freezer into refrigerators to capture the cold from thawing products instead of power-thawing them with water in the sink. And Hayseed’s wait staff do their part to conserve water, only bringing glasses to guests at their request.
LED lighting can be found throughout the building and a lighting control system adjusts levels based on ambient lighting and building occupancy. During Hayseed’s construction, the building crew used Forest Stewardship Council Certified wood for virtually all the renovated and interior partitions using materials with low or no-VOCs for finishes.
“Being an old farmhouse, Hayseed is welcoming with an inviting exterior and a relaxed interior,” Thompson says. “It has a comfortable simplicity—it’s timeless, with no temporal references to 2015, while also being not at all bland.”
But updating the Towle home to bring it to code wasn’t easy, according to James. There were challenges his team faced, mostly due to age.
“The building required extensive structural modifications, and a great deal of reworking in order to provide adequate clearances and means for egress, all while still trying to maintain the building’s historic charm,” James explains. It would’ve been easier, and more cost-friendly, to have had the original structure razed and a replica built in its place to meet modern codes. But in doing so, it would’ve meant a historical loss for the community.
In total, Hayseed seats 95 patrons in its dining rooms up and downstairs and at the bar. Red oak cut on-site during the brewing facility’s construction was used for the bar and tables. And the bar-top was created using recycled zinc. There’s an outdoor beer garden, complete with fire pit, set under a copse of trees. “We want to highlight the fact that we’re on a farm in the countryside, and that nature—thriving, healthy nature—is very important to us,” says Thompson.
Hampton’s history and success has always been tied to the farming community that supported it. Synonymous with its oceanfront summer destination, Hampton Beach, the town of Hampton was built on the backs of salt marsh farmers and fishermen. Inland, farmers carved out a life in the granite soil. The Towles can trace back their ancestry to Philip Towle, one of Hampton’s founding fathers. Records indicate that the property had been in the Towle family since the mid-1700s, located on what is now Towle Farm Road. Its most recent descendent was Samuel “Sam” Towle, who was born on the property
in 1904, and lived in the house for 25 years before building his own home on nearby Exeter Road. Towle passed away in 1988 and is survived by his children and grandchildren. The house, and property, went through a succession of owners before Egelston bought the land in 2008.
In addition to their in-house sustainability initiatives, both Hayseed and Smuttynose are business partners with the Green Alliance, a union of local green businesses and community members with sustainability at the core of their business and consumer practices.
Keeping in-tune with Hampton’s farming history is one of the guiding principles behind (former) Executive Chef Kevin Hahn’s menu at Hayseed.
“We feature the best ingredients we can get: local, organic, free range, chemical free. As the weather warms up, we’ll be growing as much as we can on the property, including honey from our own bee hives,” says Hahn.
As part of the campus in Hampton, Hayseed’s kitchen staff uses a seasonal garden for select produce grown onsite. Hahn also buys from local fisheries and farms, like Emergent Farm, Stout Oak Farm, and Kelly Brooke Farm, using their items to create his daily specials.
But as a brewery restaurant, beer is as important to the menu as the food. “I create menus that highlight what our talented brewers are up to and support the hard work and creativity of our cooks,” Hahn says. “And pairing our beer with one of our dishes is a highlight: one of my favorites is Vunderbar [pilsner] beer with Schnitzel and the Old Brown Dog [ale] with the Belgian beef stew.”
It might seem obvious, but the staff at Hayseed knows a thing or two about good beer. “Being beer centric, we offer a lot of options for beer drinkers,” says Thompson. “We also serve guest beers, hand-selected by our brewers, and a selection of wine, including four on tap, as well as spirits and soft drinks.”
The agricultural foundations on which the Towle family farm was built may look different today, but Smuttynose’s effort to continue offering locally sourced food and beer have saved this historic home. As summer turns to fall, followed by winter and spring, residents of Hampton, and its visitors, can stand inside the building, marvel at its architecture and, focusing their eyes just slightly, travel back in time.
UPDATE: New Hayseed Executive Chef Desmond Smith spent many years working for various chefs at the Ritz Carlton in Florida and the Virgin Islands learning his craft. Having spent the last three years honing his craft with executive chef Jonathan Hebert at the Portsmouth Brewery, Dez brings his knowledge and passion to Hayseed.
105 Towle Farm Road
Green Alliance | greenalliance.biz