Here at Calef’s we pride ourselves in buying and selling local, that has been the foundation of our business for over 150 years. One of our favorite local suppliers is the Squamscot Old Fashioned Beverage Company, founded in Newfields, NH in 1863. It is a staple in our cooler and the best option to quench a late summer thirst.
The Conner family has continued a time-honored tradition that dates back to the Civil War. From the landmark Conner Bottling Works, in Newfields, New Hampshire, the Conner Family has for the past five generations been producing and bottling “Squamscot Old Fashioned Beverages”. Known more commonly today as a tonic or soda.
Established in 1863 by the late William H. Conner, the bottling works started producing tonic that was simply called “Connermade”. This tonic, which was really a “pop” beer or more commonly known as a spruce beer at the time, was packaged in returnable glass bottles with porcelain and wire stoppers.
In 1911 the business was producing just 4,115 cases of tonic a year. While small profits were made from 1912 to 1916 the business has enjoyed an unbroken time of prosperity since 1917. Especially during the years of National Prohibition that created a great boost in the tonic business and made Squamscot Gingerale the outstanding drink in New England. Growing the bottling works to nearly 26,000 cases and 14 flavors in 1930, when the label was finally changed to “Squamscot Beverages”. In 1938, Alfred Conner Sr. purchased their first modern bottling machine. Better known today as, “Dixie”. This bottling machine remains in the exact spot from when it was delivered to the plant and is still in use today.
While on the second floor of the old barn a smell reminiscent of melting popsicles greets visitors in the rustic but impeccably clean and ordered syrup room, where the main laboratory for manufacturing and mixing of the syrup recipes are generated and have been passed down for generations. From the 20 plus vibrant colored flavors developed by the Conner’s over the years, only the best products, like Jamaican ginger for the Gingerale, are used to help ensure their distinct taste.
When the syrup is ready, it is then piped downstairs, where the bottling or, “Dixie” comes to life. Synchronized with a conveyor of glass bottles, carbonated well water and syrup, a distinct rhythmic sound of clacks and clangs takes place to fill and crown each bottle. Bottling is usually done every afternoon and with the help of just one additional employee, over 60 cases an hour of any one flavor can be processed when business is brisk.
The last step is a homespun example of quality testing and control. The bottles are plucked from the collection table and tipped end over end to thoroughly mix the ingredients. Every once in while a bottles is opened and tasted to ensure the quality of the batch stays consistent. Each bottle is then hand placed in cases ready for shipping and distribution.
Getting ready to celebrate their 156th year in business, and recognized as one of “New Hampshire’s Own” the Conner family continues it’s tradition of making Squamscot Old Fashioned Beverages as the last independent bottler in the state of New Hampshire. They hope you can “Experience the Past… One Sip at a Time”!
Next time you visit our store grab a bottle of Squamscot Gingerale, or another favorite and really take a step back in time.