November 27, 2013

Soup to Nuts: At Leaven, it's all about brews and bread

Leaven Beer & Bread House just opened in Somersworth, N.H.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

SOMERSWORTH, N.H. — Jake Robert Johnson is perched at the bar at Leaven, a new “beer and bread house” on Market Street, wearing a baseball cap and comfortable Friday afternoon clothes good for hanging out with friends and drinking craft beer from Vermont.

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Emmett Soldati, left, and Aidan Watson are two of the three owners of Leaven Beer & Bread House in Somersworth, N.H. Patrick Jackman is the third of the trio that returned from far-flung points and career paths to open Leaven.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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A classic reuben served with a Narragansett beer.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below



Beer and Bread House

44 Market St.

Somersworth, N.H.

(603) 692-0157

Hours: Kitchen is open from 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. (later on weekends) Wednesday-Sunday

Bar open late

Johnson lives in Berwick, just across the Salmon Falls River bridge that connects Maine with this old New Hampshire mill town. A couple of times a week, he crosses from one border town to the other to come into Leaven for a beer. Usually one of those days is Sunday, since he can’t buy beer in Berwick that day.

“I come here about once or twice a week,” he said. “I wish I could come three or four times.”

Leaven opened a little over a month ago. Even though it is in New Hampsphire, at least half of its customers are like Johnson – craft beer fans from Maine who venture across the border to get what they can’t in their own hometowns.

It is a unique little pub in more ways than one. For one thing, it is also a sourdough bakery that produces white levain, whole wheat, a rye loaf with caraway, anadama, ciabatta, rosemary-Parmesan focaccia, sourdough pretzels, pretzel buns and other styles of bread that are displayed on a wooden rack behind the bar. Some people stroll in during the day and pick up the bread they need and leave. Others tuck a loaf under their arm as they head out the door late at night, after they’ve downed a few beers with their neighbors.

Others walk in, observes bartender/co-owner Aidan Watson, see the beer taps and the bread racks, “and get this deer-in-the-headlights look, like ‘What is this place?’ ”

Leaven is a reflection of what’s happening in hometowns across the country as millenials – also known as “Generation Wait” – drop out of the traditional job hunt and make an effort to forge their own path through a rough economy.

It was started by three old friends, all in their 20s, who ventured out into the world to work, study and travel, but in the end chose to make Somersworth home.

Emmett Soldati, 25, was in graduate school in London before coming back to Somersworth to start a tea house called Teatotaller. Patrick Jackman, also 25, worked for a financial company in Manhattan. Aidan Watson, 23, had just finished up his studies in hospitality management in Boston.

“That’s called Prospect Hill,” Soldati said, gesturing toward a hillside across the street that is filled with Victorian architecture from the town’s more prosperous days. “It’s the largest historic district in New Hampshire. We all were born and raised on that hill, a stone’s throw away, a couple of houses from each other. Growing up, we all knew each other really well. A lot of other people we grew up with also have moved back to Somersworth.”

Watson calls it “the most ridiculous migration of over-educated people back home to a small town.”

“It’s really quite insane,” he said. “A lot of people with graduate degrees from some pretty prestigious colleges are moving back here, and they all have ideas, and they all want to make something of Somersworth.”


Soldati was the first to dip his toes into the water. Against all odds, he opened a tea house in a place where coffee drinking is the norm. That business has become successful enough that he’s been able to hire a manager to help him run it.

The idea for Leaven came one day when Soldati and his two friends got to chatting about Somersworth and what the town needs. All that travel and study had expanded their palates for culture and nightlife, but their only choices in town for food and drink were a couple of pizza joints, a biker bar, a sports bar and private venues like the local VFW.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Leaven Beer & Bread House is located on Market Street in Somersworth, N.H.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Customers enjoy lunch at Leaven Beer & Bread House in Somersworth, N.H.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Fresh bread on display at Leaven Beer & Bread House in Somersworth, N.H.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Leaven’s bread pudding entree is served with the vegetable of the day and apple slices.

Meredith Goad/Staff Writer


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