10 Best Bars in Portsmouth, NH

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Looking for the best bars in Portsmouth NH? After living in the area for over a decade, I’ve got you covered!

Portsmouth, New Hampshire is an excellent place to gather with friends and enjoy an adult beverage, whether for a post-work happy hour or a weekend celebration. Don’t expect big-city hours – last call is 1:00 AM – but you might be surprised at how lively an evening out on the New Hampshire Seacoast can get.

There are tons of restaurants in town with excellent cocktails, natural wines, and draft beers, but for this list, I’m focusing on establishments that primarily identify as a bar or brewery. (Plus a bar-meets-coffeeshop!)

Come take a look at the best bars in Portsmouth, NH, the fun-loving city on the Piscataqua River, and hopefully you’ll find your new favorite watering hole!

This post was most recently updated in May 2023.

People sitting outside at cafe tables on a patio surrounded by brick buildings.
Evening in Portsmouth, NH, via James Kirkikis on Shutterstock.

Best Bars in Portsmouth, NH

What are the best places to enjoy a beer in Portsmouth, or grab a cocktail? We’ve got you covered!

While the town certainly doesn’t have a “party until sunrise” vibe, there are many places to enjoy an evening drink or two. There are even a few places that are perfect for those who prefer a non-alcoholic beverage and, if you’re visiting in the summer, be sure to take advantage of a bar with outdoor seating!

What’s the best bar in Portsmouth, NH?

The answer will all depend on the type of vibe you’re looking for but I’d say my favorite is Dwyer’s Pub.

What’s the best bar for beer drinkers?

If you’re looking to try some local brews, don’t miss Earth Eagle Brewings, Liars Bench Beer Co, or The Portsmouth Brewery.

What’s the most unique bar in Portsmouth?

Portsmouth Book & Bar is by far the most unique bar in the area! Not only can you find local beer on tap, you can also relax and enjoy live music or sip your drink while reading a book.

People gathering around a warmly lit bar with illuminated chandeliers.
Cup of Joe makes a nice transition from day to night.

Cup of Joe

31 Market St., Portsmouth, NH // 603-294-9404

Good for non-drinkers, good for dogs, good for music.

Cup of Joe in a nutshell: A combination bar and coffeeshop in the heart of downtown Portsmouth where everyone is welcome.

Found at the entrance to Commercial Alley on Market Square, Cup of Joe has an unusual dual identity as both bar and coffeeshop. Whether you’re in the mood for a raspberry white mocha, some tea, an Allagash, or a North Country cider, you’re in the right place.

Full disclosure: Cup of Joe features my books for sale. But I didn’t know the owner, Jo Kelley, at all before she opened the business. I was just a regular customer, and in getting to know me—like Jo gets to know all the regulars—she extended a generous offer to create a space for my books.

That’s the kind of warm atmosphere you can expect, and the main reason regulars like me keep coming back. Jo and her staff wanted to create a “place that no one feels out of place.” Everything from the multitude of throw pillows to the regularly placed power outlets invites you to stay a while and make yourself at home. And give Jo’s friendly pup Allie a scratch behind the ears if she’s around.

Be sure to try the espresso martini, especially when they set it on fire (briefly). You’ll find local musicians stepping up to the open mic on Wednesday nights, and poetry readings or live music some other nights as well.

Dwyer’s Pub

96 Bridge St., Portsmouth, NH // 603-319-6770

Good for locals, good for outdoor drinks

Dwyer’s Pub in a nutshell: An unpretentious bar with an outdoor space and lots of local flavor.

Wander a little away from downtown and onto a quiet section of Bridge Street near the Foundry Place parking garage, and you’ll soon spot the green awning of Dwyer’s Pub. Dwyer’s is exactly what it intends to be: an unpretentious neighborhood bar. As you walk in, you get the feeling you’ve wandered into somebody’s living room, albeit with a few extra TVs for the sportsball.

I instinctively labeled the pub as “good for locals,” and according to Dwyer’s itself the vibe is “local watering hole.” But with Portsmouth’s median household income and property value well above the national average, I should specify that locals means regular schmoes like your humble author.

Kevin and Molly Dwyer opened Dwyer’s just a few months before the coronavirus pandemic. The pub closed and then reopened later in 2020 with Kevin returning solo and adding an outdoor bar space. Their drink menu features reliable local beers on draft and seasonal cocktails.

Depending on when you visit, you might stumble into a Friends or The Office trivia night. Or simply run into a friend you haven’t seen in a long time—that’s the beauty of a place like Dwyer’s.

Earth Eagle Brewings

175 High Street, Portsmouth, NH // 603-502-2244

Good for gruits, good for dogs, good for outdoor drinks

Earth Eagle Brewings in a nutshell: A destination for beer brewed with unusual ingredients.

Earth Eagle has been on the Portsmouth craft beer scene since 2012. There’s an entrance to its homebrew supplies storefront on High Street, but you’ll find the entrance to the brewpub itself on the side of the building past a tattoo parlor. In warmer weather, this secluded back area provides a nice beer garden with table service (and you can bring along dogs on good behavior).

Originally focused on gruits – a mix of foraged herbs, spices, and roots used as an alternative to hops – Earth Eagle’s tap list now features both hopped and non-hopped beers. I like exploring the gruits. How often do you get to try a beer with juniper, mugwort, chickweed, or mandrake? (The wonders of gruits are extolled in co-founder Butch Heilshorn’s book Against All Hops.)

Check out the extensive hot dog menu here too, with nearly twenty different preparations ranging from the Huckleberry (a hot dog topped with pastrami, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing, and swiss) to my favorite, Santa’s Little Helper (toppings are mayo, sweet pepper relish, and barbecue sauce). They’re pricy for wieners but definitely worth trying.

Liars Bench Beer Co.

459 Islington St. #4, Portsmouth, NH // 603-294-9156

Good for outdoor drinks, good for local craft beers

Liars Bench Beer Co. in a nutshell: A place for friendly faces and great house brews both indoors and out.

Don’t let the industrial location – Liars Bench Beer Co. shares real estate with an auto parts shop – or the garage-like interior fool you. This West End brewery is where to go for some of the friendliest, warmest folks in town. The wide selection of beer doesn’t hurt, either.

Liars Bench was founded in 2016 by a pair of UNH graduates and has weathered the past couple of years by being playful and adaptable, including temporarily assuming a bodega identity to get through lean lockdown months. The name suggests a gathering spot for storytellers who aren’t necessarily constrained by the truth, so it’s appropriate that I host a monthly networking event here for writers, of fiction and otherwise. There are also events here such as team trivia night.

The outdoor patio is my favorite thing here: expansive and great in warm weather, with overhanging tarps to keep sunburns and rain away. Sitting at one of the long tables with a blonde ale and a hot dog feels like the essence of summer. And speaking of snacks, here’s a shout-out to the chopped cheese sandwich and the killer hot dog selection, with fewer choices than Earth Eagle but cheaper.

People sitting at a bar, having drinks in what appears to be a bookstore.
Books and booze — what more could you want?

Portsmouth Book & Bar

40 Pleasant St., Portsmouth, NH // 603-427-9197

Good for literati, good for music

Portsmouth Book & Bar in a nutshell: An ideal marriage of bookstore and relaxed pub.

A decade ago, my wife and I were living in a tiny apartment on Pleasant Street in downtown Portsmouth when something magical happened across the street. A new business was opening in the old stone Custom House building, and it seemed made just for me: a combination bar and bookstore!

In the years since, I’ve made more friendships and important connections than I can count within that storied space (do you see what I did there?). I’ve written it into my Portsmouth-set novels. The Portsmouth Book & Bar is at the very heart of my Seacoast experience. Featuring books for sale, music performances, and a creative selection of regional beers on tap, the Book & Bar should be a part of your Portsmouth experience too.

For a more low-key Portsmouth bar experience, this is the place for you. There’s nothing like relaxing with a book and a brew on a Sunday afternoon.

The pandemic was rough on the Book & Bar, but after a period of closing and coming back full-time they are now back to full-time hours! And it’s still a great place, just as it always was. The Book & Bar is open every day but Tuesday.

Just a few of the beer flights you can get at Portsmouth Brewery.

The Portsmouth Brewery

56 Market St., Portsmouth, NH // 603-431-1115

Good for cask beers, good for local brews

The Portsmouth Brewery in a nutshell: A longstanding favorite in the heart of historic downtown Portsmouth with a variety of beers and great food.

You really can’t visit Portsmouth without stopping by the Portsmouth Brewery, a thirty-year-old local institution affiliated with Smuttynose Brewing Co. and featuring a wide variety of Smuttynose’s classic and experimental brews. The first time you had local craft beer in Portsmouth, it was probably here. (It’s also perhaps the only place in town where you can get a cask ale, ever since the beloved Coat of Arms pub closed several years ago.) 

The atmosphere will feel more like a restaurant than a bar unless you’re hanging out downstairs at the Jimmy LaPanza Lounge (named for the proprietor’s favorite NYC hangout from a bygone era). On either floor, you can explore Smuttynose’s offerings, from traditional lagers and ales to denizens of the weird, such as the Pineapple Cherry Upside-Down Cake Sour or the Boardwalk Blackberry Saltwater Taffy IPA. 

You may want some sustenance to balance out all those beers. You’re in luck — this is one of the best restaurants in Portsmouth that doubles as a bar. I’d recommend the Portsmouth Brewery’s signature mussels — the alehouse and spicy curry varieties are both great!

As it’s a full restaurant, this is one of the breweries in New Hampshire where you can bring kids.

The Press Room

77 Daniel St., Portsmouth, NH // 603-431-5186

Good for locals, good for live music

The Press Room in a nutshell: A local institution and premier performance venue for live entertainment.

The Press Room has seen the city grow and change for more than four decades, while itself remaining constant until relatively recently. Locals were disappointed to see the place shutter in 2016. But under new ownership and after two years and extensive renovations, it reopened with a mezzanine level added to its two floors and more space for seating and performances. The pandemic forced another year-long closure soon afterward, but the Press Room has risen again. 

Almost everyone who’s lived in or frequented Portsmouth over the years has a Press Room story, some bawdier than others. I was in a book club that met monthly on the second floor of the pub, which worked out great until a ukulele group started showing up at the same time and drowned out our discussions. You never know who you’ll run into here.

You can catch the city’s liveliest music acts at the upstairs stage, or simply nurse a Guinness or local brew in the quieter, brick-lined first floor and contemplate the weight of history (the building dates back to the Civil War). The Press Room also hosts a recurring local arts marketplace known as “The Spirit of Old Portsmouth.”

Regrettably, I’ve had to leave out karaoke at the Feed Company and the D Street Tavern, the pleasures of the vine at Raleigh Wine Bar + Eatery, other fine nanobrewers like Loaded Question Brewing Co. Portsmouth is overstuffed with places to enjoy a night out. Start with the above seven bars and let me know how your experience goes. Just maybe not all in one night!

More Bars in Portsmouth NH

Portsmouth has so many bars, we couldn’t possibly cover them all! Here are a few more places worth exploring on your Portsmouth trip:

Slow Burn Lounge — If you’re a fan of craft cocktails and unique creations, this cocktail lounge is the spot for you. They have more than 150 brands of whiskey, bourbon and scotch available. Do note that this is also a cigar lounge with frequent filtration.

Library Restaurant — One of Portsmouth’s best steakhouses, the Library Restaurant, has an old-school lounge with a fantastic martini bar and, according to them, the largest vodka collection north of Boston!

BRGR Bar — While it’s more of a restaurant, we had to put this place on the list for one big reason: you can pair a gourmet burger with an adult milkshake. From the Thin Mint to the Gimme S’more, these boozy milkshakes are for the kid in you — and the adult as well.

Thirsty Moose Taphouse — Live free and drink beer at this spot in the heart of downtown Portsmouth, with a diverse selection of craft beers and tasty bar grub.

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