Part I: Old Brewers
When I began the research for this part of The Great Sate Of Maine Beer Book - the section on the state's
old-time commercial brewers - I expected to unearth very few candidates. Possibly eight or ten or so: three
or four in Portland, a couple in Lewiston/Auborn, a couple in Bangor/Brewer, maybe one or two elsewhere.
Instead I discovered that there were scores of candidates, with some even located in pretty wild and
crazy places like Canton and East Corinth and Machias and Winterport. And "candidate" is the right
word, because with quite a few of them it is nigh on to impossible to confirm that what they made
was real beer ale or lager or small beer ( a relatively low alcohol brew meant to be consumed
shortly after having been brewed) - as opposed to hop beer, root beer, spruce beer, or tonic
beer, all of which are basically soft drinks. Or, in a number of other cases, to confirm
that what is thought to have been a brewery even ever existed.
Researching old-time brewers, in Maine anyway, is not unlike going to bat against Roger Clemens.
Occasionally you get a scratch hit. Occasionally you get a sold hit. Mostly you strike out.
That's because there is no central information source: no computer printout of old-time Maine
brewers; no book entitled Who Was Who In Vacation Land Brew. And Augusta's records re
beer and alcohol go back only to 1933. Brewers, in short, were not a big deal.
There were no television interviews. No radio talk shows. The "media" was the newspapers, which
were often as much a vehicle for gossip and advertising as for news. But, then again, a brewery
opening or closing wasn't considered news anyway. And most of Maine's pioneer brewers were so
small that they didn't care to advertise. Even if they did care to, many a newspaper publisher
of the day was a temperance advocate and wouldn't accept alcoholic beverage advertising or anything akin to it.
Through a patchwork of various state directories, city directories, local histories, historical
society and library personnel, census data, and quite possibly a solid mile of period newspapers
on file on microfilm, however, I believe I have succeeded in rounding up the cast of Maine's
brewing fraternity of yesteryear. Have I missed a few? Probably. Have I included a few who
really didn't brew beer as we know it or anything that approximates it? Probably. My motto
has been : "When in doubt, do not leave a possible brewer out." As a result, it's likely
that some of those included in the cast didn't actually exit or didn't actually brew. There's
one source that I've used that's especially suspect. It's the Maine Business Directory,
published now and again from the 1850's well into this century. It lists quite a number
of people as "beer manufacturers" or "brewers" who do not show up in any other source.
And, in at least two instances, people were listed as still doing some brewing long
after they were dead. That's a pretty good trick. Nevertheless, there's no way to
invalidate the Directory's listings, either. They are included.
But for all the things we don't know for sure, there are few things we do know for sure. We know,
first of all, that our pioneer Maine breweries were small. Perhaps even minute. They were micros
before there were micros. Secondly, we know that our early brewers were entitled, if anyone ever
was, to say their brews were hand crafted. There was no fancy equipment in their five-year plans.
And, lastly, we know that they were a gutsy group. To be a brewer in a strongly temperance
state could not have been easy.