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Nov 24, 2014

Library
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.

GREAT STATE
OF MAINE
BEER BOOK

great state of main beer book [ Order ]

EXCERPTS
- Preface
- Beer History
- Early Maine Brewers
- 1800s Ads
- 1900s Ads
- More Beer Ads
- Prohibition
- Repeal!
- Modern Maine Brewers