Sep 21, 2018

Brewing Downeast

By Marty Nachel

The State of Maine has a history that dates back to the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries with the first temporary settlement established in 1607. Not until the region was explored and mapped by John Smith in 1614, was it to become known as New England. With its vast stands of pine and hardwood forests, forestry- based industry centering around shipbuilding became the state's economic starting block.

Today the state is synonymous with lobsters, rocky coastlines, and pounding surfs, not to mention a weekend retreat for our 41st president. Not yet part of its lore is the making of good beer within the state. Modern brewing in Maine started just six years ago with the opening of the D.L. Geary Brewing Co. in Portland. Since then two more breweries and two brewpubs have begun brewing; one as recently as the fall of 1992. One thing is for sure, given the quality of the beer and the dedication of the brewers, we're likely to be hearing a lot more from the Pine Tree State.

Maine's state motto is Dirigo, which means "I Lead". David Geary seems to have taken that to heart. It was he who got the boil rolling -so to speak- in this new brewing industry. His Scottish-inspired, English-designed brewery produced its first pint of pale ale in late 1986, thus becoming the first brewery in Maine since 1873. With the introduction of a traditional style ale to an area completely devoid of hand crafted beer, Geary successfully tapped into a huge market (true New Englanders cling steadfastly to their colonial roots).
A chance meeting with the Laird of Traquair provided Geary with the inspiration to open his brewery. The late Peter Maxwell Stuart was the most recent in a long line of descendants in the Stuart family, owners of the Traquair House- the oldest continously inhabited house in Scotland dating back to the early 1500's. The Stuart family, who have legitimate claim to royal Scottish blood, operate a small brewery on the grounds at Traquair where David Geary was invited to learn the brewer's art. Geary also went on to apprentice at other breweries in the U.K. It was at the Ringwood Brewery in England that Geary met Alan Pugsley, a biochemist with a great deal of experience in small brewing operations. Geary was so impressed with Pugsley's expertise that he contracted him to help build a brewery here in the States. The result of this collaboration was to become known as the D.L. Geary Brewing Co.

From the onset, their goal was to focus their efforts on a single high-quality product rather than introducing several styles all at once. In this way they could establish a consistency in the product and gain a reputation as a quality brewer. Satisfied in accomplishing that task, Geary introduced a second beer called Hampshire Special Ale in 1989. While both beers are made from English barley malt, domestic hops, and a strain of yeast from the Ringwood Brewery, the Hampshire Special has a fuller body, more residual sweetness and a higher volume of alcohol- around 7%. This brew is sold only on a seasonal basis and doesn't last long once it hits the shelves.

Six years after that first keg was tapped, the D.L. Geary Brewing Co. is still going strong. More importantly it is now providing the inspiration for other small brewers in Maine.

"If ale and good food be faults, may God have mercy on the wicked"
-Gritty McDuff

Billing itself as Portland's original brewpub, Gritty McDuff's arrived on the scene in December of 1988. It also happens to be the first brewpub in Maine. Located just a block off the waterfront in the historic Old Port section, Gritty's is right in the thick of things and a perfect place to rest your dogs and sample a little bit of New England. They say "Gritty's is the place to cast off old world worries and relax. We have it all....time honored British pub fare and traditional ales brewed right under our own roof." The pub fare includes soups, appetizers, and burgers and sandwiches aplenty. The entrees are the most authentic of offerings. Steak and kidney pie, shepherd's pie, fish and chips, and the ploughman's lunch are staples on most British pub menus.

To complement your meal there is a selection of "real" ales that never travel more than thirty feet from the brewery to your glass. These brews are authentic English style ales with most of the ingredients being imported from the mother country. The yeast culture is said to be a centuries old strain originally developed by monks in the north of England. The only ingredients not imported are some varieties of hops from the pacific northwest and the pure lake water from nearby Sebago Lake. A proper tasting should follow this order: Sebago Light Ale- a low alcohol but full flavored ale; Portland Head Light Pale Ale- a subtle combination of Cascade and Willamette hops create a floral aroma and a fruity aftertaste; Lion's Pride Brown Ale is a mild ale that uses rare Whitbread Golding's hops. McDuff's Best Bitter is the most traditional ale from the Golding and Kent hops to the slow pour from the "beer engine" hand pump and served at cellar temperature. Black Fly Stout is a dry stout in the Irish tradition. There are also two seasonal ales offered, an India Pale Ale and Gritty's Wheat Ale in the summer.

The brewery at Gritty McDuff's can be viewed by simply descending to the lower level where the brewhouse is visible behind viewing windows.

One of the most beautiful places in all of Maine is Acadia National Park on the coast. The majority of the park lies on Mount Desert Island. Tourism is, no doubt, the local stock-in-trade on the island and Bar Harbor is the hot-bed of tourist activity. Along with the sundry art galleries, boat tours, and souvenir shops, are dozens of restaurants and bars touting the local delicacies. One Bar Harbor native and her husband, well aware of the potential here, have turned a long standing hobby into a certified success in craft brewing. Tod and Suzi Foster rekindled a love of homebrewing (which began during their college days in California) into a red-hot enterprize- without ever leaving their home.

It was in July of 1990 that the Bar Harbor Brewing Co. introduced their first beer- Thunder Hole Ale. The Bar Harbor Times had this to say about the beer's debut: "Acadia National Park's prominent coastal attraction, the thunder hole, may soon be known for beer as well as a pounding surf...." Needless to say, the flavorful ale endeared itself to the local pub-goers; tourist and native alike. Requests for their beer came pouring in and supply couldn't keep up with demand. Maybe for the first time, the Fosters came to appreciate Maine's long winters which afforded the opportunity to catch up on their brewing and eventually to expand the brewery beyond the 10 by 12 room where it all began. Where Tod and Suzi had been using 5 gallon brewpots and fermenters, they now had an expertly designed and manufactured stainless steel brewing system. In addition, a large walk-in cooler was installed in the now crowded basement.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, the Fosters managed to introduce a new product line called Harbor Light Pale Ale. They emphatically stress that this is not a "light" beer but simply lighter in color and body than the original product. As if these two offerings were not garnering enough attention, Cadillac Mountain Stout has been added to the list of brews. This beer, named for the highest point on the island, is described as a hearty, full flavored Imperial stout with a rich roasted malt flavor and balancing hoppiness. The stout is available in 22 oz. bottles for carry out. Along with these fine ales, the Bar Harbor Brewing Co. offers a small line of brewery souvenirs- T-shirts, sweatshirts, aprons, and two styles of mugs are available for purchase at their home, er, brewery (please call in advance).

The Acadia Brewing Co./ Lompoc Cafe - is it a microbrewery or is it a brewpub? The answer is yes! Let me start from the beginning. Business partners Doug Maffucci and Jon Hubbard opened the Lompoc Cafe back in 1989. Begun as a local watering hole with international appeal, the Cafe slowly evolved into its present status thanks to the beloved malt beverage. It was at the Lompoc Cafe (named for bar in the W.C. Field movie "Bank Dick") that the Fosters of the Bar Harbor Brewing Co. introduced their first brew. Intrigued by the immediate popularity of this new local beer, Maffucci and Hubbard considered jumping into the market. At first they approached Tod and Suzi Foster about a joint venture type brewing arrangement. For reasons unknown, those plans didn't pan out and Doug and Jon made a go of it on their own. Hence, the Acadia Brewing Co. came to be. The quarters might be a bit cramped but the location couln't be better. Open space in the building adjacent to the Lompoc provided excellent accessibility between brewery and bar; you can even see the brewhouse through a window at the end of the bar.

Their first beer, Bar Harbor Real Ale, was served in May of 1991. They have since added a brown ale and a porter to their brewing repertoire and other beer styles will be featured from time to time. All of their beers can be tasted at the Lompoc Cafe along with a couple of domestic microbrews and a handful of tasty imported selections.

The Acadia Brewing Co. offers tours daily at 4:30. There is also an assortment of breweriana available for purchase along eith carry out six packs of Bar Harbor Real Ale. The favorite expression here is "Get Real!" (ale, that is).

I found out about Andrew's Brewing Co. literally hours too late for a visit. I was sitting in Gritty McDuff's reading a recent issue of The Yankee Brew News when I came across an article on the rapidly rising number of breweries in Maine. The newest microbrewery in the area was still under construction in Lincolnville, just outside of Camden. To my Chagrin, Camden lie about three hours away- in the direction I had just travelled! As it turns out, I hadn't missed anything yet. Even though the brewery is operational, it still has not received its license from the bureau of alcohol, tobacco, and firearms.

I spoke with Andy Hazen, the owner and brewer, upon my return home. According to Andy, whose vocation the last 20 years was woodworking, decided to commercialize and capitalize on his avocation- homebrewing. As he reasons: the recession made his career "difficult to practice" and he felt the need to move on to greener pastures. His greener pasture took the form of a micro-mini brewery capable of producing about 300 barrels a year. The system, an all grain gravity feed, was purchased from the Brass Corkscrew in Seattle and installed in the shop that was previously used for woodworking. For now he will be kegging beer for licensed establishments, but his future plans plans include a bottling operation; either in quarts or 22 oz. bottles of his fine ales.

All of the beer Andy makes start with water from his own well. English two row barley, fuggle hops, and Whitbread ale yeast make up the additional ingredients and the final product remains unfiltered. To start with, Hazen will introduce two products- Andrew's Old English Ale and a Brown ale. Other seasonal or specialty beers will include an IPA and a Scotch Ale.

The brewery was to begin distribution in May but the licensing problem has set plans back about five months. Bars and restaurants in the mid-coast area between Rockport and Belfast are targeted for distribution. Accounts in Lincolnville and nearby Camden are eagerly awaiting Andrew's soon to be famous brews.

1992 Marty Nachel


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