Maine Beer Co. is one of Maine’s newest breweries, and one if its smallest.

Started last year by brothers David and Daniel Kleban, the company has a one-barrel brewing system in Portland, and bottle-conditions all of its beer.

Like many craft brewers, the Klebans started as home brewers, making beer in Daniel’s garage, on David’s porch and occasionally in the kitchen.

“I’m always bored and looking for something new to do, so I asked him if he wanted to start this up,” David said.

With its current one-barrel brewing system, the company can produce only 744 bottles of beer per week — 144 of its amber ale, Zoe, and 600 of its pale ale, Peeper. That limited production has meant that the beer, especially Zoe, has been hard to find.

But things are about to improve.

“Even as we speak, we are expanding to a 15-barrel brewhouse, which will speed things up dramatically,” David said.

Not only will their beers be more available when the new system comes online, probably in mid-October, the company will be able to introduce new styles and, perhaps, come closer to making some money.

But keeping the beer the same while switching to a new brewing system will present some challenges.

“There is going to be an adjustment in the recipe in moving up to the larger brewhouse,” David said, “but if anything, it should get better. With small brewers, it can take years and years to perfect a recipe. Whether the public can tell the difference or not, the recipes are always being toyed with.

“That is what we want to do: to have fun and make really good beer, to try to tinker with it and make it better.”

The first specialty beer the company hopes to produce will be for winter and called Mean Old Tom, after David and Daniel’s uncle. The uncle has a huge collection of beer cans that the brothers used to help him pick up along the Mississippi River. In return for giving the collection of cans to the company so it can be displayed, they promised to name a beer after him.

One percent of all sales of Maine Beverage beers goes to charity. The company hasn’t made a profit yet, but David, 39, and Daniel, 33, have other jobs — David is a financial adviser and Daniel is a lawyer.

Nancy and I tasted the two beers Sunday night.

Peeper is a good bottle-conditioned, fairly hoppy pale ale. As is typical with bottle-conditioned beers (in which the beer continues to ferment a little in the bottle to create the carbonation), the yeast flavor was pronounced but pleasant.

Zoe was hoppier still and had a smoky, maltier flavor, but the yeast was again pronounced. They both were quite good, a beer you would want to take your time with and savor.

I had intended to call Maine Beer Co., the state’s newest and smallest beer company, but while on the hunt for Zoe, I found another one.

Ishmael from Rising Tide Beer Co. — located in the same complex at 1 Industrial Way as Maine Beer — won’t officially be released until Oct. 1, but it was previewed at Downeast Beverage and a few other places last week.

Timothy Wissemann of Mariner Beverages, distributor for both Maine Beer Co. and Rising Tide, heard me asking for Zoe and pointed out the Ishmael. I bought one along with the Peeper.

The Ishmael is called an American copper ale, described as an altbier. It was strong in both malt and hops and well balanced, with a taste that lingered. I split it with my son-in-law, Christian Ratliff, and we both were impressed.

Wissemann also arranged for me to get a Zoe so I could taste it for this column.

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at

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