Beer lovers were in abundance as Allagash Brewing Co. opened its doors recently to celebrate the official launch of its newest endeavor, the Allagash Saison.

“Allagash Saison is our first new, year-round four-pack in seven years,” explained Jeff Pillet-Shore, marketing director at Allagash. “In the Belgian style, saison was brewed in the winter months by farm workers to be ready for summer consumption. For us, it was an organic process that began with an idea from Allagash employees and was two years in the making.”

Employees mingled with guests eager to try the new beer in the spacious, sunlit brewery. Plant engineer Sean Diffley, who is a mechanical engineer from Ireland, was especially proud as he held his newborn daughter Edythe. Joining him were his wife Megan, who apart from being a new mother is also manager of employee services at CIEE in Portland, and his mother Marion Diffley of Ireland.

Brendan McKay and Rob Heater, who work in brewery operations, shared a laugh with friends, while Mariah Nelson, the executive assistant to Allagash founder Rob Tod, was joined by her fiance Scott Werner, a lobsterman from Falmouth and Anna Vallely of Cape Elizabeth.

“We have a lot of passionate beer drinkers here,” said Jason Perkins, brewmaster. “Our pilot program encourages our staff to submit ideas, and they come from everywhere. With a few exceptions, all ideas get brewed for in-house assessment. The Saison is officially released tomorrow with a simultaneous tapping in all of our markets.”

As folks from Aurora Provisions passed savory hors d’oeuvres and music from the Blasted Knoll String Band picked up speed, steam engineer and maintenance technician Jack Perreault caught up with friend and industry colleague Sean Spence, assistant brewer at Rising Tide in Portland.

“The culture is more familial here,” said Perreault. “There are a lot of good beers here in Maine, but one thing I see here is the consistency is second to none, and it’s a collective effort.”

“This is fantastic!” exclaimed Spence, raising his glass of Saison with a smile. “My first tour at Allagash was in 2008 before I worked in brewing, and it’s actually partially responsible for getting me into the craft.”

Joel Mahaffey, co-owner at Foundation Brewing Co., took in the festivities with Ashley Fendler, who works in tours and retail at Allagash.

“I think Portland has some great beers, and the breweries here work really well with the food scene here,” said Mahaffey.

“Portland has a lot of like-minded folks, and good food and good drink go hand in hand,” said Fendler. “Portland has a lot of innovation going on in terms of food and it opens the doors for the brewery industry.”

Zach Bodah, who works in quality control at Allagash, chatted with co-workers Heather Muzzy, Luke Truman and friend Heather Libby of Portland.

“I taste a lot of beer,” said Bodah of his brewery duties. “We are there to check everything off and give it a pass, but quality control is really the whole company … it’s everybody. It’s a dream job. There’s not a better job out there.”

“It’s a passionate crew,” explained founder and brewer Rob Tod. “I love coming to work every day and spending time with them. We’ve been brewing beer for almost 19 years, and we’ve grown quite a bit, but it’s been a work in progress.”

Allagash, which began as a one-man operation back in 1994, has evolved into a company with 65 employees that is on schedule to brew 70,000 barrels of beer in the coming year.

“We focus on our existing footprint, on innovation, quality, community and family,” said Tod. “These are our core values and why we get out of bed every day.”

With all of its success, the company is a firm believer in giving back. Its Tribute series (Victoria, Victor, Hugh Malone and Fluxus ales), which raised $45,000 in 2013 for local charities, including the Victoria Mansion, St. Lawrence Arts, a pediatric nursing scholarship at Maine Medical Center and sustainable agriculture, is just one way the brewery supports the local community.

“These are things that enrich the community,” explained Tod. “We sell a lot of beer out of state, but we try to focus our philanthropy locally. Our local market is always going to be our most important market.”

For more information about Allagash Brewing Co., please visit www.allagash.com/

Margaret Logan is a freelance writer who lives in Scarborough. She can be contacted at:

mlogan@maine.rr.com