SKOWHEGAN — Lying Bastard and Dementia Dog.
Those are the names of the two ales produced at central Maine’s newest micro-brewery — Bigelow Brewing Co. in Skowhegan.
How these beers got their names is as interesting as their taste, said Jeff Powers, who, with his wife, Pam, both 52, got started making beer in their barn two years ago. They were licensed to produce beer commercially in December and licensed to sell their brew in March.
The pair join a lively and growing local craft beer culture.
Bigelow Brewing Co. is the second brewery in Skowhegan. Oak Pond Brewery opened in 1996 off U.S. Route 2 near the Canaan town line. There also is the Kennebec River Brewery in The Forks, 50 miles north of Skowhegan on U.S. Route 201.
Farther afield are the Liberal Cup Public House and Brewery in Hallowell and the Belfast Brewing Co. in Belfast.
“My wife will tell you it’s named after me,” Powers said of Lying Bastard, a single-hop pale ale with a light taste and low alcohol content. “My wife went back to school to become a teacher, and I told her she only had to teach for two years, then she could get done. Nine years later, I told her I was going to open a brewery and she wouldn’t have to work any more, and she said, ‘You lying bastard.’”
The couple will host an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the brewery in a remodeled horse barn at 473 Bigelow Hill Road off Main Street on the south side of Skowhegan.
Powers said he wanted to start with a pale ale for people who are not accustomed to the strong taste of craft beers, to have people try it and not be overwhelmed by it.
“My second one is just the opposite — it’s a double IPA (India pale ale) called Dementia Dog,” he said. “We had a little dog that had dementia, and I was down here brewing one day and he came down and kind of looked at me and didn’t really know who I was, so I said, well, I’ll name this one ‘Dementia Dog.’”
Dementia Dog, with five kinds of hops, has a 7.9 percent alcohol content by volume. Lying Bastard is 4.9 percent alcohol, compared with Budweiser with a 5.0 percent content and Miller High Life with a 5.5 percent alcohol content.
He said they also have other recipes they are working on, including a cranberry ale and a pumpkin ale.
The Powerses make about 100 gallons of beer each week, most of which is stored in a cooler on site, ready for sale from the brewery and soon from taps at local restaurants and pubs and in 22-ounce bottles and 64-ounce growlers for local stores.
Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild, said the state’s craft beer industry has had constant growth since 1986. He said there are now 53 such brew houses in Maine, up from 35 at the beginning of 2013.
“It’s undergoing rapid growth due to change in consumer preferences, a shift toward local spending and Maine brewers making quality, delicious products,” Sullivan said by phone Tuesday. “People like to buy something from somebody they know. There’s a bit of that Yankee kind of ‘do business with your neighbors’ type of mentality. There’s also the buy local movement in Maine, and I think that’s helping as well.”
Sullivan said craft beer brewers are independent producers who focus on small batches of beer with an eye on quality versus quantity.
He said craft beer represents less than 15 percent of beer consumed nationally, but the numbers are growing.
The most popular craft beers in Maine include Shipyard, Geary’s, Gritty’s and Allagash, which are distributed nationally.
The Powerses met as students at Skowhegan Area High School. He went to the University of Maine for a degree in business, she for a degree in merchandising.
They married in 1983 and have a son, 19, and daughter, 25. Powers said he got the taste for craft beer when Pam gave him a home brewing kit as a gift in 1989.
“I started brewing from the kit, and I wanted to open a microbrewery right back then,” he said, adding their first child was born the same year and responsibilities of work and home kept the dream of starting a real brewery on hold until now.
Powers works full time as a shift supervisor at New Page paper mill in Rumford. Pam Powers is a middle school teacher in Skowhegan. They began converting the 36-by-48-foot former horse barn on Bigelow Hill Road in 2011 and started the licensing process with state and federal permits.
“She’s all done teaching this year. She’ll be full time in June in the brewery business,” Jeff Powers said. “She’ll be giving up her job, and she’s going to take over running the business here.
“I wasn’t a lying bastard after all. It just took a few years.”
Doug Harlow — 612-2367