October 12, 2012

New batch of brewers filling Maine's glasses

The latest makers of craft beer are riding a second wave of growth with new flavors and an economic impact.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Nathan Sanborn, owner of Rising Tide Brewing Co. in Portland, bottles a special brew of bourbon barrel-aged stout. The company recently moved into a new and larger space and expects to increase production from 149 barrels last year to around 800 this year.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Novare Res Bier Cafe in Portland has 25 rotating taps for pleasing the palates of craft beer lovers, whether it’s a farmhouse saison, a chocolate porter, an India pale ale or a stout.

Doug Jones/2008 Press Herald file

"If you take my brewery, we directly employ seven people," said Kleban of Maine Beer Co. "But every time we order new equipment -- because we're all growing -- we hire electricians, plumbers, stainless steel fabricators."

The rise of craft breweries is responsible for spawning Greg Norton's business, the Bier Cellar on Forest Avenue in Portland, which stocks more than 400 beers and educates its customers on the differences in beers.

"As there are more products on the shelf, they're more varied, more complex," Norton said. "They're more expensive, so you're taking more of a risk when you buy them. There was a hole there for somebody who really wanted to have an intimate knowledge of the product and explain that to the customer."

While Norton stocks craft beers that are now widely available, such as Geary's and Shipyard, most of his customers come to the Bier Cellar to try brands and styles they've never had.

"There is a big split now," he said, "and it's getting bigger, between the first generation and the second generation, the English-focused beers that we had here first, and then now this second generation, where they're all over the map for style."

A few years ago, Rising Tide's brewer, Nathan Sanborn, was a graphic designer and stay-at-home dad who was an avid home brewer "with increasing levels of obsessiveness," said his wife and business partner, Heather.

"We got to where we had two or three, sometimes four kinds of beer on draft at the house all the time, and we couldn't have enough dinner parties to drink it all," she said.

Nathan Sanborn said the idea of starting his own brewery was in the back of his mind for years, "but I never thought it was feasible or reasonable, honestly."

Then he saw Maine Beer Co. get off the ground with a one-barrel system and start to expand, and he decided he could do it.

Sanborn said it has been harder than he expected to grow his brewery, not because of the beer but because of all the other aspects of the industry he had to learn. He said that if he had it to do again, he would work in a couple of breweries first before launching his own.

But he doesn't for a moment regret his decision.

"I'm thrilled to be here," he said on a day when he and a couple of employees were bottling 80 cases of a bourbon barrel-aged stout by hand. "I come into work every day, and can't believe how lucky I am to be doing what it is I love to do."

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

mgoad@pressherald.com

 

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