Wednesday, March 12, 2014
By TOM ATWELL
Maine Beer Co.'s new brewery, complete with a tasting room, is now open at 525 U.S. Route 1 in Freeport on a lot formerly occupied by the Dutch Lighthouse Motel.
David Kleban, co-founder -- with his brother Daniel -- of Maine Beer said one of the main advantages of the new brewery is that they finally have a place where they can greet fans of their beer and offer tastings.
"We would get beaten up on blogs and elsewhere about not being accessible enough to our customers, and this remedies that," Kleban said.
The tasting room will be open from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and will have eight beers on tap at all times. The store will sell snacks and soft drinks, all sourced locally, and will stock bottles of Maine Beer in the cooler.
Visitors can sit at any of the several tables in the room, stand at the bar or look through the windows overlooking the brewing operation while they drink their beer.
"We will always have all of our year-round beers, even Lunch, in the tap room," Kleban said, "and as a bonus treat, we plan to have two pilot beers that will be numbered 1, 2, 3, 4 and on up."
Lunch is usually the hardest to find of Maine Beer's offerings, and Kleban is not sure why, except that it is the company's IPA, and IPAs are big right now.
The other regular offerings are Peeper, an American ale; Zoe, an American amber ale; Mean Old Tom, an American-style stout aged on vanilla beans; MO, an American pale ale; King Titus, an American robust porter; and Lil One, a malty double IPA.
Kleban said all of the company's beers are hoppy, but they are also balanced.
"You could use all habanero peppers and make a really hot salsa, but it would be inedible," he said. "We are not in it for the shock value."
Kleban noted that, for the sake of efficiency, the company could make only Lunch and Peeper and probably be more profitable, but having the variety of beers makes work more interesting. He favors maltier beers, while Daniel is more into hoppy beers, and Mean Old Tom and King Titus might not be on the list if he did not like them so much.
"We only sell beers that we like to drink," Kleban said.
The new brewery will also allow the company to increase production.
"We have four new 30-barrel fermenters, bringing the total to eight," Kleban said. "At the old brewery, the four fermenters were in constant use, but now we will use six or seven at a time."
The company's original goal had been to sell 3,000 barrels of beer a year, but Kleban expects it will sell 4,000 barrels this year and 5,000 next year. The market is the East Coast down to Virginia, and he does not think it will expand, in part because the company wants to ensure the freshness of its product.
All the beers are unpasteurized and unfiltered. The company puts the bottling date on each bottle, and advises people to drink the beer within 90 days of that date.
"Gerry Sheehan, the owner of our main distributor, L. Knife and Son, says, 'Fresh beer sells beer.' We are not going to sell beer that is not fresh," Kleban said.
Kleban said Maine Beer was shut down for only five days during the move, which pleased him. It was only possible because Kevin Glessing, the head brewer, took over day-to-day management of brewing, and Colleen Croteau took over sales and marketing, allowing Daniel and David to focus on the new brewery and the move.
The pilot beers on tap at the brewery will be made seven barrels at a time, and will be the favorites of 10-gallon test batches that various employees try out.
Pilot 1 is an American pale ale brewed with Citra and Simcoe hops, and had a nice smooth flavor. Pilot 2 was an American saison brewed with wheat and oats.
I liked them both, but favored Pilot 1.
Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at: