Biddeford-based Banded Brewing opened a second location last month in Portland. Photo courtesy of Banded Brewing

When beer industry veterans John Callinan and Rick McCormick decided to open a brewery together, they jokingly asked themselves, what could go wrong?

For starters, the usual things that always go wrong with a brewery opening – federal and state licensing taking longer than expected, construction delays, trouble with equipment. But during a pandemic, all of these issues are amplified and joined by a host of others. Still, they’re among several brave beer lovers who moved forward with plans to open new breweries this year despite it all.

Jokers and Rogues opened in downtown Gardiner in October in the old location of Callinan’s craft beer shop, just three doors down from McCormick’s former homebrew shop. The brewery’s name comes from an Irish song. With Irish blood in both of their veins and a focus on English-style ales, it clicked.

“People ask us who’s the joker and who’s the rogue, and we tell them it depends on the day,” said Callinan.

Although rows of new glassware sit unused behind the bar, they are pouring growler fills and looking into getting a food license. In the meantime, the brewery came up with creative ways to get patrons in the door, even if they can’t linger, including a growler loyalty club and holiday gift bags.

Of course, having good beer doesn’t hurt either. Callinan said they’ve had a positive response and repeat customers. Brewer McCormick loves English ales, so you’re sure to find several of them on tap, like his sweet stout, ESB and brown ale, along with a couple New England IPAs, already fan favorites.

Another new brewery takes inspiration from a different European country. Trinken Brewing Co., whose name means “to drink” in German, is all about German-style ales and lagers. The West Bath brewery opened just two days before the state shut down in March. Owners Ryan Bisson and Tyler Inman looked to more established breweries to figure out what to do next. They followed suit with curbside growler fills and accelerated plans for a patio, building it themselves.

Brewer Bisson’s passion for German beer shows up all over the tap list. Though the double IPA is their best seller, they encourage patrons to try a style they may not have had before, like their flagship, Hanau, a crisp Bavarian Hefeweizen. Tango Mike, a German-inspired IPA, makes for a nice gateway beer.

Response from the community has been so strong, the two high school friends are already contemplating an expansion. For now, they’re working on a ventilated tent for warmer outdoor seating.

The Hollands moved to Pittsfield five years ago and started a farm, with plans to open a brewery that they finally realized. Photo by Catie Joyce-Bulay

Outland Farm Brewery also received local support when it opened for curbside growler fills in April. Beer was always part of the plan for Heather and Michael Holland when they moved to Pittsfield five years ago and started Outland Farm. But they learned that a brewery is much slower to get off the ground than a farm.

Michael Holland likes to brew session ales but offers a variety of styles in the elegantly rustic taproom. Supporting Maine agriculture is the brewery’s focus and most of its beers are made with at least 80 percent Maine-grown ingredients, including fruited beers sourced from women-owned farms, using their flagship farmhouse wit, Field Maiden, as the base.

You can grab the farm’s pasture-raised meats from the taproom freezer and enjoy a beer by the fire pit in its outdoor seating area throughout the winter. They’re in the process of getting a restaurant license and hope to offer indoor seating by reservation soon.

Belfast’s Marshall Wharf Brewing Co. got a reboot this August. The brewery, which originally opened in 2007, reopened under new ownership after being closed for a year. Owners Daniel Waldron, an employee of the old brewery, and wife Kathleen Dunckel are bringing back the classics that locals have missed, as well as some new brews. Try a Coughing Dog Porter or Ayuh New England IPA in the oceanside beer garden.

Some popular southern Maine breweries have recently opened second locations. Based on Portland’s Industrial Way, Definitive Brewing opened a smaller facility near the outlets in Kittery. It shares the main brewery’s industrial vibe and is home to small-batch barrel-aged stouts.

Portland’s 82 Hanover Street will soon house second locations of two breweries based in York County. Biddeford’s Banded Brewing Co. opened a tasting room in the West Bayside building in October, and Kennebunkport’s Batson River Brewing and Distilling will open Batson River Social Club in December.

Blaze Brewing Company opened another location in Biddeford and, although its outdoor seating is closed for the season, it has a received a restaurant license so is now open indoors. The Portland Zoo has evolved from bar to nomadic brewery, borrowing brew systems at Lone Pine, Fore River and Baxter Brewing. Closed for on-site sipping for now, you can find its cans in southern Maine shops.

If you’re in the neighborhood or need an excuse to take a road trip, make a point to support the new kids on the block this month. And stay tuned for more openings in the new year.

Catie Joyce-Bulay is a Winslow-based freelance writer who recently moved back to her home state. Find her writing on beer, travel and people pursuing their passion at catiejoycebulay.com or Twitter: @catiejoycebulay.

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