Hi-Fidelity Beer opened in East Bayside, specializing in lower-ABV beers. Photo by Ben Lisle

East Bayside’s newest brewery, Hi-Fidelity Beer, opened earlier this month – a project finally realized after a long and winding road that began with a misplaced hug.

Dante Maderal was in college in Halifax over a decade ago when a group of friends came for a visit.

“They get there at 5 in the morning,” he recounted. “I don’t have my glasses on, I run outside to greet them … without glasses, in the dark, a little bit sleep-deprived.”

As one member of the group emerged from the back of the car, Maderal heartily embraced him, believing it to be his old high-school buddy, James. He quickly realized, arms wrapped around a stranger, that it wasn’t James. It was PD Wappler.

Wappler strikes one as the sort of friendly person who wouldn’t mind a good hug. He and Maderal quickly hit it off. “We started talking about beer and brewing,” Wappler remembers, and “went around to some of the Halifax bars,” said Maderal, completing Wappler’s sentence.

Both have been homebrewers for over a decade. Wappler spent many years managing a toy store, as well as doing media production for a company he started out of college. He’s also a musician. Maderal knocked around various service jobs in Halifax – including working on a tall ship that turned into a bar after 10 p.m. – before landing at Atlantic Brewing in Bar Harbor in 2015. There he went from front-of-house staff to quality control to brewing on the seven-barrel pilot system at the midtown brewpub. He left that position at the end of 2019, planning to open his own brewery in 2020. You can imagine how that went.


But the idea that would become Hi-Fidelity has a longer tail than that, going back over seven years.

“We knew we wanted to start a business,” Wappler said, “and beer was always a part of it.”

They had talked about opening a coffee shop that transitioned into a brewery-bar at night, resembling one of Maderal’s favorite spots in Halifax. That wouldn’t quite materialize, though that concept – to own a place to hang out, day and night – is evident throughout Hi-Fidelity.

“That’s part of the vibe here,” said Wappler. “Come into the space, and do whatever you want to do.”

Ultimately, that would become Hi-Fidelity’s motto: “our beer, your space.”

Maderal is the brewmaster, working on a three-barrel system, with a commitment to lower-alcohol beers. “I just got sick of high ABV beer and decided, you know what, I want to keep it under 6 (percent ABV). I am sort of gambling on everyone else wanting to keep it under 6, too.”


Gunpowder Eyes, a 5.2 percent ABV chocolatey, smokey porter. Photo courtesy of PD Wappler

The brewery opened with three beers, each drawing its names from song lyrics. Terribly Misleading is a light-drinking IPA (4.7% ABV) possessing notes of peach, lime and lemon drops. Just Sound is a British Ordinary Bitter (3.3%) with a lemony nose, light earthy malt, moderate carbonation and a bitter finish. Gunpowder Eyes, a smokey porter (5.2%), is chocolatey with an ample, though not overwhelming, amount of smokiness. Light bodied, with moderate bitterness, this was the pick of the bunch for me. In their second week, they debuted Superstitious Things (4%), which they call a “Fauxen” (i.e. a “faux Märzen”).

These approachable beers occupy an idiosyncratic space that feels familiar and even comforting. This is the source of its charm. It evokes casual coffee shops of Austin, intimate basement bars like Portland’s Maps, and rural brewery tasting rooms that are true community centers.

It is both deliberately constructed and unpretentious – tucked into the last stall of 200 Anderson, East Bayside’s original site of fermentation, erstwhile home of Maine Mead Works and current location of Urban Farm Fermentory. Like so many tasting rooms, it fuses the spaces of production and consumption with the three-barrel brewhouse right there, mere feet past the bar, just beyond empty sixtels, sacks of malt and a dormant drum set.

The owners built the bar and its stools themselves, channeling what Maderal calls the “big DIY attitude” that they grew up with, their fathers being inveterate tinkers and makers. Tucked into one corner is a little sitting area, a multi-colored pastiche of couch, armchair, coffee table and framed illustrations.

Across the way, vinyl spins on a countertop turntable, surrounded by a wall of spirits and glassware; just beyond that is a small kitchen. Like the space, the menu is distinctive. Small portions of red beans and rice (andouille sausage optional) and a breakfast sandwich are the two options, each priced at a mere $5. When I ask about the food and its curious specificity, Wappler laughingly said, “I like breakfast sandwiches,” before clarifying: it’s “simple food you can still turn a profit off of for only five bucks. Simple, tasty, cheap.”

As for the red beans and rice, Maderal said, “The whole idea behind the history of the food is that workers are eating it. And it should be delicious. But every time I see something like it, it’s always pricier.”


The drink options are wider ranging, with cocktails, wine, cider, coffee and tea on offer. And soon, visitors can expect malt sodas – basically carbonated wort, made from the base malts for their different beers. They envision these malt sodas as a form of beer education, allowing drinkers to focus on the malt characteristics that shape Hi-Fidelity’s beers. Malt sodas carry the additional benefit of being alcohol free (no yeast, which generates alcohol, is added). “A handful of my friends who are really talented musicians just don’t drink anymore,” Wappler said, “so I want to have interesting, non-alcoholic options.”

Hi-Fidelity, as the name implies, is also to be a home for those musicians and their live music, though with a twist. Maderal notes the frustration of walking into a place where there’s live music that dominates the social scene.

“So, we want to do shorter format performances, maybe spread out over a longer time,” he said. Musicians will play a series of short 15-minute sets with breaks between “rather than make every live performance in a bar like a concert, because we don’t really need to do that – concert halls do concerts. We just want to showcase the artist.”

Wappler and Maderal also have plans to open the walls up to local visual artists, as an exhibition space – a quality that, like beer, will align Hi-Fidelity with the overall identity of East Bayside’s industrial zone as a center of craft production and consumption. Maderal admits that “it can be intimidating” entering as mature a beer market as Portland’s, but Wappler also points to the brewery community as a source of strength.

“Maine brewers are some of the most open and welcoming people I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet,” he said. “When we visit other tasting rooms, it’s not to keep an eye on the competition, it’s to share and enjoy the passion we all have for beer and this community.”

Ben Lisle is an assistant professor of American Studies at Colby College. He lives among the breweries in Portland’s East Bayside, where he writes about cultural history, urban geography, and craft beer culture. Reach him on Twitter at @bdlisle.

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