Union brewery The Pour Farm has become a community gathering place. Photo by Ben Lisle

The Pour Farm is a tiny taproom brewery nestled in the Union woods, mere feet from the gloriously named Quiggle Brook, which connects Crawford and Seven Tree ponds. It has the feel of a hidden clubhouse, though the visitor quickly gets this sense that anyone is welcome.

Given the brewery’s sylvan setting and inviting taproom, it makes sense then that it might also function as a place where local residents assemble to discuss, among other things, the potential environmental threats posed by a metal mining outfit sniffing around Crawford Pond. The Pour Farm’s founder and owner, Bill Stinson, is one of seven founding members of CARMA (Citizens Against Residential Mining Activity), a group organized to fight prospecting and mining for metals in the Georges River watershed, out of concern about it contaminating the water.

Stinson opened The Pour Farm five years ago. After a career as a software engineer and tech executive, Stinson “just wanted to blow it all up and have a business that was based on place” – something like a farm, a general store or, perhaps, a brewery. “For two years, I was driving all over New England looking for an interesting place to be and to do something,” said Stinson, who had been living in the Boston area. When he found the spot in Union – and it is a lovely spot indeed – he figured that a brewery would be the best fit.

The Pour Farm in Union is a place where community members discuss local issues, including mining, one that brewery owner Bill Stinson formed a group, CARMA (Citizens Against Residential Mining Activity), to combat. Photo courtesy of Bill Stinson

Stinson has been homebrewing since the 1980s (and he continues to do so, making “a lot more adventurous” beers than those poured at the brewery). For visitors to The Pour Farm, his goal is to make drinkable beer for those who want to make an afternoon of it. Over the years, he’s made about 15 different beers on the brewery’s three-barrel system. There were six on when I stopped in – a blonde, an amber, a rye ale, an IPA, a New England IPA and a porter. And drinkable they were, as the brewer intended – tasty, but unaffected. The Rock Farm rye ale (6.9%) featured that touch of rye spiciness with a piney, bitter finish. The Teleporter (5.9%) was roasty and a bit nutty, medium-light bodied, with moderate carbonation and a slightly bitter finish – an enjoyable porter for a cool and rainy afternoon in the herky-jerky early days of summer.

The Pour Farm sends a few kegs out to local bars and restaurants, but just about all of the beer is drunk in the taproom. “This is not a production brewery. This is what I call an ‘experience brewery,’ ” Stinson explained. “My business model is ‘work hard and don’t lose money,’ ” clarifying that he makes “psychic income more than dimes.”

The source of that “psychic income” is his relationships with those who come to the brewery – and his role in creating the space where such relationships are born and strengthened.


The brewery interior is woody from top to bottom, its walls decked with historic photos and maps of the area, old signage from long-defunct local businesses, Maine license plates from the days of yore, a portrait of Abraham Lincoln and – a more recent addition – a triangular sign marked with skull and crossbones, commanding the viewer to “Stop Toxic Mining.” To the left of the entrance is the brewhouse, just feet away. To the right are tables and a bar, framed by windows overlooking the outdoor deck and Quiggle Brook.

“It’s like one big room,” Stinson explained. “I tried to create this sort of kitchen concept where you go to a party and everybody hangs out of the kitchen. No matter what you do, they’re in the kitchen.”

The brewery’s weekly “Farmer’s Lyceum” series adds another dimension to the kitchen party. Stinson also refers to the series as “Tap Room Talks by Maine Folks.” Local experts introduce listeners to a variety of more-or-less essential Maine skills; still to come this summer are talks on how to make apple cider vinegar and shrub, train a dog, breed plants, spawn a fish, make kimchi, construct an ice boat, taste whiskey, and cook African food.

A bonfire at The Pour Farm in Union. Photo courtesy of Bill Stinson

For those with a taste for the more spectacular, the Pour Farm occasionally hosts bonfires in an adjacent field. In the past, massive wooden effigies of “Shivering Man” and “Beer Dragon” have suffered the torch; the most recent blaze, in late February, consumed a replica mineshaft – an incendiary expression of how CARMA and many local residents feel about the prospect of miners plundering the ground beneath their homes.

Exiro Minerals Corp, a Canadian mining company, is hoping to find nickel, copper and cobalt in a 30-square-mile area stretching from Union and Hope in the north down to Warren. CARMA was formed by residents to block Exiro’s pursuit. The group’s advisory board consists of a geologist, an activist working against water privatization, and an ecologist.

Residents of the area have been approached by mining companies before. Lori Bailey, one of CARMA’s co-founders who has lived in Union for 35 years, was part of a group that got mining ordinances passed there in the early 1990s.


Union passed a moratorium on metallic mining activity in April (by a vote of 191-0), as did Warren (voting 145-2). The Union Select Board accepted the citizens’ petition, putting the ban to a vote last week. Union voters overwhelmingly passed a land-use ordinance banning industrial-scale metal mining (580 votes to 129) and extending the moratorium on mining activities (632 to 81).

But that is hardly the end of the story. The Warren Select Board opted to form a mining committee to review the existing mining ordinance. Residents of Warren will eventually vote on the committee’s proposed changes to the ordinance. CARMA also hopes to build relationships with other community organizations, including at the state level.

While Exiro insists it wants to work with the community and touts the potential for creating high-paying jobs, the resounding vote suggests that there is much more support for the work CARMA does. Over 50 local businesses signed a letter opposing mineral exploration and mining, according to Stinson. There were a few holdouts, worried about customer response.

But Stinson is understandably unwavering. From a business perspective, contaminated water would be catastrophic for the Pour Farm. And it’s an easy issue for him to articulate to locals.

“Do you want to have a mine with the trucks coming and all this? You know, digging and drilling and all the potential for contamination? Or do you want fresh craft beer? You can’t have both.”

But the issue is clearly more important than access to locally made beer. “I just don’t want to see this place get destroyed,” he explained. “That’s really it … We all get our water out of the ground here.”


One of Stinson’s allies in this fight is Dave Stuart, a seasonal resident of Warren and fellow co-founder of CARMA. After nearly three decades as a lawyer in New York City, Stuart retired to enroll in Yale Divinity School. He is currently working with a church in Warren, as well as representing incarcerated persons, most of whom are victims of domestic or sexual violence.

Stuart links the mining struggle to the people who live there, noting the “residential” in the group’s acronym. “These are not communities that are built overnight,” Stuart notes.

But they are ones that could be unraveled by water contamination and the degradation of the area’s pastoral beauty. And without clean water, there is no Pour Farm. And without a place like the Pour Farm, it might be harder to organize around such issues.

“This has become a community institution,” Stuart said. “It draws people, families, all ages, people from all walks of life, all political views … This is an issue that crosses political lines. This is a community issue … It makes sense that people would gather around here on the deck and in the taproom talking about what are relevant community issues to the vast majority of people who live in these towns … And this one is top of mind for a large portion of the residents of Warren and Union and Hope now.”

Union and hope. These qualities are in abundance these days, as residents organize successfully (thus far) against environmental threats to their community – buttressed in no small part by a modest, charismatic and practically essential brewery.

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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