It’s a Monday afternoon and Lisbon Street in Lewiston is specked with cars and pedestrians. I knock on the front door of Bear Bones Beer and cup my hands on the glass to see inside. Eben Dingman, an early thirty-something in a Milwaukee Brewers hat and a t-shirt that reads, “Brewiston,” answers the door.
At the tasting room bar, Dingman’s business partner, co-head brewer and longtime friend, Adam Tuuri, connects wires on their tasting room stereo.
It doesn’t take long for Dingman to pour me a glass of Buck’s Season Session IPA, and for the two brewers to launch into the story of their three-year journey that culminated in Bear Bones Beer opening to the public in mid-February.
As I sip the session IPA brewed with cascade and mosaic hops, I ask my first question: Why Lewiston?
Both Dingman and Tuuri are quick to defend the former mill-city. The grassy, fruity flavors of Buck’s Season work over my palate as they explain that they met at thirteen and both attended Leavitt Area High School. Their roots run deep in the Lewiston area, and it’s clear they love this city.
“The greater Lewiston area has a population of 100,000 people,” Tuuri explains. Not only do they deeply love the city of their youth, they also believe in its economic viability.
In fact, they never planned on opening a brewery in any other city.
As is the story with most brewer-entrepreneurs, the road to opening a brewery was not easy. Bear Bones Beer went through a few locations until they finally found a home on Lisbon Street.
The brewery/tasting room space was a J.J. Newberry department store during Lewiston’s boom years, and it took Dingman and Tuuri over a year to restore the facility. As they recount tearing out old infrastructure and building walls, laying tile, resurfacing the original hardwood flooring and repurposing wood from the old facility for the tasting room I get a little lightheaded.
Luckily, they pour me a glass of Double C.R.E.A.M., a traditionally brewed cream ale aged with oak chips. I laugh that my only knowledge of this style comes from my college days of drinking Genesee Cream Ale — not quite a craft beer experience.
Bear Bones’s Double C.R.E.A.M. is oaky with a big body and a refreshing American ale backbone. It has balanced woody flavors. It is like nothing anyone else is brewing in Maine. It’s a fascinating beer that should make you get in your car and head to this Lewiston nanobrewery. And, most importantly, it tastes nothing akin to Genny Cream Ale.
The final beer they pour me is Old Smokey, a mesquite smoked pale ale. Like the oak flavors in Double C.R.E.A.M., the smoke flavors in Old Smokey are nuanced, making this beer very drinkable. It’s clear that these guys can hold their own on their two barrel brewing system.
After drinking their beer, it’s no surprise to discover that when Dingman and Tuuri decided they wanted to open a brewery back in 2013, they brewed one batch of beer every week for a year and a half in Dingman’s garage. They’ve put in their hours, and they’re ready for the public.
Bear Bones Beer is not simply cashing in on the IPA boom or trying to mimic the beer styles from other established breweries; their innovative craft beer is a love letter to a city very dear to their hearts.
WHERE: 43 Lisbon St., Lewiston
WHEN: Tasting Room is open 4 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday
ON DRAFT: Buck’s Season Session IPA (4.3 percent ABV), Double C.R.E.A.M. (7.1 percent ABV), Old Smokey (5.3 percent ABV) along with family friendly house-made Ginger Ale
AVAILABILITY: Purchase 750 mml growlers at the tasting room and find their beers on draft at the brewery and at bars and restaurants in the Lewiston area
MORE INFO: bearbonesbeer.com
MITA & Meat Release Party at Rising Tide Brewing Company
4 to 7 p.m. Friday, 103 Fox St., Portland
If you are as big a fan of Maine Island Trail Ale as most craft beer lovers in Maine, then get to this event to celebrate the release of this brilliant session IPA. MITA has big grass and citrus notes packed into a beer that is a measly 4.3 percent alcohol by volume. MITA was also 2014 and 2015 champion of the Maine Madness Beer Tournament. This event will feature plenty of draft pours of MITA along with your chance to buy cans from the year’s first batch of this session ale. MITA & Meat will also feature locally made charcuterie from the Otherside Delicatessen.
Geary’s Brewing Summer Ale Release Party and MECA Label Design
3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, 38 Evergreen Drive, Portland
A sure sign that summer is approaching is the unveiling of the Geary’s Summer Ale label designed by a Maine College of Art student. This year celebrates the Summer Ale release and label unveiling at the Evergreen Drive brewery with Geary’s beer, live music and food by High Roller Lobster Company. Geary’s will also be awarding their annual scholarship to the MECA student design winner for this year’s Summer Ale label.