If Patrick Rowan looks like he’d be at home in a heavy metal rock band, it’s for a good reason.
With his long beard, black-rimmed glasses and formidable stature, the co-owner and head brewer at Maine’s newest brewery, Woodland Farms, owns a recording studio and has toured with bands for years.
But for the past two months, he’s been working tireless, 12-hour days building his Kittery tasting room and brewery, while also brewing Woodland Farms’ lineup of crisp, clean lagers and ales.
Before deciding to open a commercial brewery with his wife and uncle, Rowan earned his chops as a voracious homebrewer. Standing in his snug three-barrel brewery, he explained that he made beer every Sunday for five years before opening Woodland Farms Brewing.
To work through his massive inventory of homebrews, Rowan made a deal with artists recording at his studio: During the sessions, musicians were allowed all the beer they could drink. A risky proposal for surly musicians, but this deal freed up his homebrew kegs and offered Rowan instant feedback on his beer. Over those five years, he was able to dial in his lager recipes brewed on a one-barrel system and fermented in a temperature-controlled chest freezer.
Let’s clear something up about lagers. They are not easy to make. Because billion dollar conglomerates have hijacked this style, some craft beer fans poo-poo lagers. Here’s the truth: Lagers are one of the toughest beer styles to brew. For one, the bottom fermenting lager yeast needs to ferment at about 50 degrees, which means Rowan had to install a cooling system. In addition, lagers have to ferment for longer than ales. Rowan lets his lagers sit in tanks for up to 30 days. That means he can’t turn over his beer as fast as breweries focusing on ales.
I asked him why he’s committed to lagers, knowing they are time-intensive.
“It’s what I love to drink. Also, a really good lager can be as complex as an IPA,” he said.
Sipping Medico, his Mexican Lager, I have to agree. This beer has a crisp bite from the lager yeast. The aroma has notes of fresh grains, pepper and lemon citrus. Medico has a nuanced complexity from nose to finish.
His Prenderpils has the classic profile of a finely crafted pilsner. It pours straw yellow with a small head of foam. Its aroma brims with cracker notes from the grains and a spiciness from the noble hops. At 4.9 percent alcohol, this beer is criminally drinkable and should convert any lager non-believers.
Also on draft on my visit were two American-style ales. Galaxy is an American pale ale boasting fruity and grassy flavors from the hops, while TIPA has an old school pine edge with citrus overtones.
Unfortunately, Backyard Scientist kicked before my visit. Rowan’s hoppy lager was so popular that the first batch quickly disappeared after the grand opening a few weeks ago. I’ll be back to crush a pint of this IPL soon.
In addition to the lagers and ales already on draft, Rowan plans to add a sour beer series to Woodland Farms’ repertoire. Though the brewery’s flagship beers will be lager-centric, Rowan plans to always have a range of experimental beers on draft at the tasting room.
Before leaving, I asked Rowan about the brewery’s name. The location across from Kittery Trading Post doesn’t exactly scream farmland.
“From 1895 to the 1970s, my family owned a dairy farm named Woodland Farms a mile or two from here. The name is a tribute to my family,” he explained.
In a way, the hard-rocking Rowan is carrying on the family tradition, though instead of filling bottles with fresh milk, he’s filling them with artfully crafted beer.
WHERE: 306 Route 1, Suite C, Kittery
ON DRAFT: In addition to experimental beers, expect a regular rotation of lagers, including Medico, a bright Mexican lager; Prenderpils, a classic pilsner, and Backyard Scientist, a hoppy lager using rotating hop additions.
WHEN: 1 to 8 p.m. Thursday, noon to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday
MORE INFO: facebook.com/woodlandfarmsbrewery
OTHER BEER HAPPENINGS
Liquid Riot launches small batch series
The Commercial Street brewpub has announced a two-month release schedule for its small batch series. Though the release of its 2016 World Beer Cup gold medal beer, Blushing Star, has already passed, there are still four releases left. Next up is Persuasion, a sour brown ale fermented with wild yeast and aged in port barrels with 100 pounds of Maine cherries, which will be released on Valentine’s Day. These beers are all barrel-aged and brewed with the finest ingredients.
Bangor On Tap Brew Fest
1-4 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. Saturday, 515 Main St., Bangor, $35 general admission, $55 VIP. americaontap.com/event/bangor-on-tap
The America On Tap company is hosting its second brew fest in Maine this year with Bangor on Tap this weekend. Expect a number of out-of-state brewing companies, along with 15 of Maine’s top breweries. Some of the Bangor area’s best breweries will be pouring on Saturday, including Marsh Island, Blank Canvas, Mason’s and Geaghan Brothers.