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Dave Patterson

Dave Patterson is a writer and musician who is thirsty for craft beer. He's been immersed in the New England beer scene for years as a patron and since 2013 as a beer writer. In his attempt to drink all the great beer America has to offer, Dave has become convinced that the Maine beer scene is among the best in the country. He can be spotted throughout the state at breweries, bars, and backyards imbibing brilliant Maine beers. It is his belief that craft beer plays an integral role in bolstering a vibrant local economy, so he urges you do your part by drinking local beer to support your community. Twitter: @PattersonWriter​

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Posted: September 1, 2016

New Biddeford brewery makes Old World beers

Written by: Dave Patterson
The tasting room at Dirigo Brewing in Biddeford. Photo by Dave Patterson

The tasting room at Dirigo Brewing in Biddeford.
Photo by Dave Patterson

When you make the trip to Dirigo Brewing Co. in Biddeford, you might have the same thoughts I had as I passed the old mill buildings and gruff construction men at work.

Is this where the brewery is located? (It is.) Should I go any farther? (You should.) Are the construction men going to kick my butt for being down here? (Perhaps, but unlikely.)

Fight your trepidations and follow Pearl Street down to the Saco River. There you’ll spot the admiral blue sign on the brick facade along with a mural of the two hardy men from the Maine state flag. You’ve arrived at Maine’s newest microbrewery.

Dirigo Brewing Co. is the latest endeavor from longtime Maine brewer Tom Bull. Bull’s story has been well documented over the years, but here’s a quick recap.

Tom Bull is back to brewing at Dirigo in Biddeford. Photo by Dave Patterson

Tom Bull is back to brewing at Dirigo in Biddeford.
Photo by Dave Patterson

He began homebrewing with his father at age 19, and they won local homebrew competitions. Bull then got a job at Gritty’s in the early ’90s as a bouncer with his sights set on brewing. He was eventually hired as a brewing apprentice at Gritty’s, before moving onto stints at Casco Bay Brewing (before it was acquired by Shipyard) and the now-defunct Stonecoast Brewing.

Most craft beer fans, however, remember Tom Bull from the short-lived Bull Jagger Brewing Co., Maine’s first craft brewery to focus on lagers. His Portland Lager garnered much praise while the brewery was open, from 2011 to 2013.

When I asked Bull why he got back into the brewing business, he laughed his big infectious laugh.

“I’m a glutton for punishment I guess,” he quipped. Then he added, “Even after Bull Jagger ended, I knew I wanted to return to brewing.”

Bull and wife Molly teamed up with Mark and Meesha Paulin last fall, and the vision for Dirigo Brewing began to take shape. The team spent this past winter and spring overhauling a Biddeford mill for their 15-barrel brewery and large tasting room.

The tasting room is a gorgeously inviting space. The brick and exposed wood beams from the early 1800s were sandblasted, breathing new life into the old materials. A string of windows overlooks a waterfall on the Saco River, while a large neon sign reading “Dirigo” hums on the wall.

Bull plans on brewing some of his signature lagers at Dirigo; however, he’s also focusing on other styles, as indicated by the three beers on draft at the brewery’s opening: German Pale Ale, Rotbier and Schöps.

“I’m interested in ancient Eastern European beers that most people aren’t brewing,” Bull explained as he and I drank his Rotbier. He held up his glass of the red ale. “This beer is from a 13th-century recipe.”

Rotbier, German for “red beer,” pours a deep crimson and has a sugary aroma akin to candy corn. The bitter pine of Cascade hops balances the sweet malt backbone.

The German Pale is a fascinating mashup of a German pilsner and an American ale. Traditional German malts and hops give the beer a sharp pilsner bite, while the American yeast and hops impart tropical fruit flavors.

Dirigo brewing's Schöps is a Polish chocolate wheat beer with subtle notes of molasses, cocoa, oak and undertones of smoke. Photo by Dave Patterson

Dirigo brewing’s Schöps is a Polish chocolate wheat beer with subtle notes of molasses, cocoa, oak and undertones of smoke.
Photo by Dave Patterson

Schöps is a Polish chocolate wheat beer with subtle notes of molasses, cocoa, oak and undertones of smoke.

Since lagers take a minimum of six weeks to brew, it will be a few more weeks until Bull has one on draft, but expect plenty of lagers from the man who first brought the style back to craft brewing in Maine.

Make your way through the maze of imposing mill buildings in Biddeford to experience Tom Bull’s lineup of Old World beers reimagined at Dirigo Brewing Co.

Dirigo Brewing Co.

WHERE: 28 Pearl St., Biddeford
WHEN: Noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
ON DRAFT: German Pale Ale (5.5 percent alcohol), a hybrid of a German pilsner and an American ale; Rotbier (6.1 percent alcohol), a red ale with sweet malts and pine hop flavor, and Schöps (5.8 percent alcohol), a Polish chocolate wheat beer
MORE INFO: dirigobrewingcompany.com


OTHER BEER HAPPENINGS

Ballast Point Brewing Tap Takeover at The Family Dog

Noon to close Saturday, 6 Mill St., Orono. thefamilydogorono.com
The Family Dog restaurant is one of Maine’s best beer bars. Located in downtown Orono, The Family Dog is dedicated to carrying the best beer from Maine and beyond and selling that beer at a reasonable price. It has recently been chosen to host a Ballast Point Brewing tap takeover to help the California brewery celebrate its 20th anniversary. Expect 12 Ballast Point beers on draft, five of which have never before been poured in Maine. This is a great excuse to visit this hip, northern restaurant.

Sebago Brewing Co. in the Final Stages of Approval for Gorham Brewery

Sebago Brewing Co. is finalizing the details to break ground on its new 30,000-square-foot brewery in Gorham. The brewery will increase production to a four-vessel, 40-barrel system. The tasting room will be a staggering 9,000 square feet. Additionally, there will be an outdoor patio, and patrons are encouraged to hike or cross-country ski on the adjoining trail system. As of now, the Sebago team hopes to break ground in November.

Banded Horn Brewer to Become Head Brewer at Kilted Kinsmen Brewing

409 Canal St., Milldale, Connecticut
For the past two years, Bob Bartholomew has been brewing at Banded Horn Brewing Co., but, this fall, he plans to become the head brewer at the soon-to-open Kilted Kinsmen in Connecticut. Bartholomew worked for Sebago Brewing Co. and The Maine Brew Bus before his tenure at Banded Horn in Biddeford. Though it’s a loss to the Maine brewing scene, we wish Bob luck in his new head brewer position.

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