This week, the Brewers Association announced that the number of breweries in the U.S. now exceeds 7,000 – 7,028, to be exact – and that there are nearly 2,000 more breweries that have identified themselves as being “in planning.” In Maine, we saw a burst of openings over the spring and summer, and now we are seeing another group of breweries opening in the fall and early winter. Some are filling in corners of the Maine map where there were no breweries before, and others are contributing to clusters that collectively strengthen a region’s attraction for beer-related tourism.
There have been two recent additions to the area of Bath and Brunswick. First is Bath Brewing Co., which opened near the end of 2017 but was a brewpub in name only. It started as a restaurant and pub and was able to brew one pilot beer at Flight Deck Brewing as a collaboration. Over the summer, Bath Brewing installed its own equipment for brewing, and the first pints of its own were rolled out during a release party at the end of October. The brewery celebrated with four beers on tap: A Pale Ale, Orange Blonde, New England Style IPA and Milk Stout (all named for their styles). The Orange Blonde is a light twist on a typical blonde ale, with the little bit of orange providing a noticeable citrus note without turning the beer into a literal glass of orange juice. Bath Brewing is the small city’s first beer producer and fits in well with the area’s growing restaurant scene. In addition to the pub’s own beer, Bath Brewing offers food, wine and cocktails, making it attractive to a wide audience of both visitors to the historic ship-building city and its year-round inhabitants.
Just slightly further south, Black Pug Brewing has now joined Flight Deck Brewing and Moderation Brewing Co. in bringing locally-made beer to residents of Brunswick and beyond. The dog-loving owners have taken over a small space on Route 1, painting over a bland interior with bright colors and tucking a small brewing system in the back. Flights of beer are served in painted muffin tins that correspond to a menu behind the bar, a clever hack of recycling that’s also very straightforward to understand. The available beers are broad in styles and include a yam beer, a Thai-inspired IPA (with lemongrass and ginger) called ThaI.P.A. and a unique white stout, Fade, that was available either with traditional carbonation or over nitrogen (producing a creamier mouthfeel). On the wall, a TV displaying the latest check-ins from the popular beer rating app, Untappd, are displayed. Fun fact that I learned when I visited the dog-friendly location: a group of pugs is called a “grumble.”
Head a lot farther south, and you’ll be on your way to Corner Point Brewing Co. (CPBC), which sits just across the border from Somersworth, New Hampshire. The brewery is a first for Berwick, where Maine has not yet experienced the “boom” of breweries that Portland, central Maine and Bangor have enjoyed. CPBC will also be the first brewery in York County not situated on or near Route 1. The beer in CPBC’s tasting room stands out from the typical beer lineup – many of the beers contain ingredients or methods that are inspired by foods that connect to New Mexico and the Southwest. The green chili beer was a heat-less treat, with a savory pepper note that perked up the brew. The small brick building housing the brewery and tasting room is situated on a corner, and though parking was slightly tricky, it did not seem to deter the satisfying crowd of people enjoying an early-evening sample or two.
As these new breweries get their bearings, there are yet more that are putting on the final coats of paint and ordering the last of the equipment they will need. On the nearest horizon, veteran-owned Stars and Stripes Brewing in Freeport celebrated its grand opening on Veterans Day. The beers, which are also military and veteran themed (Semper Fi.P.A., Warrior’s Wheat, Ooh-Rah IPA) will be served in the 2,000-square-foot tasting room and available to go in growlers. The brewery also plans to donate a portion of all of its process to veteran-related organizations.
While we’ve passed the annual peak of openings that occurs each summer, it doesn’t mean that there are not other breweries opening soon. Breweries planned for Waterboro, Rockland, New Gloucester, Auburn, Pittsfield and Boothbay Harbor will likely open over the next couple of months or in the beginning of 2019, and even more with undetermined (or still fluid) opening dates are in the wings. If you’re in a town without a brewery, odds have it that you won’t be high and dry for long.