It isn’t a secret that Portland is thought of as the center of the Maine craft beer scene. Home to 18 breweries and tasting rooms within the city limits, Portland is hopping – in more ways than one. What has been kept under tight wraps, however, is another Portland brewery in development, joining one of its busiest clusters.
Brewery Extrava, a new Belgian-inspired brewery will join the so-called Yeast Bayside neighborhood in late spring, offering a contrast in style from the hop-forward portfolio of many of the area’s new breweries. The name is a combination of Latin roots that means “to come from exploration and examination.” Brewery Extrava plans to offer both traditional and innovative variations of Belgian and other international beer styles, including mixed fermentation and barrel-aged beers.
The planned brewery is co-owned by business owners Joe and Charlene Doherty and brewing industry veteran Michael LaCharite. LaCharite, who will serve as brewmaster, has abundant experience in the professional brewing industry. A Siebel Institute of Brewing Science graduate, he has owned and/or brewed at some of Maine’s most iconic breweries, estimating that he has brewed over a million gallons of beer throughout his career. As the owner and brewer at the former Casco Bay Brewing Co., LaCharite created the award-winning flagship Kathadin Red Ale that early Maine craft beer drinkers still remember fondly.
More recently, LaCharite has been running a business as a brewery consultant, helping breweries to broker equipment, plan for their development, and design and install brewing tanks and equipment. It is through that work that he met Joe and Charlene Doherty, who were interested in setting up a brewery and seeking guidance. As the group talked, they realized that they shared a similar vision, and the idea for Brewery Extrava was born.
The Dohertys plan to bring their combined experience in entrepreneurship and marketing to Extrava. Joe’s experience in sales, management and business development come from a previous career a Fortune 500 company, and Charlene runs a small business that the couple purchased in 2000 that produces ergonomic roofing tools for contractors. In 2017, Joe left his position and began to look for a career change.
“After spending significant time looking at different career options and reflecting on how I want to spend my time and energy, I decided to pursue opening a small craft brewery,” said Doherty.
Thanks to a timely tip from a real estate broker, the future brewery owners quickly found a vacant building at 66 Cove St. and got straight to work. A custom-designed and fabricated 10-barrel brewing system is on its way, and this week, the one-barrel pilot system arrived. Brewery Extrava will utilize the pilot system for its barrel-aged beers and special releases, as well as to develop beer that can be scaled up to full-sized batches.
The styles they plan to produce will fill a niche that few other breweries are currently filling – and may bridge the traditional styles to more modern ones. “Having traveled to Belgium a number of times and learning from master brewers there, I was inspired to return and incorporate the ingredients and processes they use to create my own versions of these world-class styles,” said LaCharite.
Nestled roughly equidistant from Rising Tide Brewing Company and Austin Street on Fox Street and Lone Pine Brewing and Goodfire Brewing on Anderson Street, Brewery Extrava’s location should benefit from the well-trafficked Yeast Bayside neighborhood of breweries. While several breweries in this cluster brew the occasional Belgian style beer, none have it as their focus. “I think we’ll fit in nicely and complement what’s already there,” said Doherty, “In not just the beers, but the building itself lends itself to providing a different experience inside of the tasting room.”
The building has an interior space of 5,000 square feet, which will be divided into sections housing the brewery, tasting room and storage area. For the 1,000-square-foot tasting room, Doherty said they are hoping to design the space to have a cozy and European-inspired feel. During the renovation, they tore out a plaster ceiling to reveal wooden beams underneath, and they hope to use additional wood, warm colors and fabrics to make the tasting room feel inviting and unique.
Brewery Extrava is aiming for an opening in mid-to-late June and expects to have 6 to 8 beers available in the tasting room at the launch. The brewery plans to offer some of its beer in cans, as well as some more limited releases in bottles.
Statewide, Brewery Extrava is among about a half dozen breweries in planning that should be open by the summer, including several that are preparing to open before winter’s end. While some may argue that the beer scene is rapidly filling up with new breweries, Extrava stands out in its genre and approach. With years of brewing experience backing it up, it’ll be exciting to see what new creations come out of Cove Street.