I’ve referred to the small collection of garage-like spaces on Industrial Way – across the street from Allagash Brewing – as a “nursery” for new breweries. The bays contain floor drains and are easy to modify, combine or work with – making them ideal locations for small-scale brewers to get their start. This particular location has birthed three breweries already – including Maine Beer Company (who outgrew the space after a few years and relocated to Freeport), Rising Tide Brewing (now successfully housed at an East Bayside location) and the now-closed Bull Jagger Brewing. However, these spaces didn’t stay vacant long. Currently taking over are a new wave of brewers, all with their own visions and varying scales.
I took the opportunity to visit three breweries as they were being visited by a special Maine Brew Bus tour. The tour had started at Banded Horn in Biddeford, and I caught up with them when they arrived at Austin Street Brewery.
Ever since I got a taste of some of Austin Street’s potential offerings last summer, I’ve been quietly (and, at times, impatiently) waiting for them to open. Since then, brewer Jake Austin and his brother-in-law Will Fisher have been quite busy. However, I’ll still be waiting a little bit, because they’re not quite open to the public yet.
The beers that they shared with the tour group – a low ABV “Lawnmower” saison beer and “Patina Pale Ale,” a pale ale brewed with American Ale yeast – tell me that these guys know what they are doing. The beers were both very clean and had layers of complexity that made me swoon a little. Saisons have lots of flavors going on, and the aromas reminded me of the best of all of those “barnyard” or “farmhouse” notes. I could envision this beer as something that you could drink several of in a row on a hot summer day – without being knocked over by the alcohol content. Somehow, it also fit the grey and snowy early afternoon of the tour.
A true “nano” brewery, they intend to make some beers that utilize Brettanomyces yeast – a funky and temperamental little bugger that can yield some delicious results if handled correctly.
Austin Street’s system is small – and barely takes up half of a wall of the space. A small refrigerated room takes up the back corner, but the footprint of a larger walk-in freezer can still be found on the floor. The center of the wide open, white-walled room contains a ping-pong table, and an office sits above the tasting room that occupies the brewery entrance. A small, green street sign for “Austin Street” marks the exterior entrance of the building.
A tour participant asked about whether the brewery’s name – Austin Street – had anything to do with Jake Austin’s last name, or if it was referencing a specific street. While that seems like an obvious question – the answer surprised me. Turns out that Jake lives on Austin Street – and it’s what they called the small home-brewery setup that Jake and Will used to brew on. Basically, it was a very convenient coincidence. And after a search to find out whether there were any other breweries by that name, it stuck.
Still working their way through paperwork, Austin Street is hoping to begin brewing within the next month or two. It may be a bit hard to get at first, since they are only brewing on a 1 barrel system, but take it from me – it will be well worth looking for.