Though the garage door to their East Bayside brewery first swung open to the public in 2012, Bunker Brewing feels like an elder statesman of the craft beer scene in Maine. Since head brewer and co-owner Chresten Sorenson sold his first pints of artfully crafted lager, over 20 breweries have opened across the state.
Bunker Brewing entered the beer world at the first swell of the neo-craft beer renaissance that is now a wave of tsunami proportions. When they opened in 2012 there were 29 breweries in Maine and that number is currently 56 and growing, while nationally in that time the number of breweries has increased from 2,126 to an astonishing 4,144 breweries as of last December.
Despite their upperclassman status, there’s a good chance you have enjoyed Bunker’s innovative lagers and ales on draft only at Sonny’s or Local 188 in Portland, or at their brick-salvage-yard building turned brewery behind Tandem Coffee on Anderson Street.
That’s all about to change. After Bissell Brothers Brewing upgraded to a larger canning system last spring, Bunker purchased Bissell’s old hand-operated system, and they are now packaging their artisanal brews in six-packs of 12-ounce cans.
Sorenson began his brewing career selling bootlegged homebrew out of his apartment in Chicago. When he came to Maine, he started working for Jay Villani, owner of the aforementioned Sonny’s and Local 188 restaurants. Villani was looking to get into the brewing business and after sampling Sorenson’s homebrew, decided to hire the one-time bootlegger to run the small brewhouse, and the two became co-owners of Bunker Brewing Company.
What Sorenson brought to the Maine beer scene back in 2012 was a beautifully crafted lager. Though there are three or four solid lagers and pilsners being brewed in Maine now, Bunker’s Machine Czech Pils was the first to turn heads.
Fast-forward four years, and we finally have what many craft brew fans have been craving for a long time: the ability to go to a beverage store and grab a sixer of Bunker beer.
Sorenson explained to me that Bunker will keep Machine Czech Pils on a regular rotation in cans. Last winter I highlighted this brew as one of Maine’s best pilsners. It has bready notes of graham crackers with a spicy hop finish from the Saaz hops, a traditional German noble hop. Machine has the right balance of fresh craft beer flavor while being smooth and drinkable for all palates. At 5.2 percent alcohol by volume, this beer is perfect for afternoon tailgating parties or as an après ski beer.
In addition to Machine Czech Pils, Sorenson tells me that for the next couple of months they will also be canning Cypher. Cypher is a great example of an India Pale Lager. When you crack the can you get big hop aroma from the dry hopping, but the beer finishes with a sharp, fresh bite from the lager yeast. It’s a fascinating mash-up of an IPA and a lager.
As they move their canning schedule forward into spring and summer, expect to find cans of Salad Daze (a hoppy session lager) and Trashmaster (an imperial stout). In addition, Sorenson explains, “We are canning a couple batches of a German Pils called Endless Summer that we brew with Oxbow (Brewing Company) every winter.”
Adding a canning line is the perfect way for Bunker Brewing to reach a new audience and get their artfully crafted lagers and ales into your eager hands.
WHO: Bunker Brewing Company, 122 Anderson St., Portland
WHERE: Purchase at Portland area beverage stores and at the brewery during tasting room hours
WHEN: Tasting room open 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 12 to 5 p.m. Saturday
IN CANS: Machine Czech Pils (5.2-percent ABV) and Cypher India Pale Lager (6.5-percent ABV), and coming soon Salad Daze hoppy session lager (4.7-percent ABV) and Trashmaster (9-percent ABV)
MORE INFO: bunkerbrewingco.com
Tasting Room Only. Geary’s Brewing Company, 38 Evergreen Drive, Portland. gearybrewing.com/tours
If you haven’t made it out to the new tasting room at Geary’s Brewing Company, here’s a great reason to check it out. David Geary and company have aged their Hampshire Special Ale in bourbon barrels. HSA is an old Maine favorite with its high alcohol content (7 percent alcohol by volume), big malt backbone, and subtle hop finish. This is a bold British-style ale that begs to be aged in bourbon barrels. The bourbon brings a caramel, buttery flavor to HSA, taking an already solid beer to the next level. In addition to the bourbon barrel-aged HSA, you can expect to find other brewery-only releases from Geary’s when you visit the tasting room. The next time you’re in the Industrial Way neighborhood, swing by Geary’s Brewing and taste what’s brewing at Maine’s oldest post-Prohibition brewery.
Download weekly episodes at greatbeeradventure.com
Great Beer Adventure brings together two of my favorite obsessions: Maine craft beer and podcasts. Amanda Doughty and Danno Pugatch are the forces behind the podcast. These two craft beer lovers produce a weekly podcast where they interview local brewers to get the stories behind their beer and the brewery. This is a professional quality, hour-long podcast that fits nicely between episodes of Serial and WTF with Marc Maron. Maine brewers are passionate, intelligent people, and Great Beer Adventure is your chance to get to know them.