With tireless dedication and a finely honed vision, Tom Madden and John Paul’s partnership is a tour de force. The longtime friends spent the last year building one of Portland’s best new breweries, Lone Pine Brewing Co., on a sturdy foundation of high quality American ales, strong relationships and plenty of sleepless nights.
I sat down with the two partners after hours at the brewery to talk about their first-year journey.
“When we opened the brewery, we had $17 in the bank,” Paul, head of operations and business development, said, laughing. “We didn’t know what was going to happen.”
On March 3 of last year, they released the first bottles of Portland Pale Ale, an American ale with formidable citrus hop flavors and a drinkable malt profile. They simply hoped they would sell enough to slowly build demand. Within days, beverage stores were calling; they’d sold out and wanted more.
“We were totally surprised by the response. From day one, it ran away from us, and we were trying to keep up,” said Madden, the head brewer.
For the first six months, Madden brewed Portland Pale Ale around the clock to satisfy demand. He estimates that he’s slept in the brewery more than 30 times in the past year to get up early enough to keep production on schedule.
While Madden was crashing in a sleeping bag on the tasting room floor, Paul was driving up and down the state building relationships with accounts, telling Lone Pine’s story.
“We want to be more than a tap handle. We want to attach a story to our beer,” he said.
In speaking with the lifelong Mainers and Thornton Academy grads, it’s clear they love their home state. Instead of looking over the border to Massachusetts for their next market, as many Maine businesses do, Madden and Paul want to distribute their beer all around Maine first.
“We’re huge proponents of being accessible geographically in Maine. We want to be in Gardiner and Bangor, for instance, before we leave the state,” Paul said.
“We make Maine beer for Maine people,” Madden added.
While some breweries embrace a business model around a lack of availability to build excitement for their beer, Lone Pine takes the opposite approach. They want anyone who wants to drink their beer to be able to get it.
Though that doesn’t mean their beer hasn’t attracted lines. Madden explained that when they release Tessellation, a juicy double IPA single-hopped with Mosaic hops, there is a line of fans outside the brewery waiting for the tasting room to open. (And for good reason, this beer is legit.)
But that’s the exception, not the rule.
With their recent expansion, their beer is more available now than ever. And the level of consistency in their beer hasn’t wavered, as Madden is unflagging about quality control.
Going forward, Madden and Paul plan to add more beers to their lineup, including a single-hop IPA program along with barrel-aged beers.
To increase space to their small tasting room, they’re building an outdoor patio this spring and possibly adding a mezzanine above the brewing tanks.
In May, a year after their tasting room officially opened, they plan to throw a block party at the pink-colored East Bayside brewery with special beer releases, food trucks and live music.
Though the two partners are looking to continue to expand, they tell me they want to remain true to their original vision.
“We don’t want to lose ourselves as we grow. We want to maintain the integrity, quality, consistency and authenticity we started with,” Madden said.
WHERE: 219 Anderson St., Portland (the pink building)
WHEN: Tasting room open 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday
BEERS: Hop-forward American ales, including Portland Pale Ale, a citrusy American ale; Brightside IPA, a tropical fruit flavored IPA; Tessalation, a double IPA with Mosaic hops, along with a forthcoming single-hop IPA program and barrel-aged beers
AVAILABILITY: Purchase four-packs of 16-ounce cans at beverage stores and on draft up and down the state.
MORE INFO: lonepinebrewery.com
OTHER BEER HAPPENINGS
Bunker Brewing hosts a night of live music
8 to 11 p.m. Thursday, 17 Westfield St., Unit D, Portland. $5 ticket.
When I interviewed co-owner and head brewer of Bunker Brewing, Chresten Sorensen, after he opened Bunker’s new brewery and tasting room, he stressed that he wanted the brewery to be a venue for local music. On Thursday, Rick Rude, Jeff Beam and Carinae will feature a night of music with plenty of Bunker beer. The tasting room is spacious with strong acoustics, making a great venue for live music. Be sure to get out to catch some local music at the lager-forward brewery.
Birds On Tap – Roadtrip! Gulls and Growlers
9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Freeport Wild Bird Supply, 541 Route 1, Freeport. $65 per ticket on eventbrite.com.
The Maine Brew Bus teams up with Freeport Wild Bird Supply for another round of the acclaimed Birds On Tap tour, featured last year on in the Portland Press Herald. The event pairs stops at bird viewing destinations with visits to local breweries. The tour will make stops along waterways and even take birders to a landfill. Though it’s not what we think about when we think about nature, landfills attract many different birds in the winter, including bald eagles. The bus will take patrons to Lost Orchard Brewing and Crooked Halo Cider House in Gardiner, along with a stop at the newly opened Flight Deck Brewing in Brunswick. This is a great way to experience what Maine has to offer.