In early 2018, Lone Pine began the process of taking over Sebago’s production facility in Gorham. Lone Pine was facing demand from customers that it couldn’t keep up with, and Sebago was building – from scratch – a new flagship production facility and restaurant. After getting the business of brewing dialed in on the new system, Lone Pine began the buildout of a tasting room facility in a neighboring building, and it opened to thirsty crowds a few weeks ago.
This spring, the tasting room threw open its doors, first to friends and the beer industry, and then to the general public in mid-April. Walking into Lone Pine’s new tasting room is like being given a welcoming hug. Walk into the indoor space and you’re met with the warmth and color of wood – wood-paneled signs, doors and a long L-shaped bar area, and barrels of beer off in the distance. There are couches and mixed types of seating, keeping in theme with the original tasting room on Anderson Street.
I met up with co-founder Tom Madden, who gave me a tour of the tasting room as well as the production facility. The last time I talked with Madden was around the time when the expansion and takeover of Sebago’s former space had been finalized but nothing had yet been moved. His buzzing excitement about the plan was palpable then.
As the lights came on in the production area, tanks in the new space gleamed, and new floors shined. The walk-in cooler has been replaced and expanded to be two levels high for more storage, and a canning and labeling system fills the front area of the brewery. New storage and office space are being constructed to make the space streamlined for the brewery’s needs.
Lone Pine is best known for its hoppy beers and had to put other styles on hold for a while as it tried to keep up with the demand for Portland Pale Ale (the flagship) and other hazy hop bombs like Oh-J. The new facility should allow Lone Pine to expand its beer portfolio and has already landed it fifth in the Brewers Association’s list of fastest-growing breweries in the nation.
For all of the whimsical names and sometimes silly approach to beer and marketing, Lone Pine has a much more serious side when it comes to its beer. Taking measurements at every stage in the brewing process, and being able to document and understand how its system is doing is key to creating beer consistently. When they moved into the new space, Sebago Brewing Company brewers spent time with Lone Pine staff to walk them through the entire brewing system. Knowing how the system will perform ahead of time saved on the cost and time of trying to figure it out, and from having batches that didn’t come out as expected.
Behind the scenes, Lone Pine has invested in quality control testing by installing a lab in a space formerly used as an office. The lab, which can be used to cultivate yeast samples and test all types of beer quality parameters, is a point of pride. Not every local brewery has an on-site QC lab, but the best breweries do everything they can to check on their beer before, during and after brewing.
When I asked Madden what he was most excited about for new beers, since there’s now more ability to experiment, I was not expecting the answer he gave. I thought he’d mention beers like the collaboration with the Holy Donut, where hundreds of doughnuts and pounds of coconut were added to a stout to produce a delicious flavor bomb. Instead, he said that Lone Pine will be brewing its first lager – a rauchbier – and that he’s eager to release it in a few weeks. Rauchbiers are those that use smoked malts and can sometimes have a bacon-like flavor, but Lone Pine’s version, named Rauchig, is aiming to be much more subtle and should have a much wider appeal.
The Anderson Street tasting room will also be getting a design refresh in the coming month, with the hopes of retaining the space’s quirky personality while making it a bit more practical for visitors. Lone Pine does not have any plans to get rid of that space – it is where the brewery was born – and it has a quirky vibe that is all its own. The goal is to make it more welcoming to sit and hang out for a beer, rather than a quick stop to pick up cans.
Perhaps one of the challenges of Lone Pine’s expansion in Gorham is its location. It takes a few turns into an industrial area before the huge grain silo with Lone Pine’s logo comes into view, so there’s a little bit of hesitation to trust one’s GPS at those first few turns, especially if you’d never visited the space when Sebago was there. However, it is really no farther or stranger a place to brew and drink than any of the other spaces that breweries have popped up in – and it is well worth a visit to see its vision so wonderfully realized.