Maine Beer Co. has been steadily, massively growing – and if you haven’t been paying attention for a while, it may be time to come back around.
This spring, the Freeport brewery opened a completely renovated tasting room, wood-fired pizza kitchen and gathering space, housed in an addition to the building and taking over some of the production floor that visitors could once look down on through glass windows from the original tasting room space. To say that the tasting room has expanded doesn’t seem to sum it up. This new space is massive, well-designed and stunning.
Some of its features include a long, beautifully lit bar where there’s never a long line to get samples, flights or food. Prominently located in the center of the first-floor seating area is a kinetic statue of a tree that drips water as if it is raining through the leaves, the water caught by a stone-rimmed fountain pool. There’s also an upper balcony that overlooks rest of the tasting room; a smaller, set off to the side seating area that’s a bit quieter than the main space; and yet another outdoor area that’s covered and can be used in all weather.
On the upper balcony, you can walk through a timeline of the brewery’s creation, from the seed of the idea to its debut as a nanobrewery on Industrial Way to the current brewery that now produces over 20,000 barrels of beer annually.
Maine Beer’s motto is “do what’s right,” which has meaning beyond its beer and brewing philosophy. Many companies, when they reach a certain size, are able to contribute to charities that they support and will host specific fundraisers for organizations to answer the need of the community. Maine Beer, however, has taken a different approach by donating 1 percent of its sales – and has from the day its doors opened – to a rotating group of environmental nonprofits. The organizations range from national conservation groups, like Allied Whale and The Gorilla Fund, to local ones, such as Maine Audubon, Wolfe’s Neck Farm and the Bicycle Coalition of Maine. Through this effort, Maine Beer’s annual giving is over $150,000 and continues to grow as the company does.
The good deeds don’t stop there, either. Maine Beer Co. is working to reduce its carbon footprint and has embarked on a project aiming to generate more renewable energy than it consumes in the day-to-day operations of the brewery. To accomplish this, they’ve installed solar panels on buildings on the brewery and will also be funding solar facilities elsewhere. Last month, Wolfe’s Neck Farm recieved a $25,000 donation from Maine Beer Co. toward its own solar farm project, covering a sixth of the cost.
As part of the tasting room expansion, Maine Beer has also found the creative energy and time to create a series of beers, called the Black Barn Program, exclusively available on site. They are brewed in the smaller brewhouse but still go through all of the lab testing and quality control as the other staple beers, so they feel like less of an “experiment” than some tasting-room-only brews made at other breweries. The rotating styles are numbered (Black Barn Program Nos. 1, 2, 3, etc.) and can be purchased by the glass or in bottles directly from the tasting room while available. On a recent visit, I tried No. 3., a dry, hoppy IPA with a sharp but crisp bitter bite, and I would definitely come back just to see what the next one turns out to be.
To celebrate its 10th anniversary, Maine Beer Co. will be holding a two-day celebration this weekend. Dinner, one of its nationally-known IPAs, will be on tap, as will its sister beer, Second Dinner. On Saturday, there will be an oysterfest with Maine Oyster Co. and live music from Sugar Hill Music, and if you bring in a shirt, you can have it screen printed on a people-powered printing press. On Sunday, there will be a pop-up ice cream vendor. More details are being released via Maine Beer’s website and social media as the event gets closer, but it should be a great time to stop in and give a nod to 10 years of hard work in brewing and in creating a company that gives back every step of the way.