Maine's craft beer industry not saturated yet, brewers say

NOW- Maine Beer Boom

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Maine Brewer's Guild reports that about 12 new breweries opened in Maine in 2017, and a study commissioned by the group expects the number to continue to grow by double digits each year through 2020.

The Guild now contains 82 breweries, and a 2016 report by the Brewer's Association found 77 breweries in the state, ranking Maine 5th in the nation in breweries per capita.

The Guild reports that the industry brought in $227,951,566 in 2016 to the state.

People choose to stand in the rain on a weekday at noon to get the latest releases of certain beers. 

"It's a brand new beer that they've never had before so you do what you've got to do," said Patrick Sullivan, who was waiting in line at Bissell Brothers in Portland as they released a new bourbon barrel-aged beer.

Bissell Brothers will soon reach its four-year anniversary, and co-founder Peter Bissell remembers the first time he and his brother Noah saw crowds outside their brewery on Industrial Way in Portland.

"They like us! They really like us! Oh my gosh! I remember Noah and I peering out of the garage door like Oh my god!" said Bissell.

On a recent Saturday release, Bissell said they processed 1,000 customers in two hours. Their beer has a serious following as people line up hours ahead of time to be first in line to take home some cans.

"You need to let your own personality show through in everything that you do," said Bissell.

According to the Brewer's Association, the number of Maine breweries more than doubled from 2011 to 2016, reaching 77 from 34 in 2011. The industry has exploded since New England's first craft brewery, D.L. Geary Brewing Company, opened in 1986.

Alan and Robin Lapoint are the new owners of the company – taking over at a time when the beer market is becoming more diverse.

"We're just humbled that we got the opportunity to keep it going," said Alan Lapoint. "It's a daunting task in order to make sure we're being good stewards of the brand, while at the same time staying relevant and make sure that we're attracting new and younger consumers to the brand. It's an interesting needle you have to thread, but it's exciting to do it."

Geary's, known for its traditional English-style brews made in the wooden shell mash tuns, now has a series of metal fermenting tanks for beers gaining more popularity, such as India Pale Ales.

With such popularity already behind many of Maine's breweries, some new brewers remark on the difficulty of breaking into the business.

"It was scary, but I feel like it made me work harder because there was no back up. This had to work," said Ian Dorsey, co-founder of Mast Landing Brewing Company in Westbrook. "It's a very rewarding feeling to be where we are."

Dorsey said quitting his stable job as a financial advisor came after months of asking his clients "are you satisfied?" He said after asking himself that same question, he finally answered himself truthfully, and started the business -- but said nailing down a location to brew was difficult. Since then, they've expanded their brewing capabilities.

But when does the industry have too many options? When does it become saturated? Brewers say the competition is internal -- not brewery versus brewery -- and that beers are becoming more and more specialized, allowing for more new breweries to open with little threat to others.

"Innovation comes from when markets are saturated," said Bissell. "We are in the age of specialization. You don't want to attract everybody, because you can't. People cannot drink all the beer that is offered."

"Competition brings out the best in everybody," Lapoint agreed.

"As long as the breweries continue to make good beer their man goal, I think there's room for a lot more of us," said Dorsey. 

 

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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