Local Business

Brewing beer in Boothbay

Posted:  Wednesday, October 2, 2013 - 6:00pm

On September 26, Win Mitchell was outside his craft brewery making wood tap handles for Harbor Fest. Each handle featured an insignia of the beer he had brewed specifically for the fest called Harbor Fest Ale.

The Boothbay Craft Brewery has come a long way since its inception in 2009 when Mitchell and his wife Lori started building their tavern. They've hardly stopped since.

The brewery is located on the grounds of the Boothbay Resort, a small cottage resort on Adams Pond Road that has been in business since 1955. The couple bought the Boothbay Resort, with cottages and the 1800s homestead, eight years ago. The brewery was added on to the old homestead and the couple opened a restaurant in the spring of 2013.

The couple started brewing beer for fun in 2004. Last year they began brewing it commercially.

Aside from a big setback in March, when Lori Mitchell was diagnosed with a rare stem cell cancer, the business has been growing and expanding beyond expectation. Things were put on hold in the spring to focus on her health issues. She is now in recovery and getting stronger by the day.

The restaurant, called the Watershed Tavern, is of traditional post and beam construction made mostly from local wood. “A lot of local people donated trees that I sawed up in my saw mill to use in the construction,” Mitchell said. Many of the large posts and beams are adorned with the names of the wood donor or place of origin.

The brewery section consists of four huge shiny steel tanks that fill the room from floor to ceiling. Two of them are 350 gallon brewing tanks and two are for fermenting.

Frank Fassett, tour guide, bartender and jack-of-all-trades, said they use 360 pounds of barley per batch of beer. “Brewing beer is much like making tea,” he said, “but instead of tea leaves we use special malted barley.”

The brewing process is fairly quick; Mitchell said they are able to brew two batches of 155 gallons every day. The fermenting takes nine days. From the fermenting tanks the brew is then pumped to conditioning tanks for the final stage: brightening up the beer. This process takes two to three days.

From the conditioning tanks the beer goes directly to the taps in the bar. The draft system, built by Midcoast Machine, contains 20 taps. Two-thirds of the brews are beers from Boothbay Craft Brewery.

Mitchell said he will be getting two more fermenters and one conditioning tank to expedite the process. “Our beers have become so popular, we can't even remotely make enough to keep up with the demand,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell is on the board of directors of the Maine Beer Trail, a nonprofit that organizes tours of breweries in Maine. “A lot of people look up local breweries when they come to the area,” Mitchell said. “We are doing two tours every day, usually with 8 to 10 people, sometimes up to 40 a day.”

The brewery is in the process of a renovation and expansion. The old homestead will be torn down and replaced with a modern steel building to house the existing tanks and the three new fermenting tanks. Mitchell is planning to include a mezzanine, an open balcony of sorts that will allow viewers to look down at the beer-making process.

The restaurant will be open through Columbus Day, then it will close for renovations. They hope to reopen in November or December and remain open through the winter.