The deeper I get into this blog the more you will all learn about me so now is not the time to be in denial, my name is Chad Lothian and I am a Beer Geek. I already feel better now that it’s out in the open. Being a beer geek I can tell you that second only to drinking all the amazing craft beer I can get my hands on, my favorite thing to do is visit the brewery where these intoxicating elixirs are created. I’m the guy who brags about visiting Rising Tide Brewery in Portland when they were still a Nano Brewery, before they expanded. I’m also the guy who will encourage you to visit the Anheuser Busch Brewery in St. Louis if you get the opportunity, because a brewery of that size is incredible, it’s as close to a small beer city as you can get, and I’m not going to lie, I’m not a fan of Budweiser but it’s pretty good on tap fresh from the brewery.
That being said, when Tim Gallon, head brewer and Owner of the Black Bear Microbrewery in Orono, Maine opened his brew house doors to me I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a private tour. Stepping into the brew house I was surprised to see how small the operation actually is. Black Bear Microbrewery is a 10 Barrel operation, a barrel is the equivalent of 31 gallons so 1 batch of beer is 310 gallons. The mash tun and brew kettle are set off to the right, four 10 barrel fermenters are off to the left. The room is small but it’s arranged in a very efficient manner with plenty of space to maneuver in and around fermenters.
While Tim explains the brew house operation I couldn’t help but notice the shiny stainless vessel in the corner with bright red legs. This happens to be the brew house’s newest addition, a 20 barrel fermenter, for those of you following along and doing the math, the addition of a 20 Barrel Fermenter increases the breweries capacity by 50%.
Tim and his assistant brewer Matt York work together turning out double brew days. Tim starts his day early and completes a full brew, cools it and moves it to fermentation while starting a second batch. Tim then passes the torch to Matt who completes a second batch. When they are not brewing there is prep work, keg cleaning and of course packaging to be done. The expanded capacity will obviously create more work for this duo but listening to Tim talk about the new opportunities the expansion will provide makes me realize that he’s ready and excited to take on the new challenges.
The expanded capacity allows the Black Bear Microbrewery to pick up extra distribution, giving them the opportunity to canvas the entire state of Maine. There is no plan to change their current distribution model, they are happy being a draft only operation. The expansion also allows Tim to free up one of the smaller fermenters to do small batches of “house beers” that will be featured in the newly opened Taproom. There was specific mention of a Liberally Dry hopped “House” IPA that I will definitely be coming back to sample when it’s available.
The other new addition at the Black Bear Microbrewery is their Taproom. It’s a cozy little spot with a small bar that seats six; there are a few tables and standing room. They serve fresh pints for $3.50 unless you choose the “brewers choice” a rotating tap selection that only costs $3. If you can’t decide try samples for $1 each. There is no food served at the Taproom but they do have complimentary popcorn and on Wednesday nights Moe’s Original BBQ brings in pulled pork and turkey sliders, $5 gets you a slider and a pint. If you find something you like, for $10 you can bring home a Growler of brewery fresh beer, $2 of that is bottle deposit so come back with the bottle and refills are only $8. Hours of operation for the taproom can be found on their website.
I had a great time visiting the Black Bear Microbrewery, I love seeing a local brewery that is thriving and growing in today’s competitive craft beer industry. Talking with Tim Gallon it’s easy to see how proud he is of his brewery, He loves making beer right here in Penobscot county and wants to continue to provide a quality local product to Maine’s thirsty craft beer fans. If you enjoy fresh beer and want to support a local business, come to Orono and check out what Tim has going on and if you can’t make it up to our neck of the woods keep an eye out at your local restaurant or bar because Black Bear might just find its way to you.
Website: Black Bear Microbrewery