Geaghan’s Restaurant and Pub is a Bangor, Maine landmark. Founded in 1975 by John Geaghan with a strong railroad theme and Irish undertones it would be 35 years before his son’s and grandson thought about adding a brewing system and 36 years before the first pints of Geaghan Brothers beer was served at the pub.
In 2010, Andrew Geaghan, who was teaching Science at Brewer High school while completing his Master’s Degree in Theology decided to return to the family business. This was around the same time that the Geaghan’s began casting an eye towards the craft beer market and implemented the Beervana program at the pub. Beervana was a rotating craft beer tap that patron’s in the program could purchase for three dollars and then submit a review and let the Geaghan’s know what they thought. The Geaghan’s decided to invest in a brewing system and by December of 2011 they were pouring their first pints at the pub.
When Geaghan’s started brewing, Andrew was Front of House Manager for the restaurant and had some involvement in the brewhouse but all brewing was handled by Jason Courtney, an award winning brewer who helped establish the brewery. In January of 2014, Jason and the Geaghan’s had a parting of ways.
Enter the new brew team.
Andrew Geaghan, 31, moved from Front of House Manager to full time brewer. Ryan Power, 23, an employee of the Geaghan’s since he was 15, progressed from dishwasher to line cook to prep cook to brewer’s assistant and now Head Brewer. The pair split the responsibilities as head brewer with Ryan handling most of the brewing operations and Andy handling the business and logistics side, but both of them are hands on in the brewery and work as a team to create new recipes. Andrew describes it “we’re kind of co-brewers in a lot of ways” to which Ryan added “we complement each other well.”
Andrew and Ryan were both home brewer’s prior to becoming professional brewers. Andrew, who at one time was Ryan’s homeroom teacher at Brewer High joked about how he had to work to get Ryan to go to his Science class but years later when the topic of homebrewing was brought up Ryan was thirsty for knowledge on the topic to the point that in a couple short years Ryan accumulated folders full of ideas and homebrew recipes.
I asked Andrew and Ryan what their favorite part of the brew day was, Ryan was quick with his response “the smell, going in and out of the brewhouse just to smell it again” and Andrew completely agreed “we tend to make big hoppy beers so there are two wonderful key points in the aroma category, I love when you first mash in, there’s just something beautiful about the smell of malted barley hitting hot water, when you have a coffee in your hands and the sun is getting warm, everything beautiful, and then you’re at the end of your day and there’s this crescendo, you hit those hop additions and the character just changes.” Both brewers agree that as hard as the job is, it’s worth it, Andrew summed it up by saying “there’s pride in everything we do.”
New liquor laws were just passed in Maine that will change the dynamic of brewfests going forward; I was interested to know where Geaghan Brothers Brewing will show up this summer. Geaghan Brothers Brewing is a strong supporter of the growing Bangor beer scene so I wasn’t surprised when Andy told me “we’re definitely going to be at Tap Into Summer and Kahbang”, They didn’t have a long list of planned brewfests like some breweries around the state do but they will be in Portland this summer “We’re super pumped about August 1st in Portland, The Beer Camp Across America, it’s just a killer idea, a killer concept from Sierra Nevada.”
Still a young brewery, with a brand new brew team, I was interested in hearing what their goals are for the future: “I want to make waves, I want to make killer beer” said Ryan “I want to have people drink my beer across the country and say it was great.” Andy had a similar goal “Growth is certainly something that sure, anyone who is as competitive as Ryan and I, would be lying if they said they didn’t want to see that sort of growth.” Andrew was a bit more reserved in his goals of expansion though “I’m as passionate about the people who drink our beer as I am about the beer, and I think Ryan is too, for me there is nothing more enjoyable than the brewpub setting. I would love to fire up a big system and put beer on a distributor’s truck at some point but I also want to create a 5-barrel one off of something crazy that only our biggest fans in Bangor, Maine can ever get.” The final goal from both brewers is to just continue improving, as Ryan put it “Keep learning and keep getting better.”
I was invited down to the pub recently to sample Geaghan Brothers Brewing’s 200th Batch, a big hoppy Double IPA, the event was a mug club member event so I got the opportunity to not only try their new beer but get a feel for who is in their mug club, and they feel like a really fun group to be around. Ryan told me that he loves sitting down and talking with the regulars “these are the people that are in here every day, we see them every day; it’s one of the best parts, seeing the same people because your beer is their stand-by and that’s what they look forward too”
New brewers with big goals, I had to ask the question, what’s new and exciting that we should expect to see in the near future? Ryan told me that they are implementing a *single hop series “Something to highlight a single hop, highlight it.” they will be brewing 6 different beers with identical grain bills and hop schedules but using only 1 hop per batch, simcoe, amarillo, cascade, centennial, warrior and columbus. “It’s to get people excited and be able to identify what’s in their beer, and then at the end, I thought it would be fun to put them all together, and make one big flavorful IPA, highlighting all their attributes.” The beers will be released one per month and then at the end there will be a tap takeover with all the beers on for side by side comparisons.
I enjoyed my talk with Andrew Geaghan and Ryan Power. Andrew is a talker, Ryan is a bit quieter, and they are both competitive people who aspire to be the best brewers they can. Both of them have lofty goals for the brewery yet they have their feet planted firmly on the ground. They are fiercely loyal to their regular customers, recognizing that the same people who sat in that restaurant in 2010 drinking domestic light lagers, before they started brewing, are the same people sitting there today with a silver Geaghans Mug filled with fresh, house brewed beer. They have stepped into the brewhouse and as a team continued to produce the same high quality craft beer that we all come to expect without missing a beat, and I expect they’ll continue to improve and grow with time.
*Since this interview took place the first of the Single Hop Series and IPA brewed with Simcoe has gone on tap at Geaghan’s Pub