If you haven’t caught it on the news in the past couple days, there’s a new brewery coming to Orono, Maine, the Orono Brewing Company is currently in the building phase in the basement space below Verve Burritos. I took the opportunity to stop in and check out the progress and chat with Co-owners of Orono Brewing Company as well as Woodman’s Bar and Grill Abe Furth, Heather Furth and Mark Horton, and Head Brewer Asa Marsh-Sachs.
The brewery build is a major renovation to the space, Heather described the basement as a “Dungeon”, walking in for the first time it looked like a raw project, it was actually a considerable improvement compared to where they started. Stepping through the door you are greeted with everything you’d expect in a major project, contractors equipment along the walls, framed walls, the start to electrical wiring run between studs. Above the ceiling has been cleared back to expose the pipes and original wood beams, the walls also have been stripped back to expose brick and anyplace that the structure had become weak has been patched. The floor is shiny new concrete, sealed just days ago with brand new floor drains to cover what had been a dirt floor and rough concrete that had to be jackhammered out.
Although not more than a shell with some framework up there is a vision and talking with Abe, Heather and Asa I began to see what they have been seeing since they stepped into the dungeon earlier this year. The framed up wall that will separate the tasting room from the brewery is set to receive two large windows so that visitors can look in and see the equipment and brewing process when Asa is at work. Markings on the floor reveal where the small bar will be located for samples, pints and growler fills. To the right is a framed up bathroom and to the left a dingy old window that will eventually become the front door. Beyond the new front door will be a new deck that extends ten feet out and will have a second deck located directly above it for customers at Verve burrito to enjoy. The walkway that used to access the original front door will be cleaned up so that visitors can play Cornhole.
The brewhouse will be tight but Asa’s description sounds efficient in the space. Against the far wall (same wall that will have the front door in the tasting room) is where the mash tun, kettle and hot liquor tank will be located as well as a large window that looks into the brewery from the deck. To the right of the brewing system along the longest wall will be four 8-barrel fermenters and an 8 barrel brite tank. Orono Brewing Company will be running a 4 barrel, all electric brewhouse and double batching into their fermenters. A narrow hallway leads to the back of the brewery which is below the front of Verve, the left side of the building will be dry storage for grains and equipment and the right side will house a small walk in cooler for conditioning and storage.
If the stars align and everything goes smoothly for the Orono Brewing Company they would love to open by late October and throw a Halloween Party to celebrate but they are conservatively shooting for late November. They plan on selling tasters, pints and growlers from the taproom as well as some snack food from Woodman’s. Outside of the taproom their product will be available at Burby and Bates in Growlers and on tap at Woodman’s and both Verve locations.
Asa is a homebrewer at heart, and it’s obvious that the thought of brewing the same handful of beers over and over is painful, he plans on having an IPA, Kolsch, Wheat and Stout as regular beers and beyond that he’ll be changing things up on a regular basis. Woodman’s has 10 tap lines and their goal is to have 7-8 Orono Brewing Company beers on and a couple rotating guest taps, of the 7-8 house lines they plan on only having 3 or 4 that stay constant and rotate a variety of styles through the remainder. Abe told me “I think part of Woodman’s success is becoming innovative with beer” the customers who frequent Woodman’s are used to new beers rotating though regularly and they don’t intend to change that with the switch to Orono Brewing beers.
Asa brought along a couple of his homebrews to try while showing me the build, a Kolsch and a Belgian Golden, both beers were excellent. Asa is an accomplished homebrewer, he has been working for Central Street Farmhouse for close to four years and has built up an impressive catalog of recipes. He knows they won’t scale up without some work and that a 4 barrel brewery won’t be like brewing over a turkey burner in the backyard. Since the news broke that Asa would be brewing in Orono the reception to the brewing community has been warm and welcoming, having minimal experience on a commercial system poses a challenge but he told me that Geaghan Brothers Brewing, Foundation Brewing, Banded Horn Brewing and others have invited him to come and play in their breweries.
Orono Brewing Company will be one to watch, I’ll try to keep informed as to their progress and you can do the same by following their Facebook page.