I realized recently while jotting down some notes for blog posts that I haven’t been in to the Sea Dog Brewpub in quite a while, about two years to be exact, not since I did a presentation for Social Media Breakfast Bangor. Admittedly Sea Dog isn’t a favorite of mine, and while the food at the restaurant is pretty good I just never eat there, so it was time to go in for a visit.
I had emailed Head Brewer, Books Matthews and arranged to meet up, chat and tour through the brewery. When I arrived I found that the pub side of the establishment is way more focused on the restaurant than the brewery, when I asked for Brooks Matthews I was met with confusion, when I said “the Head Brewer” the response was “Brewer?” so leaping right over that hurdle, the message that I was there made it to Brooks. I had to wait for a bit, I had shown up right in the middle of a brewday and Brooks was in the middle of cleaning out the mash tun.
If you’ve ever been in the Sea Dog barrel room you know you can look into the brewery and the conditioning area. The brewhouse is home to to an old school 7-barrel Peter Austin Brick Kettle Brewing System, from what I understand it’s the original system from the first Sea Dog that was in Camden. The opposite side of the room has a large red grain mill, wood sided mash tun and hot liquor tank, at the far end is a door to the fermentation room. Stepping into the fermentation area there are two 14-barrel open top fermenters to the right and four 7-barrel open top fermenters along the far wall, the center of the room was being used for keg storage. Exiting left into the conditioning area, you are met with a row of conditioning tanks on the right, the first two in line are new 14-barrel tanks, the rest are 7-barrel. The left side of the room is a giant glass window that looks out into the barrel room, along this wall is more keg storage. This is by no means a flashy brewery but it’s got a lot of character, the brewing system has a long history and I come across open top fermentors in use less and less often.
Brooks Matthews has been brewing in Bangor for five years, he’s been with Sea Dog for nine years, starting in the kitchen and after expressing interest in brewing he got a chance to train at Federal Jack’s. Chatting with Brooks was eye opening, I knew he was brewing in Bangor to support the barrel room and the bar but I didn’t realize just how much brewing was actually happening there. Sea Dog has three locations in Maine, Bangor, Topsham and South Portland, all three of these locations are supported by the brewery in Bangor. Brooks and two other brewers are brewing 7 times per week and up to 10 times per week in the summer to keep their fermenters filled and all the brewpubs supplied, roughly 1900 barrels will be produced by the end of the year, an impressive number considering they do it 7 barrels at at a time, the math works out to about 271 brewdays. Sea Dog locations in Florida are supported by a brewer at the Clearwater location, the new restaurant that is slated to open in North Conway, New Hampshire this fall will most likely be supported by the Bangor Sea Dog as well as Federal Jacks in Kennebunk, Maine. The bottles of Sea Dog you see on store shelves are brewed by Shipyard Brewing Company, who owns the Sea Dog brand.
Sea Dog Brewpub keeps 14 beers on tap at all times, 12 regular lineup beers, 1 seasonal and 1 monthly release, plus a cask option. The monthly releases could be anything, the brew team in Bangor puts their heads together and collaborate on recipes that stay under wraps until the final beer is announced. These monthly releases seem to be a point of pride for Brooks and his team, allowing them to depart from the regular lineup brews and get creative. The cask beers also allow them some freedom as well, the beer is regular lineup but they infuse them with hops and fruit and all sorts of creative items to change things up, the current cask beer that I sampled after the tour was an IPA with cold brewed coffee added.
A big thanks to Brooks Matthews, I enjoyed my tour and chat about Sea Dog.