I first learned about Square Tail Brewing on Twitter a few months back, I started following them hoping to get some clues as to the direction the brewery in Amherst, Maine was taking. I also had to bring up Google maps and figure out where Amherst, Maine is, only 30 minutes away but not on any route I regularly travel. Aside from the location I was able to determine that square tail had a building, the brewhouse had red floors, they had tanks delivered and they are running an electric brewery but that’s it. I thought it was fitting that the invitation to come visit the brewery build-out came via Twitter, I of course accepted.
The drive to Amherst was dark and winding, up and down hills along route 9. My GPS notified me that I was about to turn left, but where? I knew the brewery wouldn’t be visible from the road and that the driveway was near the Amherst Town Office and marked with a green mailbox, but no brewery signage is up yet. I turned onto the first drive with a green mailbox, the white building to my left may or may not have been a town office, as I drove up into the trees I was hoping my GPS hadn’t steered me wrong, I could easily be driving up one of those roads with no name just a number that head off into the sticks. As the road started turning left the trees opened up and I could see a three bay building, the farthest bay had a light on and a truck parked out front so that’s where I headed. Putting my vehicle in park I could see in the front door, stainless, plastic kegs, I was in the right place.
Stepping inside the brewery I found myself standing in the future tasting room, Wes Ellington, Head Brewer was waiting for me to arrive. The brewery is still coming together, Wes was in doing a little plumbing. Most of the major brewery components are in place, the 2-barrel brewhouse, plastic fermenters, brite tanks, pumps, electrical system. The final piping and touch screen that will run everything have not yet been installed, and the bar and tasting room and restroom still need to be put together.
The tasting room and brewhouse reside in a space that’s about 1200 square feet of a 4800 square foot building that was an old furniture mill that shut down sometime around 2000. Beyond the brewhouse the original mill still holds remnants of the past, old equipment and lumber and potential for the future. Square Tail owns the entire building and they have cleared out a lot of the clutter from the space, replaced the doors with new roll up doors and have left the remainder of the building as cold storage that they can expand into in the future. When they purchased the building they had to bring in new power, a well and sewer, an extensive renovation and build out project that is now nearing completion. Outside in the dark I couldn’t get a good feel for the land around the building, rough, no pavement, surrounded by trees but Wes informed me that they own 8 acres of land so there is plenty of space for parking and plenty of potential for outdoor beer events, which Wes is already thinking about, mentioning some local bands he’d like to see play there next summer.
Wes Ellington has been a homebrewer for four years, a passion for his hobby has driven him to open his own brewery, he lives in Amherst not far from the brewery “as the crow flies, a few hundred yards from here” and he wanted to keep his project close to home and in the community he lives in. The locals, he tells me, have been expressing interest in the project and he’s had plenty of offers to help, the town office have been helpful with everything as well. The brewery has been federally licensed and received visits from state inspectors throughout the process and generally everything is progressing smoothly, but slowly. Wes is employed full time and has been spending evenings and weekends working on the brewery, that he originally expected to be finished and serving beer by now but admits his targets may have been a bit aggressive. Currently the goal is be brewing in 6 to 8 weeks, he won’t release beer to the public until he’s happy with the quality, having never brewed on this system there will be a learning curve but if all goes well beer could be available around New Years.
The brewery is starting slow, they will have 4 regular line-up beers, a rye hefeweizen, a pale ale, a hoppy porter, a milk stout that sounds like it will be the flagship beer and they will cycle in some seasonals as they get into the swing of things. Wes plans to be brewing once a week, double batches to keep his fermenters filled and supply his tasting room and is looking to send some kegs out to local establishments as well.
The brewery name, Square Tail Brewing, is derived from the brewers other love, fishing, a reference to brook trout. Wes is an avid fisherman, four years ago when his first batch of homebrew was ready to drink he packed it along on a fishing trip to the Allagash. Somewhere along the way between tying lines and sipping a brew by the campfire the name was tossed out and it stuck.
Follow Square Tail Brewing on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on brewery progress, I plan on visiting again when the brewhouse is up and running and beer is flowing so look for updates on my Facebook page as well.