The last 10 years in the Maine beer industry have seen a dramatic increase in new breweries opening. In fact, . These new kids on the block are looking at already existing breweries and other national newbies and built their blueprints accordingly. There are only 2 staple things that are needed to run a brewery in the 20th century: a brewhouse to make the beer and a cooler to store it. But there is something that you may be familiar with that new breweries have deemed essential for their blueprints: a tasting room.
Why have breweries recently gone in the consumer direction and building tap/tasting rooms? The 21st century seems to have brought the need for tap/tasting rooms being built in new and existing breweries. This need could be from increase in tourism, consumerism, what have you. It has just become a need for every new brewery to have a welcoming space for customers. Tasting rooms are places that people can spend time in and get to know the brewery more intimately. They are more likely to buy beer and merchandise when they spend more time at an establishment. Some breweries take the next step and offer food or have access to food trucks close by.
I am proud to say Maine’s oldest brewery, DL Geary’s Brewing Company, has built a tasting room for the masses. The question that comes to mind is: why has DL Geary’s waited this long to open a tasting room? They could be the last brewery in Maine to have one while being the oldest brewery in the state at the same time. Did David Geary believe it wasn’t worth opening a tasting room?
Being in the generation Y age group I came to drinking age just over 3 years ago. Geary’s Pale and IPA as some of my first beers I happily imbibed. Soon after turning 21 I realized that one of my favorite breweries, Geary’s, did not have a place where I can come and taste the fruits of their creation. All the other smaller breweries in the area had tasting rooms with samples and swag I can spend all my money on but not Geary’s. As my friends started to lean on my guidance for where to imbibe over the weekend I would suggest the regal tasting room of Rising Tide, a road trip to Oxbow, or the graffiti’d innards of Bissell Brothers. Now with a smile I can say they can walk down the road from 1 industrial way to Maine’s oldest standing brewery.
Why is it so important to have a tasting/tap room in Maine? I believe it’s driven by weather and tourism. In the summer Maine is inundated with vacationers from all over the country, Canada included. Wouldn’t you say it makes sense for the summer visitors to have a place to hang out and possibly spend more money?
The winter also drives a tasting room. Tourism in Maine drops dramatically in the winter and so does profits. Having tasting rooms gives breweries the ability to offer a warm space out of the cold that can generate more revenue. It can also be a hub for events that brings more people and publicity to the brewery and the tasting room. A great example is Rising Tide Brewing Company. Their tasting room has a full time manager (the lovely Stacia Brewczynski) and always seems to have events happening every weekend. Every weekend over the summer Rising Tide would host different food trucks providing food for people visiting the brewery. They also host poem readings, book signings, comedy events, and scavenger hunts (Portland Beer Week + Port City Running Tours). They basically use their tasting room as an event space, both privately and publicly.
Brewpubs are another combination of brewery & tasting room. Some brewpubs like Grittys have a merchandise room separated from the brewery and restaurant/bar. They use the restaurant and bar space as the tasting & drinking portion of a traditional tasting room. The wide variety of merchandise is sold in a separate but attached retail space/gift shop from each Grittys brewpub.
I want to see what DL Geary’s tasting room will be like going forward. I believe young and old fans of Geary’s will be glad to visit the tasting room and brewery. As of right now their hours of operation is 11AM-4PM with tours at 2PM. They are charging for tours and samples as well as selling Geary’s branded merchandise. The Maine Brew Bus helped them celebrate their grand opening earlier this evening by offering shuttle rides from The Great Lost Bear (GLB). The GLB was the first bar to pour DL Geary’s beer in 1986. I can see Geary’s being an additional stop for the Maine Brew Bus LLC and Maine Beer Tours.