Words like democracy, internationalism, educational opportunities and community sound as if they were pulled from an inaugural address and not words that were distilled from a conversation with a local business owner. I admit that my addition of democracy and internationalism are possible exaggerations, but Abe Furth, co-owner of Woodman’s Bar and Grill, believes that establishing a Woodman’s Beer Society this spring can promote these esoteric aims within the context of a shared a love of, and a passion for sharing, new beer.
In his own words, Furth’s goal is simple: “Maine has an awesome beer culture. People already love Woodman’s and great beer. This is just a chance to expand that and let people participate in selecting what goes on tap here.” But it’s so much more than that.
For a yet-to-be determined entry fee, which Furth hopes to keep near a reasonable $30-50, members of the beer society will receive a membership card, a chalice-style beer goblet and a T-shirt. They will also gain a variety of in-house advantages, “first dibs” on freshly tapped kegs, limited offers and will be presented with some unique responsibilities.
While the thought of being responsible at a bar might sound strange to some, the beer society will in fact be responsible for tasting, discussing and selecting different brews to be served on Woodmans’ rotating tap lines. In order to do this, Furth is planning to use his personal connections with breweries in Maine and New England, as well as relationships with sales representatives, to set up four exclusive meetings each year, including “field trips” to Maine breweries and visits from guest brewmasters.
In between members-only events, Furth plans to host tastings, dinners with menus paired to different brews and other educational opportunities that will be open to the public. For beer society members, events will be free or discounted and will be offered earlier. After all, no democracy can thrive without an educated constituency.
But in talking with Furth, he’s more excited to learn from the group than a guest speaker. “It’s definitely an opportunity to educate people by exposing them to things they’ve never tried, but I’m also looking forward to continuing my own personal education.” He went on to explain his expectation for a diverse group of beer drinkers, in age and interests, as well as a personal goal to learn about and bring more European-style beers to Orono.
When asked about the potential for Woodman’s to begin serving cask beer, Furth said, “That’s one of the reasons I’m doing this. If I know that 80 to 100 people are not only interested but excited about room-temperature beer, I know I can serve it here.” This transition would be as simple as shifting Budweiser products to bottles and offering microbrewed lagers and pilsners to show people all the flavors they’re missing.
In addition to the educational opportunities the group represents, Furth also hopes to see a “ripple effect” to Maine microbreweries. Furth is keen to point out the importance of recognizing the business community, and specifically the way that craft beer is a common interest across different groups. He pointed out that no matter where you go in Orono, you can find Maine-made and Orono-made beer. Between Woodman’s and Burby and Bates’ selection, you can find a beer you love on draft, pick some up and share it with others.
The ultimate goal for Abe Furth is community, which comes back to his primary motivation for opening Woodman’s eight years ago: to open a place that brought back prohibition-era cocktails and bar culture. Furth aimed to create the kind of place where you had a meaningful relationship with your bartender and the people there. “That’s why whenever I’m here I’m behind the bar, talking with people.” He furthered this, saying, “[Woodman’s is] not a club, and we’re not a sports bar, so we focus on service, atmosphere and product.”