On Wednesday, March 22, in the Foster Center for Student innovation James Beaupre and Jason Bolton held a lecture and answered questions about brewing. They shared knowledge of both facilities and the business planning necessary to be successful, citing examples of the successful breweries popping up in Maine.
Brewing in Maine added $228 million to the state’s economy and increased over sixfold in the last decade. Breweries from Maine have been reported on by media outlets such as the Boston Globe, NPR and the Los Angeles Times. Portland, Maine is considered by many to be one of the best cities in the country for beer.
Initial costs of starting a brewery are in the ballpark of about $140,000 and up, according to the lecture, so it is often necessary to involve investors. On top of financing the startup, one must account for the costs of distribution, transportation, building utilities and ingredients. To cut down on some of these costs, Bolton and Beaupre agreed that it is important to have a significant local customer base: the profit margin is higher when beer can go from storage straight to the taps.
There are three different licenses a brewery must have — and four if they want a tasting room: Federal and local Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau (TTB) licenses, a commercial food license and a serving license.
One brewery mentioned was the Marsh Island Brewery, which began operation in 2015 — and opened a tasting room just over a year later. The tasting room allowed them to further tap into the local customer base.
Bolton and Beaupre suggested new brewers account for the time the aging process takes once the beer is in barrels. Beers age for differing time periods, so one might want to try to create a popular brew that does not store for as long to avoid having a “building that’s full of booze and you can’t sell it until it tastes right,” Bolton explained.
Bolton and Beaupre used Allagash White, a belgian style wheat and Allagash Brewing’s first beer, as an example of Allagash Brewing Company’s success at the lecture. With nine awards — and generating most of the sales — White pulls much of the company’s weight in profits.
Consistent quality control was a major talking point in the lecture. Without consistency, a characteristic that many breweries have difficulty with, small drifts in flavors may go unnoticed. Quality control entails expensive equipment that is constantly evolving along with all brewing infrastructure. Quality control is likely to become more of an issue for startup breweries, because breweries will be held to the same standard as food manufacturers.
Following trends within a market is important. According to Bolton and Beaupre, many millennials enjoy IPAs because they usually consist of one big flavor, which appeals to our simpler pallet. They also promoted the importance of fostering a healthy brewing scene through collaboration with other local brewers.
Beaupre is UMaine’s Innovation engineer and is currently working for the Center for Student Innovation. Beaupre is a patented inventor of papermaking technology, and has a BS in Chemical Engineering and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Maine.
Bolton is a food safety specialist for the UMaine cooperative extension, helping food producers ensure safety regulations are implemented. Bolton also works through the University of Maine School of Food and Agriculture, where he teaches brewing science.