an interest in knowing where their groceries come from and how they were
And supermarket industry surveys show that beer is one of the last things the consumers will choose to spend less on when the economy is not doing great, Germain added. Someone worried about their expenses is more likely to buy a cheaper car than to walk out of a grocery store without the beer they want, she said.
"It's not a lot of money," for a six-pack of craft-brewed beer, she said.
Marshall Wharf Brewing, located on the Belfast waterfront, is relatively small compared to other Maine breweries -- it made less than 15,000 gallons in 2012 -- but it increased its production total from 2011 by 27 percent.
Carlson, who founded Marshall Wharf in 2007, said Tuesday that the recent growth of the industry in Maine is due in large part to the early success of the state's larger craft brewers. Geary's, founded in the mid-1980s and followed by Shipyard in 1992 and then Allagash a few years later, all helped establish Maine as a place where high-quality, hand-crafted ales were made, he said.
"We have a great reputation," Carlson said. "We're really blessed now with some good to great breweries."
According to Carlson, the national craft beer explosion in the late 1980s and early 1990s produced some not-so-great, short-lived beers as customers and investors rushed into the expanding market. Some consumers literally were left with a bad taste in their mouths, but the more recent growth in the industry is different, he added. Craft brewers now have more experience, even those starting new breweries, and customers do, too.
"I don't see that happening now," Carlson said about inconsistent quality among new craft beers. "It's a much more informed beer-buying public."
Carlson said he just doubled his workforce this past week by hiring two new employees. He envisions Marshall Wharf expanding more significantly in the future, he added, but over the next few years, he wants to concentrate on making the most of his existing production line.
With the right people, and maybe by brewing more than five days a week, he thinks he could more than double his 2012 output to around 35,000 gallons a year without having to expand his brewhouse.
"There's definitely room for more breweries [in Maine]," Carlson said.
Oxbow Brewing in Newcastle is relatively small compared to better-known Maine breweries -- it brewed just under 22,000 gallons in 2012 -- but its growth rate last year outpaced all others. Production increased by more than 400 percent from 2011, the company's first year of operation, when it brewed slightly more than 4,000 gallons of beer.
Tim Adams, co-founder and head brewer at Oxbow, said Thursday that the brewery plans to keep growing, though not to the size that Shipyard has achieved. He said the brewery has a general production goal of around 30,000 gallons in 2013, with similar year-to-year growth in the next few years.
Adams said Oxbow exclusively uses saison yeast to brew Belgian farmhouse-style ales. It sells some of its beers on site in bottles and growlers, but everything it distributes off site is in kegs. Oxbow has focused on selling to restaurants, where it hopes its ales can be an integral part of the dining experience as much as any wine, he said.
As Maine's restaurant scene has achieved national recognition for its quality, Adams said, Maine breweries are following suit.
"We love Maine," he said of his Oxbow colleagues. "It's an incredibly exciting time to be part of the Maine beer scene."
(c)2013 the Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine)
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