After years of traveling around the world from Mexico City to Eastern Europe, two brewers, Adam Tuuri (Turner, ME) and Eben Dingman (Leeds, ME), returned to their home state to reconnect over a product they both love—beer.
Bear Bones Beer will open its doors at 43 Lisbon Street this Thursday, with regular hours from 4pm to 10pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday, serving a selection of vegan beers filled with locally grown ingredients, as well as a fresh ginger ale for those who seek to quench their thirst in other ways. The Bear Bones owners spent two hours with the Student, showed us around their new facility, allowing those of age to test their products for “quality control.” They passed the test with flying colors.
“That was the best ginger ale I have ever had,” Student Photo Editor John Neufeld ’17 said. Bear Bones currently has 12 label approvals, featuring a Double C.R.E.A.M Ale (a la the Wu -Tang Clan song C.R.E.A.M), their Old Smokey smoked IPA, and Buck’s Season, a “hop forward” session ale made from their friends’ hops.
“We are considered a nano-brewery,” Dingman said, glancing over at the gleaming aluminum brew tanks. While there is no official definition for a nano-brewery, many brewers state that a nano-brewery usually produces no more than a batch at a time, rarely distributing very far from their location—Baxter is considered a micro-brewery, a slight step above. Bear Bones currently brews two barrels at a time, each 30 gallons, before transferring the mixture into 6 available fermenter tanks where they sit in a temperature controlled room, Tuuri said. The two beer aficionados had been brewing individually for almost a decade when they decided to start collaborating in 2013 with the goal of creating a delicious product with a business model based on sustainability.
Craft beer is in a stage of rapid growth in the United States and in Maine in particular. The Maine Brewers Guild released a report stating that craft brewing in Maine is poised to grow by 200 percent by 2018. More people are beginning to come to Lewiston and Portland for beer. With breweries like Baxter in Lewiston and Gritty’s in Auburn, downtown businesses are seeing an increase in foot traffic, especially to the restaurant-laden Lisbon Street. The Lew is slowly becoming a hot destination on the Maine Beer Trail. FUEL Restaurant is positioned to carry Bear beers, as is Forage and Marché Kitchen and Wine Bar.
The atmosphere of Bear Bones Beer currently fits the name; it is bare. After considering the Bates Mill and another location farther down Lisbon street, Tuuri and Dingman finally settled on 43 Lisbon. Furthermore, Tuuri and Dingman do almost all of their own work, including carpentry, equipment assembly and maintenance, lighting, plumbing work. This has saved them close to $70,000 on renovations, Tuuri said.
“A brewhouse doesn’t come with an instruction manual,” Tuuri said. “When you are a big brewery, you hire people to do that work. Everything is kind of done for you.” At a nano-brewery like Bear Bones, Tuuri and Dingman design and assemble everything from the ground up, including the fluid dynamics system in their kettles.
The two brewers really take the terms “local” and “sustainability” to a whole new level—any work or products they need are sourced in Maine. “We are really a size that can accommodate that,” Tuuri said.
The brewing kettles were created by Lebel’s Heating and Sheet Metal down on Lincoln street. Their base malt comes from grains grown in Aroostook, Maine Malthouse in Mapleton, and Blue Ox Malthouse in Lisbon. The fresh ginger for their ginger ale was purchased down the road in Auburn at Four Seasons Market, which had more ginger than it could sell.
The Mason jar glasses, wooden bar, tables, floors, and even wood used to make their beer caddies are all repurposed. “We try and recycle and reuse as much as possible,” Tuuri said. “All the wood that is visible right now is reclaimed… the build out is part of the business, so we tried to minimize the waste.”
Bear Bones currently occupies a quarter of their available 8,000 square feet and plans to expand once they gain momentum. The co-owners spend 60 hours a week in the brewery, five out of seven days, while maintaining other jobs as property managers and housing renovators.
As part of their minimal waste platform and to keep people returning to Downtown, Bear Bones only sells their beer in growlers and portable pints.
“[We are] only doing growlers, even in the store,” said Tuuri. “[We are] using that basis to encourage people to reuse and come Downtown to buy a product, otherwise they are going to a sprawling supermarket.”
“The more connections the city makes within itself, the better it does,” Dingham said. The brewers explained the importance of community support for budding businesses, especially those creating an actual product in Lewiston. “If you take one of those breweries in Portland and put them somewhere out there, they are going to wither and die. The community [makes them] survive.”