HOPE—Blue Barren Distillery, formerly based in Camden, has gotten a new lease on life in Hope, and is once again, is open to the public.
Many businesses have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, but no one got the one-two-three punch as Blue Barren Distillery did back in the spring and summer of 2020 when COVID-19 not only shut down Blue Barren Distillery’s tasting room capacity but also forced the distillery’s co-owner Andrew Stewart to have to close his Scottish pub Drouthy Bear for good. And, then, in June, a midnight fire that started in the Camden restaurant Rhumb Line blazed through the Lyman-Morse building structure, which also housed the Blue Barren Distillery tasting room. They were only able to use the space for a few months more before the entire Lyman-Morse building structure had to be torn down due to excessive fire and smoke damage.
If there was a blessing to any of it, Stewart’s business partner happened to be Jeremy Howard, a 7th generation blueberry farmer, whose family owns Brodis Blueberries. The Brodis family had just completed constructing a large processing center on the property at the time of the fire. With blueberry harvesting only taking place in July and August of each year, there was plenty of space in the processing center for the small-batch craft distillery to run operations and to offer tastings.
Blue Barren Distillery moved its operations into the warehouse that summer, which was like coming full circle, as Blue Barren Distillery’s very first product was an eau de vie, a blueberry brandy made with Brodis Blueberries.
The centerpiece to their operation, a small-batch Vendome Copper & Brass Works still was not damaged in the fire, luckily. Ramping back up, after hiring contractors to retrofit a section of the center with plumbing and electricity, Blue Barren began to producing spirits again in March of 2021.
“It was a particularly stressful time,” admitted Stewart, “but in any business, you've got to be ready for change.”
With the advent of the blueberry harvest this past week, Blue Barren has resumed offering the public tastings of their product. For the festival, they will be offering bottle sales and cocktails from 12 to 6 p.m. After the festival, they will be open 12 to 6 p.m. for bottle sales Thursday through Sunday with cocktails from 4 to 6 p.m.
Their eau de vie made from last year’s harvest will also be for sale.
On the horizon, they are doing collaborations with various breweries including Cushnoc Brewing, Orono Brewing Co., and Thresher’s Brewing Co. to produce various spirits and one whiskey.
“They’re all small, limited releases and are fun to make,” he said. “Our spiced rum will be back, which is aging in a barrel right now. And then we also have another blueberry product, which will be available around Christmas. Two years ago, we took blueberry brandy and blended it with blueberry juice and aged it in oak barrels. We’re calling it ‘Myrteau,’ which is a play on the French word for blueberry. It will taste like a blueberry port.”
The distillery will continue to produce inside and offer tastings outside as long as the weather permits, but fans of the distillery and Drouthy Bear will be delighted to hear what Stewart and Howard have planned for 2022.
“We’re moving back to Camden harbor next spring,” he said. “We’re going to have a 100-seat restaurant, a 30-seat bar, a tasting room, and a store.”
For more information visit: Blue Barren Distillery.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org