‘Beer shares’ are the latest trend in breweries carving out unique niche

Home-brewing hobby turns into a CSA-style brewery in Belfast

Wed, 06/26/2019 - 1:30pm

    BELFAST—A new brewery has quietly opened in Belfast, but unlike most hyper-local rural breweries, Frosty Bottom Brewing is choosing to operate not as a public tasting room, but as a “brew share,” similar to the Community Supported Agriculture model of farm shares and fish shares that currently enjoy a popular following in the Midcoast.

    Roy Curtis is the owner of Frosty Bottom Brewing, with friends and shareholders Zafra Whitcomb and Jon Thurston helping him brew. All three were individual home brewers who enjoyed getting together as sort of an informal club and experimenting with a variety of styles before Curtis started the company this year.

    Frosty Bottom Brewing’s rough-sawn pine brewery and tasting room sits at 18 Hunt Road in Belfast adjacent to Curtis’ house, which he built with friends using a stand of pine that was specially reserved for the brewery located on Frost Hill Road. 

    For that reason, “Frost” was incorporated into the name as well as the logo.

    In addition, Curtis built an apartment over the tasting room that he intends to rent out in July as a unique Airbnb listing calling it “room with a brew.” Downstairs, half of the structure is the “brewing side” with a one-barrel brewing system that produces 30 gallons when they brew every two weeks.

    “Ultimately, our goal is to have 60 gallons each month,” said Curtis.

    The company’s model was born out of a hobby and aims to remain a hobby; that is, the purpose of the brewery is to generate enough product to sell to shareholders, who pay an annual fee and get in return, a growler (one gallon) of two different brew style each month—or 24 styles annually.

    In addition, every shareholder has the privilege of stopping by the semi-private tasting room for an exclusive free tasting of whatever the brewers are currently making. Right now, the brewery has sold all of its 2019 shares, primarily to friends and family, many of whom, helped to construct the brewery.

    “We’re excited to try brewing new styles we’ve never done before and the ideal shareholder will be someone who is open to trying absolutely everything,” said Thurston.

    While the CSA model for brewing isn’t new in other parts of the country, it is unique in Maine. Only one other Maine brewery has adopted this model. Side by Each Brewing in Lewiston, also offers a Community Supported Brewing program.

    As both Curtis and Whitcomb are both currently employed full time and Thurston is retired, they aren’t looking to expand much more beyond this original goal, until the time is right.

    Given their limited license with the city of Belfast, the brewery cannot sell beer at its tasting room location, but may only offer free samples to those in their shareholder program. For interested parties in a brew share, Curtis said he’s always willing to give a mini tour of the facilities when it works with his schedule and that those looking to sign up for a brew share may email him for consideration on the 2020 list.

    “When we open up shares for 2020, we’re hoping to take on 40 shareholders,” said Curtis. “Forty of the gallons will be for them and the other 20 gallons per month will be for tastings.” 

    “Waldo county is pretty rich with the CSA-movement and brewing for us is very connected to local agriculture,” said Curtis.

    Along with using hops from Thurston’s farm, the brewery buys Maine grains from Blue Ox Malthouse and once the grain is spent, it is fed to local pigs.

    “And the brewery is really an outgrowth of the community-supported model,” he said. “As home brewers we all shared in the cost and labor to make a product, so this is really an outgrowth of that.”

    For more information visit Frosty Bottom Brewery on Facebook.

    Kay Stephens can be reached at news@penbaypilot.com