From biker gang hangout to a microbrewery, the building has a colorful history

Liberator Brewing Co, Rockland South End’s new nanobrewery opens its doors

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 12:30pm

    ROCKLAND — In a long-awaited moment for brewer Rich Ruggerio, the doors of his WW II aviation-themed nanobrewery, Liberator Brewing Co., officially opened to the public Wednesday, Oct. 31.

    “Back in the ‘90s, I had a brewery called Rocky Bay and over the years, I put in breweries for other people, but I just felt it was time to do something on my own,” he said. “It just felt awesome to finally open the doors.”

    With a two-barrel system, Liberator opened with four beers on the opening day menu, including an Air Screw Pale Ale, a tasty single hop pale ale and the Illuminator, an American wheat beer that was subtle and well balanced.

    Ruggerio said, “Our plan is to offer up to six ‘mainstay’ beers at all times and beyond that, be brewing up to 15 beers, which we will rotate out.”

    He said they don’t yet have a flagship beer and that they will be waiting on customer feedback.

    “We’ll have a new beer coming out for the fall called Axis Night, an American old-style ale around 9 percent ABV with some Belgian-style malts and American-style malts from Blue Ox Malts in Lisbon Falls, kind of malty but very drinkable, very smooth,” he said.

    Beset by a number of delays, including  a complete build-out of a brewhouse in the back, building renovations, and state and city inspections that prevented a June opening, nevertheless Ruggerio persevered with Liberator, making it a Maine-licensed farm sustainable nanobrewery, offering “unique hand-crafted ales and lagers, local wines and locally prepared light fare.”

    Inside the tasting room, members of the Rockland community, including fellow brewer, Dan Pease, owner of Rock Harbor Pub and Tasting Room, were on hand to welcome Rockland’s newest business with a pint.

    “It’s another reason to come to Rockland,” said Tom Peaco, Executive Director at Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce. “We have breweries and wineries in the surrounding Midcoast area and just adds one more aspect of enticing people to Rockland. It also adds one more incentive to spend time in the South End, where we have that hidden gem across the street, the Center for Coastal, Jess’s Market, Primo,and Archers on the Pier just down the street.”

    “For everyone coming up from the St. George Peninsula, this really is a great spot to be; it’s right at the entrance to the city,” said Gordon Page, Sr. “The whole concept of the downtown industry is about growth in incremental changes. You can’t do it all overnight. I’d have to say Rich has been enormously patient in getting through all of the paperwork and the process to get this place open.”

    The microbrewery and tasting room is housed in a historic building, which according to owners Polly Saltonstall and John Hanson, once used to be a motorcycle repair shop in the 1970s, called Stone Choppers custom motorcycle repair shop, and a notorious hangout for to the NSKK Motorcycle gang.

    “The story has it that a rival gang threw a bomb at this building and it bounced off and blew up in the street,” said Hanson.

    “I had a lot of interest from a lot of different people,” said Saltonstall, whose offices for the magazine, Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors, are upstairs. “We very much wanted whomever took over this building to serve the community and be a center for the community in Rockland. Rich is a guy who has a solid reputation for having worked as a brewer in Rockland for so long.”

    Liberator Brewing Company, named for the World War Two B-24 bomber, has a Farm Sustainable license, which stipulates that a certain percentage of the ingredients in the beers must be locally produced. Ruggerio also plans to offer locally sourced  and homemade food, such as the sausage and sauerkraut they had in the crock pots on opening day as well as collaborate with local restaurants, including Rotary Pizza.

    Hours will be Wed-Sunday, opening from 2 to 8 p.m. during the weekdays and on Friday through Sunday 12 to 8 p.m.

    Related: Liberator Brewing Company to touch down in Rockland

    Kay Stephens can be reached at