UNION — Most are familiar with the wildly popular “farm to table” food movement that sprang to life several years ago and has continued to gain traction around the world. In Union, one family is hoping to bring a similar model to their recently purchased property on Crawfordsburn Road, aspiring to not just brew beer, but to grow the hops and botanicals for the small batch beers they will begin producing this spring.
Bill Stinson and his wife, Ashley, moved to Union from Lexington, Massachusetts, about a year ago. Stinson said that the couple had spent the previous two years exploring New England in search of the state — and home — that would lend itself to “switching gears.” Stinson was an IT professional in Massachusetts while Ashley had a successful career in journalism and public relations in the Boston area.
“We’re old house nuts,” he explained, “and we really wanted to explore a land-based business.”
The pair fell in love with a stately farm in Union on 10 acres, and have since added the brewery building which was designed by architect David Foley and constructed by Lorraine Construction. Stinson said they settled on Union because the town provides the pastoral setting they were looking for, but is proximate to the coast.
“It’s a really interesting community, and a great mix of people,” he said.
A three-barrel setup will keep operations small and in house, but Stinson said he also plans to self-distribute kegs when the brewery opens in the spring. There are presently no plans to can or bottle beer, however growlers, pints, flights, and pitchers will be available for purchase on site.
“I consider what we’re doing to be a nanobrewery, we plan to start small and stay small,” he said.
The brewery has six taps and Stinson said they will have three or four standard offerings, with an additional two experimental or rotating beers on tap at a given time.
It was the idea of “doing a business out of the ground” that was most attractive to Stinson, and he said that his vision is “a little amorphous, but we will adapt as we go.”
Stinson gestured out the windows of the bright and cozy brewery to a stream and field where he plans to grow hops and additional ingredients to add to his brews. While he does not have farming experience, he’s been seeking advice from various local agencies. The field is dormant now, but Stinson planted a cover crop of winter rye in preparation for upcoming uses of the farmland.
He explained that the indoor bar and seating area will be complemented by outdoor picnic tables and seating, the layout of the brewery and outdoor space will ideally allow visitors to enjoy the property and have “as much access as possible” to the brewing process. He explained that he wants the process to be a “visible part of the experience” for those visiting the establishment. He likened the experience to an estate winery.
Stinson said he has been making beer since the 1980s in five to 10 gallon batches, and that he has several recipes he is excited to introduce. Additionally, he hopes to host opportunities for the public to brew on premises — a participatory way to get involved with the beer making process.
“I want it to be a little hands on if possible, I want to provide that experience,” he explained.
Stinson has designed the brewery to have a very low carbon footprint. The entire brewery operates on electricity as opposed to gas, and he will even explore hydropower from a stream that runs through the property. The building has been designed for maximum efficiency, and organic practices will be observed in all farming endeavors.
Even some materials, including the corrugated metal that comprises the bar area and the beams are salvaged. The beams came from the barn on the property, which Stinson explained has been moved and had some extra lumber sitting inside. The metal was salvaged elsewhere by his contractor.
Stinson has a business plan that encompasses three phases (one each year, ideally) and said that year one is the construction and opening of the brewery, year two is getting farm operations up and running, and year three will be examining and improving the carbon footprint. It is in the third phase that Stinson plans to begin exploring the implementation of hydropower on a mico scale.
“Our goal is to be as green as possible,” he said.
The brewery does not have a commercial kitchen, but Stinson said they will always have snacks including cheeses and charcuterie available for purchase during service, additionally, he plans to enlist food trucks. A common food service model employed by many small breweries to provide their guests with meal service.
“There will always be something available to eat,” he said.
While Stinson is in the process of completing all permits, he already has plans to serve beer at the nearby Union Farmers Market.
His face lit up as he explained his beer selection.
“We will be doing primarily ales with a lager here and there,” he said. “I have a couple of flagship beers, actually, I have a whole bunch!”
Among the recipes he is most excited about is a porter with a hint of anise which he has dubbed “Transporter.” Another is amber ale with wormwood to add additional bitterness with the hops, this beer is called “Windsurfing Hippie Painkiller,” and a flagship IPA called “Hildegarde” after Hildegarde von Bingen, the 12th century woman credited with discovering and identifying hops. Stinson explained that his wife and daughter both pursued medieval studies and taught him about the pioneering woman for whom the beer will be named.
He said he plans to brew three barrels once or twice a week, and he is intrigued by experimental and historic beers. He added that he once made a date beer after reading an article in The New York Times about an ancient Egyptian vessel that was discovered with the residue of a fermented date liquid inside.
He said he grew several strains of hops over the summer as an experiment, procuring rhizomes from the west coast. He added that both the University of Maine and the University of Vermont have experimental hops fields, so it is becoming increasingly clear which varieties thrive in New England climes. He added that there are peach and plum trees extant on the property, and he intends to plant more fruit trees and botanical ingredients for his beers.
While plans are still coming together, Stinson said he envisions being open four days a week, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and noon to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. He cautioned that plans could evolve as he makes adjustments once the operation is open.
Stinson said one of the things he loves most about being in Union is proximity to other small brewers and distillers.
“We’re excited to be surrounded by brewers, wineries, and distilleries. We’re new here, but we’re really excited.” He said.
He explained that they have been talking to neighbors about their endeavor and receiving positive feedback and support from the community.
While Stinson is originally from California, he met Ashley at Fenway Park in Boston and said the pair knew instantly that they would stay in New England. Their relocation to Maine and business endeavor is an effort to get back to an “earthier” life, he said.
“It feels really unspoiled here, there is a lot of beautiful land. The people are great.” He added.
He said the Pour Farm name was inspired by a doodle that his daughter did, “I want to convey that we want to grow what the beer is made from,” he said.
“My goal is that the operation will be vertically integrated: from farm, to beer, to experience,” he said.
Jenna Lookner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org