Owls Head Transportation Museum’s Pioneers, Innovators & Maineseries

Two breweries, one winery: How they broke the mold

Mon, 03/26/2018 - 12:00pm

OWLS HEAD—Everyone loves a good success story, but they happen to love it just a little bit more when there is a mini-tasting event afterward.

As part of Owls Head Transportation Museum’s winter education four-part series celebrating the pioneers and innovators of Maine’s business community, two local craft brewers and one vintner shared their stories with a crowd of approximately 50 people at the museum on Saturday, March 24, 2018.

“This is our third event this winter and we’ve chosen certain speakers because of the approach they’ve taken to make their business stand out,” said Sophie Gabrion, marketing and public relations manager. “They’re all Maine businesses using very innovative methods to accomplish their goals.”

Speakers included Andy Hazen, founder of Andrew’s Brewing Co. in Lincolnville; Elmer Savage, co-owner of Savage Oakes Vineyard and Winery, in Union; and Nate Wildes, cofounder of Flight Deck Brewing, in Brunswick.

Using a Pecha Kucha-style of presentation, each speaker told the journey of their business in 15 slides for 15 minutes.

Today with more than 100 breweries in Maine (and counting), Hazen is considered one of the forefathers of the Maine brewing industry boom. A cabinetmaker by trade and a home brewer for about eight years, Hazen started Maine’s fifth microbrewery in 1992, at a time when there was no brewing equipment readily available. A carpenter and troubleshooter, he built and jury-rigged his own equipment along the way, even employing a local welder to help him assemble a 12-barrel brewing system that he designed himself.

His presentation took the viewers through his atypical path to success, as his business grew. Today, they run their 5OO-barrel per year brewery seven days a week.

“The biggest challenge back then was that there wasn’t anything available,” said Hazen. “We pretty much had to manufacture everything we used ourselves. We were the foundation. You can’t build a house if you don’t have the foundation.”

Elmer Savage, along with his wife Holly, own and run Savage Oakes Vineyard and Winery, a 95 acre family farm that dates back to the 1790s.

His presentation took the audience through the couple’s successful business decisions to turn the farm into a unique agri-business destination. With wild blueberries as their primary crop, the Savages came up with a business plan to turn the  the blueberries into a value-added product of blueberry wine, which eventually led to planting growing grapes.

For the last 14 years, they turned their hobby of wine making into a small scale commercial production producing 17 award-winning wines and the Savages haven’t stopped their innovation there. They used the farm to host small scale concerts, which have now grown into a summer concert series featuring popular national artists. Last year, Lyle Lovett performed and this summer, Savage Oakes Vineyard and Winery will host Melissa Etheridge.

“We are always thinking of different ways to make this farm work and went into each venture with a business plan,” said Savage. “There’s not a lot of money in straight production agriculture in Maine and when we recently redid the plan, we added the summer concert series.”

Nate Wildes is not only an engagement director for Live and Work in Maine, a private-sector workforce attraction initiative, he is also cofounder of Flight Deck Brewing, which opened a year ago in the former small arms range of the Brunswick Naval Air Station (now Brunswick Landing).

Wildes’s presentation focused on the purchase and renovation of the bulletproof concrete arms range building into a unique destination brewery and social gathering space. Another groundbreaking move on their part was to add four four publicly accessible electric car chargers in the parking lot with the help of Revision Energy and Tesla Motors. These chargers, powered with 100 percent renewable energy, are complimentary to Flight Deck’s consumers.

When asked if he ever had any reservations in the process of undergoing such a monumental project as converting an old shooting range building into a brewery, Wildes said: “Only at the beginning, middle and the end. We knew that if we started a brewery, we wanted it to be unique and experiential. As consumers we also knew that some of the best experiences you can have in a Tasting Room is because of the space itself. We wanted a place where people could connect with each other. The other side of it was, if this building wasn’t going to be reused, what would it become? If it was torn down, it would have been a waste of resources, so with a lot of elbow grease and creative thinking, we thought if we could make this building work, it would represent what we wanted the overall experience to be.”

Owls Head Transportation Museum’s final event in this winter series will be “Pioneers of Creative Culture” on April 21, 2018 at 1 p.m. For more information: Pioneers & Innovators series.

Photos by Kay Stephens