BELFAST—The sound of construction can be heard in and around the two buildings that comprise Marshall Wharf Brewing and Three Tides these days. It’s business as usual for builder Daniel Waldron, co-owner of Whitecap Builders; but he isn’t just working on the buildings. He and his wife, Kathleen Dunckel, recently purchased the brewery building and property prior to a public auction on January 29. They also purchased the brewery business and Three Tides business.
As a former employee of Three Tides and Marshall Wharf Brewing, Waldron couldn’t get the brewery off his mind. It had abruptly closed in April 2019 after floods over the previous winter had caused severe damage, according to an article in the Bangor Daily News.
“I started seriously considering buying it last June,” said Waldron. As it got closer and closer to the auction, we kept thinking, ‘how can we make this happen?’”
As a builder, Waldron eyed the buildings with a certain perspective that comes with the territory.
“I fell in love with that brewery building when I was working here,” he said. “It was an old grainery and has been standing here on the Belfast waterfront since the late 1800s and the upper levels of the building have never been touched.”
Rising tides, storm surge and climate change made the brewery extremely vulnerable to flooding, a calamity which destroyed a substantial amount of the hard work done by original owners David and Sarah Carlson. According to BDN, a one-two punch in the winter and spring of 2019 in the form of floods wiped out their stainless steel tanks that contained finished beer and then took out more smaller tanks two months later.
To be viable as a brewery in the long run, Waldron said the entire building needs to be jacked up approximately eight feet from the current first floor elevation.
“It’s been there so long it’s sinking,” he said. “Currently, the first floor of the building is 38 inches below the sea wall. We just need to get it jacked up on piers, out of the ocean’s way.”
“We do this every day,” he said, of the construction. “For me, the immediate challenge is getting the brewery and restaurant back up and running again.”
Waldron, who has been in the restaurant business 20 years as a supplement to his construction work, served as a Three Tides bartender. Dunckel is a professor at Unity College. With three children, the couple is spending every available moment to bring back the beloved brewery and bar to the way people remember it.
At the time of this interview the couple had a verbal agreement to lease the Three Tides property from the current owner with intent to purchase it in the future.
“The feedback we’ve heard has been so positive and a lot of what we’re hearing is: ‘We miss Three Tides and Marshall Wharf Brewing. We want our place back.’ And we want to give it back to them.”—Kathleen Dunckel
As for Three Tides, Waldron doesn’t need to do anything drastic.
“The kitchen needs some new equipment a potential expansion, but we’re planning on leaving it mostly the way it was,” he said.
The couple said they are working toward a spring re-opening while they work on planning, engineering and a slew of city, state and federal permitting applications for the major rehabilitation of the brewery building.
“We’ve got protections in place for flooding right now,” he said. “We’ll operate out of both spaces, until all the permits are in place and then the brewery will need to shut down again and brew offsite, so we can jack the building up.”
The Belfast community has expressed an outpouring of excitement toward the re-opening.
“David and Sarah were super supportive and the community has been off the hook since we posted the plans on Facebook,” said Waldron. “Other restaurants and brewers, such as Danny McGovern, have also reached out and given us their support.”
Jared Mahrunic, MW’s head brewer, is returning to restart the brewery. One of the biggest questions the couple is getting is: “Will the same beers come back?”
The answer is yes.
“Everything will still be branded Marshall Wharf and all of the beers that people love will be coming back,” said Waldron. “We’re honing in on what Marshall Wharf already does well.”
He said: “We’re not quite sure what capacity we’ll offer food yet It’ll be light fare, tapas to start.”
As for entertainment, Marshall Wharf Brewing has always served as an anchor for the major Belfast music festivals and harbor parties.
“I think that’s definitely on the horizon,” said Dunckel.
“We’ve already been contacted by bands and my take on that is that it’ll be a soft, subtle start as we get going,” said Waldron. “But the music side has always been a big thing for us. If we revive anything for now, it’ll probably be the Marshall Wharf beer and mussel festival in October, depending on how much beer we have available then.”
Basically, Belfast is getting the same brewery they’ve always loved back.
“Coming here after work in July or August and grabbing a pint and seeing the people you work with, people in your community and tourists hanging out, enjoying the sun down in the Three Tides beer garden on the harbor — this place has always felt like an old English pub,” said Waldron. “That’s how it’s going to be again.”
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org