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New home, next level for Maine’s Sebago Brewing Co.

Maine is part of a national trend of beer tourism. According to the national Brewers’ Association, beer drinkers visit an average of 3.5 breweries per year near their homes and another 2.5 breweries a year within two hours of their homes. Once Sebago’s ...

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The company says its facility opening today in Gorham will let it fine-tune quality, expand capacity and better showcase its beers By James PatrickStaff Writer Follow on FacebookFollow on TwitterEmail Writer207-791-6382 Share Read Article The new brewery has two fermenters that can make nearly 5,000 gallons at a time.Staff photo by Brianna Soukup GORHAM — Sebago Brewing co-founder Kai Adams is excited about showing off his new brewery, which opens to the public Tuesday afternoon. See that glass spot in the system? That’s where a computer checks the cloudiness – or turbidity – of the beer. Related Headlines Another round of growth on tap for Maine’s craft breweriesPurchase of Gorham brewery facility lets Lone Pine branch out See that air valve over there? This system has 60 of them and they’re all computer-controlled. And do you see that giant sack holding 1,000 pounds of grain? That means employees won’t be lugging 50-pound bags around. The brewery, which sits close to the Westbrook city line on busy Route 25, will start production next week. From left, Sebago co-founders Tim Haines, Kai Adams and Brad Monarch spend time in the new brewery’s tasting room and restaurantStaff photo by Brianna Soukup It all came at a cost – in fact, double the cost of what Adams and co-founders Tim Haines and Brad Monarch had planned on, although Adams would not specify the amountThey now have millions of dollars of debt, but Adams said Sebago had to make changes to keep pace with Maine’s dynamic beer scene. “We’ve taken a lot of risk, but after 20 years, you want to make the right decisions because we have 225 employees we’re responsible for now,” Adams said“If we can do the sales we did at our old location here, and if we generate the same amount of revenue that we do at one of our brew pubs, then it all makes senseIt’s sustainableThat’s the gut check” The new Sebago Brewing Cooperation on Route 25 in Gorham will open to the public Tuesday afternoonStaff photo by Brianna Soukup It’s also a leap forward for Maine’s fifth-largest brewery in 2016. For starters, it’s just biggerThe largest fermentation vessel at its previous location – about a mile away – made 1,240 gallons of beer at a timeNow it has two fermenters that make nearly 5,000 gallons at a time – and capacity to add two more just like them. The increased capacity will let Sebago keep up with demandDuring the busy summer season, Sebago has been brewing four times a day, five days a weekThe huge new fermenters – and a couple of old fermenters – give Sebago 30 percent more capacityBut that’s not the point. “It’s not about making moreIt’s about making it better,” Adams said. It’s also about innovatingSebago faces the challenge of distributing its flagship beers to gas stations and grocery stores while beer consumers are increasingly chasing unique, small-batch brews. Maine had at least 112 breweries operating in 2017, according to data provided by the stateTwenty new breweries started operating in the first 10 months of 2017 alone. Many of those breweries are clustering around each other, which is why Adams pushed for Lone Pine to take over Sebago’s old facility about a mile away from the new breweryWith Westbrook’s Mast Landing and Yes Brewing nearby, Adams envisions a tourism hub akin to Portland’s Riverside neighborhood, which has five breweries and a sixth being built. Maine is part of a national trend of beer tourismAccording to the national Brewers’ Association, beer drinkers visit an average of 3.5 breweries per year near their homes and another 2.5 breweries a year within two hours of their homes. The bar in the tasting room and restaurant at the new Sebago Brewing operation in GorhamStaff photo by Brianna Soukup Once Sebago’s brewery is up to speed, Adams plans to unleash his creative team on its new 155-gallon pilot systemWhile the big tanks will be making stalwarts like Frye’s Leap IPA and Simmer Down, the smaller system will produce kettle sours and single-hop beers to try to keep up with trends in the market. Sebago will showcase all of its beers in a new tasting roomIt’s filled with a variety of natural wood and windows that look out into the breweryIf that sounds familiar, Adams notes proudly that Sebago hired the same architect that designed Allagash Brewing’s tasting room in Portland. The open kitchen features a wood-fired stoveThe menu – which focuses on appetizers, sandwiches and pizza – will change every two weeks. But, proud father that he is, Adams wants visitors to focus on the 16 tapsThey’ll feature eight regular beers as well as four beers that will only be available at one of Sebago’s brew pub locationsThe last four taps? Those could be anything from a barrel-aged barley wine to a Belgian aleThe point is to let the brewers experiment and show off. “It will be the exact definition of what craft beer is: I have something you don’t have,” Adams said. Breweries have become an economic powerhouse for the stateAccording to the Brewers’ Association, the beer industry had a $476 million economic impact on Maine in 2016The state’s overall production of beer ranked 18th in the country. Sebago has been among Maine’s seven-largest breweries every year dating back to 2006In 2016, Sebago’s production rose nearly 22 percent while five of the breweries in the top seven suffered double-digit drops. And that was with an outdated brewerySebago’s new spot has added capacity, but Adams emphasizes the quality controlAll those air valves and computerized checks are geared toward maintaining a high level of quality in Sebago beers. Adams grins as he shows off a new sensory evaluation area where staffers will taste beer samples to test for off flavorsThere are three seats with a small shelf in front of them and a hole in the wall, where beer will be passed through so the tasters don’t know what they’re gettingYes, Allagash has a tasting area just like it. All the quality checks are necessary, Adams saidWith growth comes pressure to make sure the brewery’s beer is perfect every time. “We can’t screw up 160 barrels of beer – 160 barrels is a lot of time and a lot of resources to pour down the drain,” he said. James Patrick can be contacted at 791-6382 or at: [email protected] Twitter: mesofunblog Share Read or Post Comments Send questions/comments to the editors Want the news vital to Maine? Our daily headlines email is delivered each morning Email* Newsletter Choices* Daily Headlines and Evening Express Breaking News Business Headlines Maine Cannabis Report High School Sports Real Estate * I understand the Terms of Service CommentsThis field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged. 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