BELFAST BAY BREWING CO.
Belfast Bay Brewing Co. is near the Canadian provinces of New
Brunswick and Nova Scotia where just about every brewery makes a red
ale, unlike the United States where red ales are not well known. Owner
Pat Mullen says "When my wife suggested that a brewery from Maine should
make a beer called Lobster Ale, a red ale seemed the perfect brew.
Unlike our highly hopped neighbors beers, we decided to brew Lobster Ale
to be very "user friendly." We cut down on the hops and added slight
amounts of black and dark crystal to the brew. The result is a medium
hopped, medium flavored, very drinkable red ale."
"We were at a beer show in Atlantic City and Gary Monterosso, who
reviews beer on Sirius Radio said that our Lobster Ale and McGovern 's
Oatmeal Stout were the two best beers in the show. He called Lobster Ale
the best "Session" beer he had had in years. He explained that a
session beer is one that has a very unique. yet not overpowering flavor
that goes well with Belfast
types of food, or at any occasion."
"Since Lobster Ale has such a distinctive flavor it is very hard to
describe. When I am on the road selling, I am often asked what
other beer Lobster Ale might taste like so they will have something to
compare it to. I just hand them a cold bottle of Lobster Ale and tell
them to "judge it for themselves."
|Fine beers brewing at Mullen's Belfast Bay
By lay Davis
VillageSoup/Waldo County Citizen Senior Reporter
BELFAST (Feb15): Once a month, Pat Mullen
returns to the former home of the Belfast Bay Brewing Co. and creates a
five-gallon batch of beer. He is, after all, a brewer of some repute,
winning a silver medal at the World Brewing Championship a decade or so
Gary Monterosso, who reviews beers on Sinus Radio, recently
praised Mullen's current beers as two of the best of the last few years.
But the homemade suds, while nice to drink, are hardly the measure of
his business. His company, now 12 years old, is the fifth- or
sixth-largest brewer in Maine, producing thousands of cases of
McGovern's Oatmeal Stout and Lobster Ale that are sold everywhere from
Hanneford Bros. and Sam's Club to mom-and-pop stores in eight states.
Mullen likes to talk about the beers he produced with Dan McGovern.
There were once 11 brews crafted in the Searsport Avenue complex that
once hosted a pub and the gleaming steel vats of the brewery.
Most had names that came from the community, like Feather City Light,
Mack Point IPA and Hogback Mountain Red Ale. They were consumed by
customers at the brew pub and by those who could find them in stores,
painstakingly bottled by Mullen himself. Sitting at his dining room
table on the city's East Side, a glass of Lobster Ale beside him, Mullen
said he got tired of the bottling role. The Shipyard brewery in
Portland had been partly purchased by the giant Miller Brewing Co.,
which had installed a state of-the-art bottling line. It offered to take
over that chore.
Eventually, the beer was brewed in Portland as well. Mullen closed
the brew pub, then the brewery to the public, and set about selling
bottles of the beers he had helped make. He now has distributors in
Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island,
Massachusetts, New York and Florida. He appears at shows, trains
salespeople and in states that allow it, delights in going to new bars
and offering free samples to customers. "If I can get people to try the
beers, they'll buy them," he said. Though he doesn't keep exact figures,
he said last year he sold about 14,000 cases of Belfast Bay brews, The
homemade beer he produces on Searsport Avenue qualifies him as a brewer
in the state's eyes, which enables him to distribute his beers himself,
he said. The labels on the bottles say the home of Belfast Bay Brewing
is in Belfast, though the beer is contract brewed in Portland.
But that's just one wrinkle in the sometimes nonsensical word of beer
sales. Mullen, whose late father was a Maine State Police trooper, has
entertaining stories about the regulatory system and the enforcers of
barroom rules that must have Puritan roots. One customer at his brew pub
used to remove a ceiling the and stick his glass overhead when he went
outside for a smoke, Mullen said. He was cited for drinking outside the
licensed area, which was circumscribed by the bars walls and ceiling.
Another night a musician was called away
from the bar during a break to help a band mate move a piano. He set his
glass down on the corner of the stage and was cited by an inspector for
drinking on stage, which is prohibited. But Mullen is even more
passionate about the taste of his beers and the reception they get when
lovers of good beers discover them. And his long experience with selling
beer, from his days at the former Mullen's Store on Seasport Avenue,
one of the area's busiest beer stands, to his fateful decision in 1996
to open a micro-brewery. When he began, his distributor sold four
micro-brews around Maine. When Mullen changed distributors a few years
later, he had 21. "We got lost in the cracks," he said. Determined to
see if it was the distributor or the beers that were at fault for paltry
sales, Mullen bought two vans and hired salespeople to truck his beers
around Maine. "In three months we sold more beer than the distributor
had in five years," he said. That trend continues, Sales have grown by
at least 110 percent each year and am likely to grow at a 200 percent
rate this year, Mullen said.
Selling beer to retail markets 'is all about space," he said. The
major companies like Budweiser and Miller want to control as many
available "doors" In store coolers as they can. "We just take up their
space," he said.
One result is mergers of companies large and small - like Miller's
purchase of half of shipyard years ago - to ease the distribution
Mullen is a hands-on manager of his
business, taking calls from customers at his waterfront home and office
behind Young's Lobster Pound, and trying to squeeze more six-packs of
his beers into already crowded coolers. He's postponed himself well.
McGovern's Oatmeal Stout is the only one of is kind in area markets, and
Lobster Ale is one of but three so-called "red ales.- -The key is the
pubs," Mullen said. "Bartenders will talk up beers they like, and then
the customers will buy them." Mullen also says his beers are the same
price as Budweiser if the cost of their alcohol content is the measure.
A bottle of Bud may be half the price of a
Lobster Ale, but it is also only half as potent, in other words. Mullen
has sold his restaurant, his brew pub and most of his brewery, but
business is good, he said, a glass of Lobster Ale foaming gently beside
him. An eagle ales by and the sun slowly sets. Its hard to Imagine it
being any better.