The Brewpub In Transition

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September 11, 2016 by Cody

So the term brewpub is one that is kind of a redundant word in the modern American vernacular. We have the age old public house (or the much shorter, and wider used pub), which historically has been a gathering spot for communities in Europe (aka local watering hole). As time went on, breweries began to adapt the concept of the pub into their operations, with food and merry times being celebrated with their own beer in their own, wait for it…brewpubs.

The thing with brewpubs though, is that they are becoming an antiquated concept. As breweries in Maine begin to become more like a bar/pub with free flowing full pours from the tap, with food trucks a’plenty servicing our stomach’s needs for solids seemingly around the clock, the lines begin to blur about what constitutes the need for a brewpub. This becomes even more apparent when you look at the state of brewpubs in Maine. With locations such as Sea Dog, Gritty’s and Sebago, brewpubs in Maine are far less about congenial bar experiences with comfort food, and more about the clean, commercial sit down restaurant nature of an Applebee’s or Chili’s. Is there anything particularly wrong with over-sanitization of the brewpub image? No…..well, yes, in fact, there is! And this is coming from a guy who loves washing down some Sebago potato nachos with a glass of Bonfire Rye!

Brewpubs were always meant to be a gathering spot for locals to have some simple food and fresh beer brewed on premises. Understandably the concept of the brewpub may seem old school, with visions of grizzled old timers smoking pipes, bitching about the crick in their back acting up because of an impending storm, and perhaps that’s why brewpubs like Sebago and Sea Dog have sought the comforts of safe dining. Is Sea Dog the blueprint we want to use on how to operate a brewpub though?

Perhaps I am just making much ado about nothing. With great independent locales such as Liquid Riot, Foulmouthed and Ebenezer’s up in Brunswick, there is definitely some contention to be had with my thesis. Out of these three though, I’d say that Ebenezer’s is the only true stand out of what it means to be a traditional and modern brewpub. Liquid Riot is metro posh and Foulmouthed is a brewery with some food on the side (which is exactly where I see many more breweries heading). As Maine laws become more inclusive of the beer industry, the lines that separate bar, brewery and eatery will continue to blur. The antiquated concept of what we think of as a brewpub is becoming a thing of the past, with the ever changing understanding of what it means to be a modern American brewery. What has not changed, is our collective need to have that merry meeting place live on. The question we have to ask ourselves, is can breweries maintain their charm, originality and be inviting, even with food on the menu? I believe they can, because Maine can only take so many Uno’s…I mean, Sebago’s.


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