Back on the peninsula, in the East Bayside neighborhood, a similar grouping of artisan beverage crafters is growing and expanding — and the whiskey is on its way. Maine Craft Distilling is a brand-new operation founded by Luke Davidson with a projected opening at the end of March 2013. Although its doors remain closed to the public, Maine Craft Distilling is licensed and currently working on new recipes and projects behind the curtain, which Davidson reports include some aging whiskey.
This neighborhood is also home to Rising Tide Brewery, Urban Farm Fermentory, Bunker Brewing Company, Shipyard Brewing Company, Maine Mead Works, and Tandem Coffee. When asked about his East Bayside cohorts, Davidson described the situation as an "information collaboration." He is grateful for all of the local support in answering questions, noting how "remarkably open and helpful" the community has been. For example, he received help and advice concerning licensing and the logistics behind opening a new distillery from Ned at New England Distillery. Maine Craft also uses yeast from Rising Tide in its fermentation process and plans to eventually give its used oak barrels to Rising Tide and UFF for aging purposes.
In the meantime, Rising Tide is using whiskey casks from an alternate source to create Polaris, the bourbon barrel-aged version of its Ursa Minor wheat stout, which is released in limited quantities in late November. Heather Sanborn, co-owner of Rising Tide, says that she is "looking forward to working with Maine Craft Distilling" and is "excited about having tasting rooms next door to one another."
UFF has been incorporating whiskey aging into its fermentation process, as well. UFF takes the Jim Beam barrels from Allagash after they have been used in the maturation of Curieux to age the Baby Jimmy hard cider and what else but the Oak Barrel Kombucha. UFF is also excited about the addition of Maine Craft to the East Bayside environment. Founder Eli Cayer explains that UFF's present relationship with Bunker and Rising Tide "has included joint tap takeovers and other promotional events."
Maine Craft Distilling’s Luke Davidson hefting a keg and wearing a smile as part of preparations for opening next month
The bourbon barrel-aging trend has not been lost on Shipyard Brewing, which is presently using whiskey barrels from a major bourbon facility to experiment with seven different brews. Among these are the Double ESP, the Prelude, a Scotch ale-porter hybrid that will be released within the next couple of weeks, a couple of IPAs to be released in two to three months, and a few more experimental beers.
The Jim Beam barrels from Allagash appear yet again at Maine Mead Works, where they are used, post-Curieux, in the aging of Dry Mead to create a reserve collection Mead Maker's Blend that is released once a year. Ben Alexander, owner of Maine Mead Works, believes distilling is a "great new craft category" and looks forward to having Maine Craft Distillers join the neighborhood.