2012-11-02 / People

Filmmaker hopes to change future of Maine beer

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

Thirty years ago, if you walked into a typical bar in Maine, your beer options were probably limited. You could order a light beer or a heavier lager, but imported styles were few and far between, and “craft beer” was a term that was almost unheard of.

Now, local craft breweries and bars that serve their beers have begun to sprout up all over the country, and Maine is at the heart of that growing trend. There are over 20 craft breweries in the state alone, each offering something slightly different from their counterparts.

But still, there are those who order their beer at a restaurant or pick up a six-pack at the grocery store unaware of the local options they have. Nate Bowman, a local filmmaker from South Portland and craft beer fan, hopes to change that.

Bowman and his crew of six spent a day on outer Forest Avenue in Portland on Friday, Oct. 19 at Maine Beer Company’s brewery to shoot the second episode of Local Brew, an Internet TV show that takes viewers behind the brewing process into Maine’s unique and thriving business of beer.

“I wanted to shine a light on this industry and get people interested in how this beer is made,” Bowman said. “It’s made right here in the backyard of most of us. It’s a unique product in that it’s high quality and it’s right here, so what better way to get that out to people than a TV show.”

The show is hosted by Matt Delamater, an actor originally from Oxford who joined Maine Beer Company brewer Mark Fulton to help make the day’s batch of Mean Old Tom, Maine Beer Company’s stout.

Making beer isn’t as easy as it may look — beer includes just a few staple ingredients – usually water, barley, hops and yeast – but the Mean Old Tom also includes specialty ingredients: chocolate, wheat, and flaked oats give the beer its unique flavor. The challenge for each craft brewery is to find a style and recipe that will separate its product from the others on the market.

Making a TV show is not a simple process either. Maine Beer Company has been extremely successful in its three years of existence. It has gone from a two-man operation with co-owners Dan and Dave Kleban brewing 14 hours a day on weekends, to a company that distributes its beers as far as Virginia. But it is still a relatively small operation, so space is pretty tight.

That means the cameramen, Chris Ogden and Jason Bosch, have to be creative about where to place themselves to get a shot.

For the first step of the process, Ogden climbs up on a plastic silo to shoot Delamater and Fulton adding the specialty grain from a forklift. Delamater, for his part, has to speak up and enunciate clearly. Otherwise, his voice would be drowned out by a large and noisy metal tank pumping hot water to mix with the malt in the early stage of the brewing process.

The crew occasionally has to reshoot a scene here and there, but Bowman said the finished product will tell a chronological story that he hopes will introduce viewers who don’t know much about Maine Beer Company to its product: from an introduction to the company with owner Dan Kleban, to the brewing process, to the bar. They planned to talk to locals at Novare Res in the Old Port that afternoon.

Bowman hopes the style of the show will help Local Brew appeal to a broader audience than just “beer geeks.”

“What I tell everyone is, I want my mom to watch the show and say, ‘Interesting, I didn’t know Maine Beer Company did that, let’s go try their beer.’”

Delamater is by no means a beer expert, but he makes a point to both entertain and inform when he’s in front of the camera.

“Part of the show is education, part is entertainment. I didn’t want someone who really knew craft beer to be the host. I wanted someone who likes it, but isn’t necessarily an expert, and Matt’s that guy,” Bowman said.

There are dozens of small breweries like Maine Beer Company that have started in the last few years. There are four craft breweries alone in the industrial complex that houses Maine Beer Co.

Bowman said the existence of all these new Maine breweries was made possible by two companies that paved the way decades ago, and are still going strong: Shipyard Brewing Company and D.L. Geary Brewing Company.

Those companies generated interest in craft beer before it was a trend, made brewing a viable business for homebrewers turned-company-owners like the Kleban brothers, and made Maine a tourist destination for beer lovers as well as vacationers.

Eventually, Bowman would like to take Local Brew to those larger breweries like Shipyard and Geary’s, but there are challenges along the way, chief among them funding. Bowman financed the first episode, at Baxter Brewing Company in Lewiston, out of his own pocket. For the second, he secured a few sponsors, but he said he is still looking for more.

Bowman said he would love to do a show every week, and hopes he can continue to inform viewers about a growing business most people still know relatively little about.

“When I started this, I thought I was a pretty knowledgeable craft beer drinker. Now that I’m into the industry, I realize how little I knew,” Bowman said. “It’s a whole world, there’s so much different variety here that I didn’t even realize until I started.”

Local Brew’s first episode, as well as behind-the-scenes photos and more, can be found at the show’s website, Local- Brew.tv.

About Neighbors

Neighbors is a weekly profile that features a community member from South Portland or Cape Elizabeth. Know someone you would like to see featured in the Sentry? Contact Jack Flagler at news@inthesentry.com.

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