Atlantic Brewing CompanyBar Harbor Brewing CompanyCadillac Mountain StoutMaine

Atlantic Brewing Company To Buy Bar Harbor Brewing Company…

Although the deal isn’t quite inked, the Atlantic Brewing Company of Bar Harbor, Maine, maker of the excellent Coal Porter and Brother Adam’s Bragget, is set to buy its rival, the Bar Harbor Brewing Company. A little less than a year ago, an out-of-state entrepreneur bought Bar Harbor from its founders, Tod and Suzi Foster. At the time I wrote of the back story:

The husband and wife owners of one of Maine’s oldest microbreweries, the Bar Harbor Brewing Company, recently announced their plans to sell their business to a Florida-based advertising executive. The sale of the brewery, which produces the award-winning Cadillac Mountain Stout and Thunder Hole Ale beers, is expected to close in early 2008. The new owner, Evan Contorakes, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Ronin Advertising Group of Miami, Florida, and also owns the Parkside Restaurant in Bar Harbor. Tod and Suzi Foster, present owners of the brewery, will retain a consulting role for one year following the sale in order to aid in the transition of the brewery.

The Fosters founded Bar Harbor Brewing in 1990 from the basement of their area home. While living in California, the couple sat front row center for the early days of the microbrewing movement. Tod took up homebrewing while a student at UC-Santa Barbara and the Fosters traveled throughout the state visiting new breweries as they opened. After moving to Suzi’s hometown of Bar Harbor, the couple would talk about Tod’s idea for opening his own brewery. He knew Bar Harbor had a huge tourist industry and that anything with the town’s name stenciled on it sold quickly as souvenirs. He discussed the idea with his wife so often that one day Suzi just looked at him and asked him whether he was actually going to do anything about it.

From the beginning, Tod knew that he wanted to run a very small operation, called a cottage brewery, where he would handle the brewing and Suzi would run the business. On a return trip to California, the Fosters met with several brewery and pub owners to get a sense of what they’d need to accomplish their goal. The couple almost decided against opening their own place after repeatedly being told they would need nearly $400,000 of startup capital to succeed. After securing a small two-barrel Pierre Rajotte brewing system, Tod created the first batches of his flagship Thunder Hole Ale. When the beer proved popular, the Fosters eventually moved from their cramped, 150-square foot basement a new house on two and a half acres a few miles outside of town. The new owner plans to move the brewery, which presently covers 850-square feet of the Foster’s basement, to a store front in downtown Bar Harbor. The new space will include the brewing facilities and a tasting room for tourists.

Comments by Contorakes to the local newspapers show that he has great plans for the little brewery. While the Fosters had trouble maintaining the brewery’s 325 barrel production, Contorakes plans to catch up with local demand and then expand the brand “up and down the East Coast,? as he told the Mount Desert Islander. Contorakes’s bold plans also include taking the small, little known brand to a national audience. “I guarantee there’s a national pipeline we could put this into,? he told the local newspaper. “People around the country are always looking for these microbrews.? To achieve these goals, Contorakes says that he will likely contract with a larger brewer for off-site production of Bar Harbor Brewing’s brands.

Contorakes opened a store in downtown Bar Harbor but little was heard from the brands since that time. Through the purchase, Atlantic’s owner and founder Doug Mafucci will be able to consolidate the island’s two leading brewing operations and bring under one roof the often times confusing set of labels held between them. Now Atlantic’s Bar Harbor Real Ale and Blueberry will be alongside Bar Harbor’s True Blue Blueberry. Beer geeks anxiously await word of what will become of one of New England’s most celebrated beers, the Cadillac Mountain Stout. I haven’t had the beer since the changeover and don’t know if it is still being brewed by the old partial-extract method, but I hope the operation’s slight 260 barrels of production will remain true to Tod’s early vision.

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