ORONO — In the five months since Black Bear Brewery introduced its expanded taproom at 19 Mill St., No. 4A, beer lovers have discovered that Voodoo Porter, Gearhead Ale, Tough End IPA, and Tree Hugger are great names for great beers.
Owner and brewmaster Tim Gallon is pleased with the public’s response to the larger taproom, which almost tripled the space he could offer patrons. Gallon started Black Bear Brewery “at another location” in 2006 and moved his business to 19 Mill St in 2008.
Back then, Black Bear was strictly “a brewery” that produced “a lot of different beers,” Gallon said. The brewing remains central to the business today; “we distribute beer in kegs through [Bangor-based] Maine Distributors,” which covers Aroostook, Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis, and Washington counties, he said.
Among the beers brewed in facilities next to the taproom are Pail Ale, Gearhead Ale, and Demon Stout, described by Gallon as “a dark beer” with “a chocolaty roasted flavor.”
“We brew a lot of classic styles,” he said. “Our Pail Ale is a classic American pale ale.”
Gearhead Ale is the most popular beer at Black Bear Brewery. “It’s an amber beer that’s really easy to drink … something that appeals to everyone,” Gallon said. “It fits in with a lot of places.”
Black Bear Brewery also rotates four seasonal beers:
• Voodoo Porter in winter.
• The Bad Omen in spring. This beer “is a black, really hoppy, darker IPA (India pale ale),” Gallon said.
• Liquid Sunshine in summer. This is “a traditional Bavarian hefewiezen, which is kind of a wheat-based ale” that “gives off a clove aroma, a lite, crisp summer beer,” Gallon said. Liquid Sunshine is very popular at pubs and restaurants on Mount Desert Island in the summer, he indicated.
• Ichabod Ale in fall. This is “a red beer that’s kind of hoppy,” Gallon said.
“Our craft beers are available” in Bangor-area restaurants, including Appleby’s, The Blaze, and Longhorn’s in Bangor and the Bear Brew Pub and The Family Dog in Orono, he said.
Gallon opened a small taproom 2½ years ago. “We started selling growler pints,” he said, and the nearby Bear Brew Pub (no affiliaiton) started supplying Black Bear Brewery with slices of specialty pizza.
That tradition continues today; “we sell pizza by the slice, just for a snack,” Gallon explained, and The Family Dog (located across Mill Street) delivers takeout (specialty hot dogs, burgers, fries, and other food items) ordered by Black Bear Brewery patrons. Moe’s BBQ, located on Broadway in Bangor, provides Southern-style pulled pork and turkey sandwiches and smoked chicken wings on Wednesday nights.
Discovering that his taproom was popular with many people, Gallon thought about expanding. The opportunity came last fall; after he leased adjacent space, Gallon and John Webber, a friend, renovated the adjoining area, opened the wall between it and the existing taproom, and enlarged the bar.
The expanded Black Bear Brewery taproom opened on Oct. 31, 2013. The taproom can seat 40-50 people; on a recent weekday afternoon, just after assistant brewer Rebecca Thompson flipped the brewery’s sign from “Closed” to “Open,” patrons started arriving to claim seats either at the bar or at tables near the taproom’s stage. Live musicians perform some evenings each month.
“We have a lot of regulars,” from University of Maine students and faculty to area residents who enjoy the taproom’s beers and relaxed atmosphere, Gallon said. “We just serve the beer we make.”
The Black Bear Brewery taproom “is really personable,” he said. “It’s a nice place to spend some time with friends; people strike up a conversation. It’s the biggest part of us feeling like we’re part of the community.”
The taproom is open 4-9 p.m., Tuesday-Friday and 2-8 p.m., Saturday.
Meanwhile, head brewer Matt York keeps busy brewing the different beers. “We’re getting busier and busier,” Gallon said. “Things just keep getting big” as the demand increases for Black Bear Brewery’s distinctive beers.
“In the summertime we’re so busy brewing,” he said. “We are straight out.
“It’s a growing market for craft beers,” Gallon explained one reason while Maine-brewed beers are so popular. “I think it’s the interest in the beers; people are getting exposed to new beers.
“We’ve been here for a while,” he said. “We focused on making really good beer and getting that out” to the public.
Gallon occasionally introduces new beers to taproom patrons. Among such beers is Tough End IPA, “just a really tasty IPA, a dry beer that’s a pale color, 6.8 percent alcohol,” he said. This IPA takes its name from the “Tough End,” the geographical portion of downtown Orono located between the Pan Am Railways tracks and the Penobscot River.
Gallon recently introduced Webster Side ESB (extra special bitter) at his taproom and at the Blaze restaurant in Bangor. He obtains his hops from different regions; because Webster Side ESB (named for that portion of Orono located on Marsh Island and lying between Main Street and the Stillwater River) is “a British-style beer,” Gallon used hops from Britain when brewing his new beer.
“We like to get it (a new beer) out there for people to try it,” he said. “If it’s a real hit, we’ll try to introduce it into distribution.”
For more information about Black Bear Brewery, call 889-9123 or log onto blackbearmicrobrew.com.