After 16 months of work, Orono Brewing Company’s new 10,000-square-foot brewery, bar, restaurant and distribution center opened this week in a former concrete plant tucked away on a little-traveled side street in the Orono neighborhood known as the Basin.
With almost no advance notice, owners Abe and Heather Furth, Mark Horton, and Asa March-Sachs decided to open their doors at 61 Margin St. for the first time at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16, and announced it by sending out a social media blast at 3 p.m. that day.
By 5 p.m., the bar was full to its 170-person indoor capacity.
“There was a line from the bar to the door,” Abe Furth said. “It was totally nuts.”
OBC has gone from a four-barrel brewing system and two tiny tasting rooms (20 Main St. in Orono and 26 State St. in Bangor, both of which are still open) to one of the largest and most popular breweries in the state. It’s also one of the largest restaurants and bars in Greater Bangor. All of that was accomplished in less than four years — the first brews went on tap in December 2014.
In the new facility, head brewer Marsh-Sachs has 270 barrels of fermentation capacity and can fill 30 16-ounce cans in one minute in the brewery’s new canning line. Now just about anybody in Maine can get their paws on one of OBC’s brews, from its earlier and more popular varieties such as the Kolsch, to more recent brews like the peach- and raspberry-infused Fruitful Kettle Sour and 61 Margin, a double IPA named for OBC’s new digs.
Though he’s had more than a year to prepare for 61 Margin to get up and running, the scale of his and his business partner’s undertaking didn’t sink in for Marsh-Sachs until Tuesday.
“Honestly, it didn’t hit me until the day we opened,” Marsh-Sachs said. “I walked around the whole place and just thought — damn, this is ours. We built this.”
The building was constructed in the 1950s and served several purposes during its half-century as an industrial facility, but for the most part it was a concrete plant, which ceased operations in 2012. Its location — the working-class riverside neighborhood known as the Basin, right next to Ayer’s Island — is one of the lesser-known parts of Orono. The neighborhood’s mix of industrial and residential properties meant most University of Maine students had little reason to go down Margin Street.
Until now, that is. Co-owner Heather Furth said that keeping OBC in Orono was one of the first priorities, when she and her co-owners were looking for a place for the brewery to expand.
“We knew that when it happened and we did take that next step, we had to be in Orono. We’re Orono Brewing. It was really important for us to keep it at home,” Heather Furth said.
The aesthetic of the new building is one of industrial chic meets hip-hop style. Concrete pillars painted neon colors dominate much of the structure of the space, while all the tables and chairs are made from repurposed materials — from the metal tire racks forming the bases of long wooden benches and tables, to chairs salvaged from the former Greyhound Bus depot in downtown Bangor, which are spray-painted lime green. The walls are covered in custom murals designed by Portland-based graffiti artists and painters Marty Reynolds and Mike Rich. Even the pingpong table and classic Atari arcade machine fit the design.
“It’s a huge canvas to paint on. We had a vision of, basically, just letting these artists run wild, while keeping the integrity of the building,” Abe Furth said.
Given their background as restaurateurs — Horton runs Woodman’s, the original restaurant that he and the Furths opened in Orono in 2005, while the Furths originally opened the Verve Burritos locations in Orono and Bangor — food also had to be a part of the new place. The menu includes fish tacos, a miso-glazed fried chicken sandwich, pork belly lollipops, Buffalo Tater Tots and an array of customizable burgers.
“The idea was pairing that classic brewery food truck-style food with our beers — but making that food in our own kitchen. And we really lucked out in getting Dylan Bernoski as our chef,” Horton, who said Bernoski developed the menu from Horton’s initial vision, said.
The building sits on a 4-acre lot and is surrounded by a large parking lot, which the owners plan to use in part as an outdoor patio, and, eventually, as a space to offer mini-festivals and live music during warmer weather. Though most of the facility’s neighbors are residences, they are far enough away that noise is not an issue.
And, as Marsh-Sachs points out, the building used to be a concrete plant. While he and his partners have tried to honor its noisy, dusty, industrial past, they also have tried to imagine a future where spaces such as 61 Margin St. are used for exciting new purposes.
“A neighborhood guy stopped in here this week and said he remembered in the winter this place being filled to the ceiling with concrete rocks,” he said. “This building has seen some serious industry, and I just love that idea of transforming this space into something really cool and contemporary, but still honors the past. It’s really something for Orono, whether you’re a college student or a resident, young or old, whatever.”
Orono Brewing Company at 61 Margin St. is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 4 p.m. to midnight on Fridays, noon to midnight on Saturdays and noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays.
Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.