Jona and Joel Fitzpatrick recently opened Katahdin Brew Works in Patten. Credit: Courtesy of Katahdin Brew Works

In the southern half of the state, it might seem that you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a craft brewery. But in the northern half, Maine’s brewing phenomenon has been slower to take hold — though some people are starting to change that.

Joel and Jona Fitzpatrick last week opened their years-in-the-making brewery and taproom, Katahdin Brew Works, in the Penobscot County town of Patten, right on the Aroostook County line. They built much of the space themselves over the past two years, and hope to create a place where people from the Katahdin region and southern Aroostook can gather and enjoy a beer.

“That’s really our big goal: to make a place where folks can gather,” Jona Fitzpatrick said. “If we can create that community feeling, then we’re really happy.”

Katahdin Brew Works is an idea that’s been fermenting in Joel Fitzpatrick’s mind for years, since not long after he started home brewing with his brother, Pat, in the early 1990s, after both were inspired by the burgeoning craft beer scene in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, where Pat studied abroad.

It took a number of friends around town to push him to actually open his own brewery.

“People would say to me, ‘You’ve got to do this professionally,’ or ‘When are you going to open a tap room?’” he said. “We signed off on the building about two years ago, right before COVID, which was actually a bit of a blessing in disguise, since we weren’t in any rush to get open.”

The Fitzpatricks grew up in Houlton, where Joel and Jona were high school sweethearts. After attending college in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, respectively, they moved to Portland, where they lived for seven years before moving back to northern Maine. They’ve lived in Patten for 26 years, where Joel runs a pharmacy and Jona previously taught special education, and where they raised three daughters. Their youngest daughter, Alexis, designed the logo for the brewery.

Patten, which is just off Interstate 95, is about halfway between Houlton and Millinocket. The closest nearby breweries are Bissell Brothers Three Rivers in Milo, and Northern Maine Brewing Company in Caribou, each around 90 minutes away. Unlike in places like Bangor or Portland, where multiple breweries can be within a few blocks of each other, Katahdin Brew Works doesn’t have to contend with that sort of oversaturation.

The brewery is also just a few miles away from one of the entrances to Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument. While the Fitzpatricks say that the creation of the monument isn’t what spurred them to open a tap room, they know it can only benefit them, as visitors increasingly visit the monument to take advantage of its outdoor recreation opportunities.

“This area is a gold mine for anybody who loves to be outdoors, and we already see so many more people coming through the area to go to the park,” Joel Fitzpatrick said. “It’s only going to help us.”

The brewery debuted on Saturday with four beers: Belgian ale Katahdin Golden, common ale Commontater, copper ale Sunday Surprise, and LilMayz, a smash ale made with one variety each of malt and hop. An IPA, a wheat ale and a honey ale will be added in the coming weeks. Though Katahdin Brew Works doesn’t presently have its own kitchen, the Fitzpatricks hope to partner with food trucks during the warmer months.

“We’re just going to take it one step at a time, and let it grow organically,” said Joel Fitzpatrick.

Katahdin Brew Works is located at 10 Katahdin St. in Patten. Its winter hours are from 5 to 9 p.m. on Saturdays, though the owners plan to expand the hours in the spring.

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.