BANGOR, Maine — While business has been steady at Sea Dog Brewing Co. the last few years, executives of the Maine restaurant and brewery decided things were getting a bit, well, flat.
“We’d done a couple things here and there, but we had our flagship and a line of nine or 10 beers and it was fairly static,” said Larry Killam, general manager of the Bangor location for the last nine years.
Rather than diversify or add menu items, they decided to expand on what they know and do well: beer.
“The market’s changing and we needed to reinvigorate and redefine ourselves with the number and variety of beers,” said Killam. “We had kind of been living on the IPA and the Blueberry and the Windjammer. We’ve had a new beer release every month since December.”
They’ve also been hard at work turning the microbrewery’s basement — which used to house a commissary kitchen for soups and chowders and more recently was used as storage space — into a beer-themed brewing company restaurant featuring an open kitchen and an open brewery to allow diners to watch employees cook and brew.
The project began about nine months ago and Killam expects to open the expanded section on May 24.
“The goal with this is to have it be self-sufficient with the food and the beer,” Killam said. “The upstairs is the brew pub and the restaurant, and down here will be Sea Dog Brewing Co.”
It’ll be more than that. The renovated space will become a fully functioning brewery capable of producing as many as 56 barrels of beer a week.
“With the new tanks and other equipment, we could potentially do four or five different batches a week while also producing enough beer for here and our other locations in Maine,” said Brooks Mathews, the Bangor Sea Dog’s brewer for the last three years. “Right now we can produce 28 barrels, which is 56 kegs a week. After we finish, we’ll be able to brew 112 kegs a week.”
The expansion also will make Sea Dog more self-sufficient statewide.
“We were using Shipyard to contract-brew for us. They’d brew our recipe in bulk for a price and deliver it to us,” Killam said. “Now we can brew our beer here, and we can react a lot quicker. If something is running lower, or we want to change something that’s not selling well, or we just want to try something new, we can do it a lot quicker now.”
While the theme of the basement restaurant will feature beer making, it also will boast a unique touch: a dining floor made of about 30 211-pound sections of old basketball court flooring bought from The Colisee, formerly Central Maine Civic Center, in Lewiston several years ago.
“There’s something like 200 of these panels,” Killam said. “It wasn’t fun putting it down, but now that it is, it looks a lot more like we’re back on schedule.”
The new dining area will seat about 50 people for a usual dining plan, but can accommodate 75-100 for various private events.
“This’ll be a nice place to come and experience beer. Now there’s more scenery for me where it just used to be walls, and it will be interactive with people being able to see us actually brew the beer,” said Mathews.
Increased customer traffic on the waterfront due to the Waterfront Concert series, the American Folk Festival, KahBang and other events the last two years — combined with the recent addition of Nocturnem Draft Haus downtown and creation of a brewery at Geaghan’s restaurant — made this the right time for expansion, according to Killam.
“It’s cool to have everybody doing different things, getting into brewing, or expanding because we’re not all doing the same thing,” he said. “It’s unusual to have four breweries in a market like Bangor, I think, but that just points to beer’s popularity.”
Correction: A previous version of this story referenced a dining floor made of sections of old basketball court flooring bought from the Bangor Auditorium. The flooring was bought from The Colisee, formerly Central Maine Civic Center, in Lewiston.