DURHAM — A veteran brewer of several popular Maine beers — including the first three Baxter beers — plans to open a small niche brewery on Route 125 in Durham.
On Wednesday, the Durham Planning Board awarded a conditional permit to brewer Michael LaCharite and his company, Katahdin Beers. The unanimous approval clears a path for LaCharite to begin work on his leased space at 649 Pinkham Brook Road, in a former fish-processing plant.
If all goes as planned, the brewery could begin turning out small batches of beer in early 2013.
“My beers will be specialty beers,” LaCharite said Wednesday. “You will not be able to buy them in Hannaford or 7-11. You won’t buy them by the six-pack.”
He’s already brewed beers like that.
In the mid-1990s, LaCharite and a partner opened Casco Bay Brewing Co. in Portland and produced Katahdin beer. The beer, five varieties in all, sold across New England and was found in Maine’s biggest supermarkets.
In 2000, LaCharite and his partner sold the company. But a decade later, he returned to the marketplace.
He created the recipes for the first three beers made by Lewiston’s Baxter Brewery before leaving the company last fall.
Since then, he has been judging beers at national contests and fine-tuning the recipes for his own brewery.
“I have several that are all ready,” he said. He declined to describe their styles or flavors. Instead, he talked about what they won’t be.
“I’m not going to make a pale ale,” he said. “It’s not going to be a beer that you’ll drink every day.”
Instead, they are going to be sold in a way that more closely resembles wines. Batches will come and go in quantities of 300 gallons or so.
The scale will be far different from his work at Baxter, where production of a batch might be 2,000 gallons, he said.
He hopes to create a following of people who seek out his beers and, perhaps, collect them.
Once production starts, LaCharite plans to have two or three employees, he said. More could be hired if the business takes off. For now, he plans to turn his attention to getting federal and state licenses, a prerequisite before commercial beer production can start.
Once production begins, he may hold occasional tastings, but he plans to keep the whole process small and carefully controlled.
“I’m an artist,” LaCharite said. “I want full control.”