BANGOR, Maine — Mainers traveling to the Sunshine State may see a familiar face far from home: the hat-wearing Great Pyrenees that serves as figurehead for Sea Dog Brewing Co.
Sea Dog is making a dramatic leap south, opening a pair of brewpubs in Florida early in 2013. The Maine-based company founded in 1993 opened a new pub in Clearwater, Fla., in mid-January, and is poised to open a second in Orlando sometime in mid-March, according to Fred Forsley, who co-owns the company alongside brewer Alan Pugsley.
“Honestly, Mainers don’t go to Massachusetts, they go to Florida,” Forsley said Friday when asked why the company was making a sudden jump 1,500 miles south.
Business in Maine dips off in the winter months because of the weather and the lack of events and concerts to draw people to venues, according to Forsley.
By opening a pair of pubs in Florida, Forsley said he hopes Sea Dog will draw Maine vacationers and snowbirds — people who have second homes in Florida that they live in during winter months — who will be attracted to the familiar, friendly brand from back home.
The Florida facilities should help bring in revenue during winter months, while strengthening the overall brand, Forsley said.
“I think one will help the other,” he said, adding that he hopes locals who visit the Florida locations will be encouraged to visit the ones in Maine when they travel north, and vice versa.
The Sea Dog brand already has seen success in Florida through sales of bottled brews, especially the blueberry ale, Sea Dog spokeswoman Tami Kennedy said Friday. Marketing efforts there have begun to take root, she said.
Forsley and Pugsley also own Shipyard Brewing Co., which bought up Sea Dog when it faced bankruptcy more than a decade ago. The pair also acquired Casco Bay Brewing Co. in 2008.
The Clearwater restaurant, located at 26200 U.S. Highway 19 North, has been well received, according to Forsley.
“We’ve had a lot of interest and customer support,” he said.
In March, it will be joined by a second brewpub at 8496 International Drive. in Orlando, just a few miles from Disney World.
Forsley said the beer offerings will be “very similar” to what patrons of Sea Dog brewpubs in Bangor, Topsham and South Portland drink. The Florida menus will include seafood dishes that feature local catches, such as swordfish, in a bid to “adjust to the local palate,” according to Kennedy. Mainstay pub fare items, such as burgers and chowders, also will be included.
Sea Dog breweries in Maine will be kept busy by the new Florida brewpubs, as most of the beer sold in Florida’s pubs will be made in Maine and shipped south. The Clearwater location has a small brewing operation, but the bulk of production comes from Bangor, Forsley said.
Forsley credited the success and growth in Bangor for making the expansion possible. He said a good portion of that growth is thanks to events like the Waterfront Concerts Series and American Folk Festival, which set up shop next door to the Sea Dog.
Now, “the Dog can travel,” Forsley said.