ORONO, Maine — Since opening in 2007, Black Bear Brewery has increased its beer production every year. Now it has expanded its physical space.
Owner Tim Gallon unveiled the expanded taproom on Halloween. The 1,200-foot space includes more seating, a stage and room to breathe, said Gallon.
“Everything was piling up. We were running out of space,” said Gallon.
Gallon expanded into the vacant property next door by knocking down a wall. The former 2,400-foot brewery is now 3,500 square feet. Gallon’s office and its packaging operation has moved into the new space to the rear of the taproom.
Black Bear Brewery started as a 200-barrel operation in 2008, the first year of production. This year, the company is producing more than 850 barrels of beer. A barrel is 31 gallons.
With more beer being produced, there was more interest in the brewery. Gallon abandoned the small tasting room and built a taproom featuring several varieties of beer, including some only available at the brewery.
Black Bear does not bottle its beer, but its brews are available on tap at several restaurants around the state from Fort Kent to Bar Harbor.
Its flagship brew, Gearhead Ale, a dark amber beer, accounts for 90 percent of draft accounts, Gallon said. Black Bear also makes other varieties of beer including India pale ales, stouts, porters, hefeweizens, saisons, brown ales, barley wines and a blueberry ale.
“I was surprised by the taproom and how many people were dying for a place where they could come sit and have a pint of beer,” said Gallon. “I thought maybe people want the full restaurant experience, but not really. They just wanted a pint of good beer and [a place to] talk to people. Simple. It works.”
Although no food is served in the taproom, food can be brought in by patrons, he said. The Family Dog, a hamburger and hot dog restaurant located across the street, will deliver food to taproom customers. Moe’s Barbeque delivers food on Wednesdays.
“Or you can grab a Pat’s Pizza and bring it over,” said Gallon.
The previous taproom had roughly 15 seats. Now it has nearly 50, with a dozen seats at the bar. Even with the expanded taproom, Gallon said the bigger space still has a cozy feel.
Gallon has hired four employees for the taproom and handed the title of head brewer to Matt York so Gallon could focus on being an owner. There are seven employees including Gallon.
“Brewing is hard work. It’s a long day,” said Gallon. “It was really hard to be a brewer and be back there all the time and do all this other stuff.”
Although the brewery has expanded in space and production, Gallon said he doesn’t want the company to get too big.
“We’re going to keep it fresh, play around and have fun,” he said.