BREWER, Maine — To say Blank Canvas Brewery is starting small would be an understatement.
The new brewery, fueled by a half-barrel home-brewing system the owners acquired from Friars’ Brewhouse in Bucksport, opened its doors to its first customers Friday afternoon in Brewer. A half-barrel is 15.5 gallons, or enough to fill a keg. In other words, their beers happen one keg at a time.
Stephen Genthner and his wife, Jessica Wentworth, started the brewpub at 71 Center St. in a 1,500-square-foot building that once was home to an appliance shop.
On Friday, Genthner and Wentworth showed off their first three beers: a rhubarb kolsch, a coconut Irish red ale and a Sidamo brown ale brewed with Ethiopian coffee beans.
“I don’t stick to one region of the world when I’m thinking of beers,” he said.
Genthner said he likes to brew using ingredients in styles of beer that he hasn’t seen them used in before.
He said he tried brewing with onions in the past but hated the results.
Genthner started in the brewing industry in 2001, when he worked for Allagash Brewing Co. He took the brewing home after leaving that job. Three years ago, he left his job at Miller Drug in Bangor and went back to school, earning an associate degree in business from Eastern Maine Community College. He said that gave him the knowledge he needed to pursue his own brewing operation.
Wentworth is a teacher at John Bapst Memorial High School.
The open floor plan gives the brewery a lot of flexibility to expand in the future, Genthner said, adding that any money the brewpub makes early on likely will go toward improving the space and its equipment. He says he could do a two- or three-barrel system in the current space.
“I could double the capacity by buying a new kettle,” Genthner said Friday afternoon.
The brewing area takes up just 150 square feet, fenced off by a repurposed dog fence in order to meet federal regulations and prevent patrons from having access to the brewing vessels.
Genthner and his wife also hope to start making soda and collaborate with another company to make beer ice cream.
Blank Canvas is the second brewery to open in Brewer this year. Bangor-based Geaghan Bros. Brewing Co. opened a 3,600-square-foot expansion on the east side of the Penobscot River in May.
Blank Canvas is open from 3 to 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays. The brewery will sell 10-ounce samples and 32-ounce growlers to start. It also sells soap made using their brown ale.
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.