Bissell Brothers, among the most popular of Portland-based craft breweries, has opened its long-awaited expansion in Milo, a few miles east of Dover-Foxcroft.
The new brewery, dubbed Bissell Brothers Three Rivers, opened last Saturday at 157 Elm St. in Milo, featuring food from Dover-Foxcroft-based Spruce Mill Farm & Kitchen, and eight taps featuring a rotating array of Bissell Brothers brews, including two Milo-only beers: Waveform, a wild IPA, and Square 3, a barrel-aged saison.
Bissell Brothers, which the titular brothers Peter and Noah Bissell founded in 2013, has made a name for itself with its big, juicy, unfiltered, “New England-style” IPAs. Its flagship beer is the Substance — a hazy, orange-y brew that has spawned long lines outside its Portland taproom, and has A-list fans including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who notably flew his assistant to Portland last winter to bring him a case, according to the brewery.
While the national accolades piled up, the Bissells were thinking smaller — in particular, they were thinking about Milo, the small Maine town where they grew up. For the past 18 months, the Bissell crew has been working on an expansion into Piscataquis County, a new facility that would be the county’s first brewery, allow them to concentrate on more experimental beers that take longer to brew and, most importantly, help them bring it all back home.
“It was a business decision, yes, because the future of beer is to go where beer isn’t and do what others aren’t doing,” Peter Bissell said. “But for us, it was an emotional thing. If we were going to expand outside of Portland, it had to be in Milo. It had to be home.”
Most of the week, the facility will operate solely as a brewery, concocting new brews to complement Bissell’s established roster of beers. The brewery will be the first north of Greater Portland to use a coolship — a large, metal pan housed in an unheated shack, into which the hot, unfiltered wort (unfermented beer) is pumped and allowed to cool naturally, and attract wild yeast occurring naturally in the air. This wild, natural yeast gives the subsequent finished product a highly distinctive flavor, different from traditional brewer’s yeast.
Fridays through Sundays the taproom will be open for beer sipping and snacking. Last weekend was the taproom’s first weekend open, and it was an early hit, Peter Bissell said. Spruce Mill Farm & Kitchen offers an array of shareable plates, including beer pretzels and cheese, paninis, salads, baked goods and desserts, to add to the beer lineup.
“Last weekend, we saw every schoolteacher we ever had, every coach. People we hadn’t seen in ages,” he said. “People need that third place in their community that’s apart from work or home. Hopefully it’ll make people stop in town or become a destination.”
Peter Bissell said he and his family hope their new Milo business is just part of the start of a gradual revitalization of small towns in Piscataquis County and other parts of central Maine.
“I think we’ve watched the same story unfold all across Maine, whether it’s Rumford, Millinocket or Milo. Big industries are gone, and they are never coming back,” he said. “What can return are small businesses. It’s individual things that can help lift a place back up. It’s not going to happen overnight. It won’t be one industry. But if we can do it, other people can, too.”
Bissell Brothers Three Rivers is open from 3 to 8 p.m. Fridays, noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, though it will be closed this Sunday for staff training. For more information, visit www.bissellbrothers.com.
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