“It’s a good industry to be in now,” Clay Randall of Marsh Island Brewing Company told the Bangor Daily News (BDN) last week. Randall, the head brewer of the company, has been working full-time the last few months in preparations of the company opening its new tasting room with food.
Randall used to split his time between brewing at Marsh Island and fixing tires at Swett’s Tire and Auto in Bangor. He now handles all operations as head brewer. “It’s totally different from a normal industry. Competition is friendly,” Randall said to BDN reporters.
On Monday, Sept. 12, the Orono Town Council issued Marsh Island a license for a tasting room, conditional on final inspections by a code enforcement officer.
Owner Alice Swett told Bangor Daily News that she plans to open the new tasting room extremely soon. Plumbers, electricians and carpenters were in the store last week finishing renovations for the new setup.
The tasting room will include seating for 22 people as well as an outdoor area. The menu will include chips and hummus, chips and salsa, artichoke dip and various wraps. “Our biggest thing is our beer. We should have our full lineup plus one that is only available at the brewery,” Swett said.
Décor in the tasting room will include a mixture of an industrial and old-time setting. Swett said the old garage bay window was repurposed to offer a view into the tasting room and the bar and tables will be made from an old red oak in Winterport.
Marsh Island Brewing originated with Swett, whose family owns Swett’s Service Center and Deli on Hogan Road in Bangor; Richard England, the store’s craft beer manager and Randall, a home brewer and former technician at the service center.
The company started about a year ago, bottling beer inside a refurbished gas station on Main Street in Orono.
The brewery now sells Downrigger IPA, Whitetail Pale Ale and various other beers in 22-ounce glass “bombers.” Sold in stores from Presque Isle to Kittery, they are available on tap at numerous eating establishments.
“We have a three-barrel system and seven barrel fermenters,” Randall said. “That allows us to do small batches and split batches and stuff.” Randall said the initial plan was to start with a one-barrel system that could supply beer for Swett’s Hogan Road Deli in Bangor. Due to various regulations, a larger brewery and bottling line was set in place. On Sept. 3, 2015, the first beer rolled off the belt.
Randall said in the tasting room, customers will be able to order 16-ounce pints, paddles that have four or six 4-ounce tasters, the famous 22-ounce bombers and eventually cans. He added that he always has eight beers in the cooler and eight lines at all times, including the walk-in cooler being fully packed with kegs. “We’ll have plenty of beer.”
Many UMaine students are excited for the new brewery to open, noting that the addition of Marsh Island Brewing in downtown Orono will enhance competition with Orono Brewing Company (OBC) and give of-age students more venues to socialize with their friends.
“I think it’s going to be pretty exciting to have a new brewery because I already enjoy OBC, but having the atmosphere of a little competition is good in the brewery field especially,” Jedd Dill, a fourth-year student at UMaine said. “I think they have to come out with a bang and hold their own because OBC has really made quite the following with kids around here. I’m excited to test them out and enjoy some beer.”
“I never think there’s a problem with having another legal, safe place for college kids to recreate and socialize, and I think it’s great to have more variety in Orono,” fourth-year student Alex LaFrance said. “The more culture we can get here, the better.”