SAVOR (an American Craft Beer and Food Experience) returns to Washington, DC on June 1-2. The lineup is strong. Rather than profiling each brewery, which is frankly a time suck for me and your friendly staff, I reached out to a number of breweries in attendance that are interesting to me for one reason or another for interviews to get to know them better. Look out for our annual Top 25 list as well as a top 10 beer and food pairings list closer to the main event. Purchase tickets for SAVOR here.
We continue the interview series with Freeport, ME's Maine Beer Company. Big thanks to Dan Kleban, Co-Founder and Brewer, for taking the time to answer our questions via email. What follows below is a transcript loosely edited for length and clarity. Find Maine Beer Company and Dan on Twitter at @mainebeerco and @mainebeerbrewer.
What do you see as the value of having Maine Beer Company participate in SAVOR?
Dan Kleban: We are so excited to participate in SAVOR this year, not only to support the Brewers Association but also to be part of an event that is highlighting how distinct craft beer is. SAVOR showcases the diversity of experiences and flavors that craft has brought to the table in recent years. It also elevates the tasting experience by pairing it with some amazing food prepared by Chef Dulye and his team.
In a nutshell, what's your brewery's philosophy about beer and business? The motto is "Do what's right." Can you expand on that and give examples of how that ethos is suffused through your brand, beer, and actions?
We started the company with the motto “Do what’s right” to define our core values as a business. We wanted to make sure that no matter our size, we prioritized taking care of our staff, our community, and the world around us. From the beginning, we joined 1% For the Planet, and as a business member we are committed to giving 1% of our gross annual sales to environmental nonprofits. Each month we feature a different nonprofit in our tasting room and through social media and events to raise additional money and awareness for the organizations.
Beyond this, we have made a commitment to sustainability and limiting our environmental impact through our use of solar and other energy saving practices within the brewery. Our beers continue this ethos through their connections to these organizations we support like Allied Whale, Bicycle Coalition of Maine, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, etc. The reach of the beer community that we are a part of allows us to share this with a much larger audience than we would have ever imagined when the company was founded.
Which beers are you bringing to SAVOR, why, and what do you think/want those beers to say about your brewery to consumers?
We are bringing two beers SAVOR: MO American Pale Ale and Woods & Waters IPA.
Our brand was built on American Pale Ales, and if you ask pretty much any MBC staff, MO is their favorite. It’s clean, balanced, and pairs very well with food. It also holds a special significance because it is named after my twins Maddy & Ollie.
Woods & Waters is an IPA that was first brewed in honor of President Obama designating Katahdin Woods & Waters a National Monument. We liked it so much we kept brewing it, and it’s a nice nod to our continued support of the monument and the preservation of public lands. Additionally, Woods & Waters incorporates Maine-grown and malted grains from Blue Ox Malt House. We’re proud that this beer uses more locally-grown malt than any other beer in the state of Maine.
The Maine beer scene is tremendous and growing all the time. Why should someone who hasn't checked it out make it a priority to do so? What are some of the key spots to hit? What would you say to folks who are very Portland-focused about Maine beer?
Maine has an incredibly dynamic craft beer scene, and it’s one that has been over 30 years in the making. Craft brewing as we know it on the East Coast really began with Geary’s in 1983, and it’s an industry that continues to evolve. Great Lost Bear & Novare Res are two of the standards to visit if you’re looking to experience great craft beer bars in Maine, but people in this scene are so passionate that you are likely to find a great craft beer list at any bar or restaurant you visit.
As a brewery that has been in the DC market for a long time, how have you seen the scene grow and shift? How is selling beer different in DC than it was 5-6 years ago?
DC is a really exciting beer scene for so many reasons. We give a lot of credit to people like Greg Engert who worked hard to bring Maine Beer Company to DC, shipping it direct from our small brewery to his bar. And, thanks to great craft beer bars like ChurchKey and Pizzeria Paradiso, DC has a very well-educated population of beer drinkers. In the past 7 years, DC/MD/VA have seen a lot of growth, however, the area’s diverse consumer base still welcomes and creates demand for beer from afar. We’re thrilled that our beer is still in high demand in the city, and hope our reputation for quality continues to drive interest in our product.
Thinking about either your local market or the nation overall, what do you think the key strengths and weaknesses are of independent or craft beer? What can and should we be doing better as an industry?
The BA is doing a good job of helping to communicate why independence matters. For us at MBC, being independent has allowed us the freedom to create a company that puts people and the planet ahead of profit- you won’t see global industrial brewers following this model.
Just for dry-hops and giggles, look into your crystal ball and predict what the big craft beer trend is this time next year.
We hope the trend is toward inclusivity. It’s important that we broaden the reach of the craft beer movement and show that it is open to everyone. The best way we can do this is by showcasing the many voices who make up this community and to work to get more people involved and passionate about beer.
Thanks to Dan for his time. Looking forward to seeing Maine Beer Company at SAVOR and around town!