The Casco Bay Brewery first opened on the Portland coast of Maine in spring of 1994 with a capacity of 6000 barrels annually. Within 6 months, capacity quickly had to be increased to meet the striking increase in demand. Their line of Katahdin Beers quickly became big sellers and soon found their way into an impressive distribution network.
In early 1995, Bryan Smith joins the brewery as a part time bottler. Within five months, Smith had worked his way up to brewer. In September of 1997, Smith left the brewery to attend American Brewers Guild brewing school located at UC Davis – California, where he learnt the biochemistry and micro-biology side of brewing.
In January 1998, Smith, Alex Fisher and Stew Maloney bought out half of the original ownership team, with Smith taking over all brewing operations. In May of the same year the brewery introduced their Casco Bay Pilsner – it is the first beer under the Casco Bay brand name.
With the introduction of Casco Bay Lager a few months later, they became the only brewery in northern New England committed to brewing year-round lager style beers. By the end of the year additional renovations were necessary and capacity was increased yet again.
In early 1999 all Katahdin beers were discontinued, however one of the strongest, the Katahdin Red Ale, undergoes a slight recipe “tweaking” and is reborn as Casco Bay Riptide Red Ale. About a year later, Casco Bay bought the brand rights to Carrabassett beers, an already popular line of beers. This acquisition mandates that capacity be immediately increased from 8,500 to 11,000 barrels per year!
Casco Bay uses two-row malted barley and a variety of other specialty malts. The brewery also utilizes grains from Germany, England, Belgium, Canada and the United States to adjust the flavor, color and mouthfeel of its brews. It imports hops from Germany for its Pilsner and utilizes hops from the Pacific Northwest of the United States for the rest of its brews. The ale yeast is an American strain, while lager yeast is imported from Germany.
In March of 2002, Smith, Fisher, and Maloney bought out Bob Wade, the remaining half of the original ownership pair. In 2008, Casco Bay was acquired by Shipyard Brewing Company and became a sister brand. The beers are now brewed and bottled in the Shipyard facility near the Portland, Maine waterfront, with access to premium equipment and resources. With Shipyard being one of Maine’s largest original microbreweries, the increased exposure has proven very rewarding for the tiny Casco Bay brand.
Today, Casco Bay beers are distributed throughout New England under our own label, as well as the Carrabassett brand. There are currently nine ales and lagers being produced by Casco Bay, all made with the purpose of drinkability, consistency, and balance in small batches and using only the finest ingredients.