The state’s brewing landscape is dotted with breweries and pubs in farmhouses, homes and old industrial structures. For Pete Camplin Sr., the ideal spot for his Maine coast brewery was a 128-year-old former woolen mill in Camden. Camplin, a homebrewer by hobby and contractor by trade, saw a chance to combine his passions in the dilapidated mill. After an arduous rehab of the building that began in mid-1992 and ran through the next winter, Camplin had created a 240-seat brewpub and kegging brewery. The Sea Dog held its grand opening on May 17, 1993. The coastal brewery started with a fairly modest output, with production around 2,200 barrels a year by 1994. Still, between the success of the brewery with locals and the growing popularity of craft beer, Camplin saw room for expansion. After another property rehab (this time of a forty-five-year-old former shoe factory), Sea Dog Brewing Company opened a second location in Bangor. The larger 540-seat restaurant and brewery nearly quadrupled production, putting out 8,000 barrels of beer in 1995 and adding bottled distribution to the Sea Dog portfolio. By the end of the decade, Sea Dog had added a pub in South Portland and Topsham.
When the craft beer bubble popped at the turn of the century, Sea Dog nearly sank with the industry ship. Facing debt and cash flow problems, the Sea Dog Brewing Company filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in November 2000. The company had completed its reorganization by September 2001, but problems continued and the company defaulted on its debt payments a year later. By the end of 2002, the company had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Luckily for the lovers of Sea Dog, Shipyard’s Fred Forsley and Alan Pugsley—who were already contract brewing Sea Dog beer at their Portland brewery—swooped in to purchase the company.
Under the stewardship of Shipyard, the Sea Dog brand has recovered and flourished. Though the Camden brewpub has closed its doors, there are now three Sea Dog locations in Maine: Bangor, Topsham and South Portland. The brand has also spread south, with a Sea Dog brewpub in Clearwater, Florida (and another planned for Orlando), and “sister pubs” in three Massachusetts locations.
Sea Dog Brewing Company also fits into Maine brewing history as an incubator for a later generation of brewers. Kai Adams, a Maine native who had gone to college (and then on to brewing) in Colorado, was one of the brewmasters at Sea Dog’s Camden location. Adams went on to found Sebago Brewing Company and eventually hired on Tom Abercrombie as the company’s brewmaster. Abercrombie’s start in brewing was as head brewer at Sea Dog, where he was originally hired by…Kai Adams.
Sea Dog’s name and logo both come from Barney, a Great Pyrenees owned by founded Pete Camplin. Despite the Pyrenees’ legendary dislike of water, Barney took to the ocean with vigor. By spending about a quarter of the year on the decks of ships, he earned the distinction of Sea Dog, which carried over to the brewery where he acted as figurehead and apprentice brewmaster.
Being authentic is important to us. Our beers are brewed in a traditional English style using only the highest quality ingredients like English two-row malted barley and British top-fermenting Ringwood yeast. Our English brewing style results in brews with a distinctive, refreshing taste and crisp finish.