Among all the breweries and brewpubs in Maine, Shipyard is the big momma. Alan Pugsley’s brewhaus isn’t just the biggest in Maine, though it easily passes that test at over eighty thousand barrels of beer a year. Shipyard’s massive production scale positions it as the twenty-first-largest craft beer company in the United States, ahead of well-known brands like Rogue, Victory and Long Trail—all this from an Englishman with a love for Ringwood yeast.
Pugsley started brewing in the early ’80s under the tutelage of Ringwood Brewery founder Peter Austin. When David Geary (of Geary’s Brewing Company) needed some assistance launching his brewery, he contacted and contracted Pugsley, bringing the brewer to Maine. After the launch of Geary’s, Pugsley stayed in the United States receiving and installing brewery equipment for aspiring stateside craft breweries.
In the early ’90s, Alan was back in Maine to help open Federal Jack’s in Kennebunkport—a pub that doubled as a training facility for brewers. In 1994, Pugsley decided to put down roots and start a brewery of his own. With his business partner Fred Forsley, he opened Shipyard.
Buoyed by tax incentives from Portland, the pair chose a four-acre spot to house Shipyard. The massive facility, situated on Portland’s waterfront in a former foundry building, holds the distinction of sitting on the birthplace of famed poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It’s a heritage the brewery chose to commemorate with its seasonal Longfellow Winter Ale.
Soon after beginning operations in 1994, the Shipyard Brewing Company made a move some in the industry saw as sacrilege. Facing debt and looking to finance expansion, half the brewery was sold to the behemoth Miller Brewing Company. In retrospect, it’s hard to imagine that the deal could have worked more in the Maine brewer’s favor. By 1996, Shipyard had tripled production from thirty thousand barrels to eighty-nine thousand. Miller’s industry expertise and distribution network allowed Shipyard beers to disseminate around the country. Not only that, but the brewery soon returned to independence—Forsley and Pugsley bought Miller’s shares back in 2000.
Back in the hands of the founders, Shipyard’s runaway growth continued. By 2012, Shipyard Brewing Company was ranked as the sixteenth-largest craft beer company in the Untied States and shipped an astonishing 158,441 barrels of beer. With distribution in over forty states and a number of countries, there’s no doubt that the first Maine beer many drinkers try is one of Pugsley’s brews.
While Shipyard’s beers are a huge part of the Maine market in their own right, there are more beers brewed at its huge production facility than many beer drinkers may realize. On top of the Shipyard brand, the brewery acquired the Sea Dog, Carrabassett and Casco Bay brands in the last decade. Along with these three core brands, Shipyard contract brews beer for Gritty’s, Davidson Brothers, Belfast Bay Brewing, the Woodstock Inn and Brewery, Hartford Better Beer, St. John Brewers and a few of the Atlantic Brewing brews. Peak Organic brews at Shipyard by way of an alternating proprietorship license. About 15 percent of the production at Shipyard is devoted to contract brews.
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