FREEPORT — Spent bullet shells beneath a glass-covered bar. Old military helmets dangling in the bathrooms as light shades. The upper barrel of an AR-15 as the handle for a beer tap.
The flavor of Marine life, known quite well to Brad Nadeau, is as powerful as the beers he’s spent years perfecting. Years of work and investment will culminate next weekend when the former U.S. Marine Corps sergeant opens Stars & Stripes Brewing Co. at 8 Varney Road.
On Oct. 16, a paint-covered Nadeau was working by himself at the brew pub, where the tables and benches evoke a German beer hall.
Preparing for opening day has been a non-stop labor of love, he said, and he plans during at least the operation’s first year to be on site every day as the face of the business.
“I’m going to be living here,” Nadeau joked about the building situated behind Antonia’s pizzeria on U.S. Route 1. “I’ll probably sleep under the bar.”
He said he is deeply proud of the business born out of a home brewery he operated the past three years in his West Cumberland garage, using 380-gallon stainless steel tanks. That has grown into the five brew tanks Stars and Stripes is leasing from Justin Fletcher, with whom Nadeau has worked in construction.
The tasting room is about 2,000 square feet. On warmer days, outside seating will be available on a 1,000-square-foot deck, which overlooks a small pond.
Nadeau is launching his business with four of his seven sudsy creations, all with names that evoke the military: “Semper Fi.P.A.,” “Warriors Wheat,” “Veterans Blonde,” and “Ooh-Rah! I.P.A.”
The offerings range in size from 5-ounce samples to 64-ounce “growler” containers. For those who don’t drink, Nadeau has also crafted a root beer.
The nascent business has attracted significant attention from the media, restaurants, other brewers, veterans, and many passersby – many people want to lend a hand, or learn when Stars & Stripes is opening.
“They just like the concept of the brewery, which seems to resonate with a lot of people,” Nadeau said. “People love it.”
That’s due in part to his aim to run a family-friendly operation while supporting veterans. Nadeau has expressed a desire to host a veterans event each month for organizations such as Toys for Tots, Easter Seals, the Travis Mills Foundation, and K9s on the Front Line, with a percentage of sales going to the groups.
Nadeau, who served in the Marines from 1999-2003 in Japan, the Philippines and Thailand, was ultimately deployed to the Middle East for Operation Iraqi Freedom, where his unit – the first in Iraq – cleared mines on the road to Baghdad.
He later earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology, worked in the cardiac rehabilitation unit at Maine Medical Center in Portland, and then became an insurance inspector.
Nadeau launched a Kickstarter campaign in November 2017 to raise $20,000 for a lease and loan for the brewery. He needed $180,000 in all to get started.
Nadeau and his wife Nancy, who has a background in marketing, raised $10,000 six days into the campaign. The one-month fundraiser attracted 142 backers, who pledged $22,300.
Nadeau didn’t say exactly how much he’s spent, but noted that “it’s been a lot. … It’s everything that we’ve got; me, my wife, everything.”
“We’re on a ramen noodle diet,” he quipped.
The Nadeaus, who worked with the U.S. Small Business Administration to get the loan needed to get the project off the ground, will host the SBA and other organizations from 2-4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9. The brewery will be open to the public from about noon-5 p.m. that day, and also on Saturday, Nov. 10, to celebrate the 243rd birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps.
The official kickoff of Stars & Stripes will be Sunday, Nov. 11, from noon-6 p.m. – just in time for Veterans Day. Nadeau hopes to host a food truck, and customers will be allowed to bring their own food, or order food from Antonia’s.
An area with children’s games and other activities will also be set up.
Initial hours will be 2-6 p.m. Wednesday-Sundays; Nadeau said he expects to be brewing on Mondays and Tuesdays.
“We’ll see what our inventory looks like after that (first) week, and if we can stay open for full hours (11 a.m.-9 p.m.), we will,” he said.
Brad Nadeau of Cumberland, a former U.S. Marine sergeant, plans to open Stars & Stripes Brewing in Freeport Veterans Day weekend.
Stars & Stripes’ bar holds thousands of spent bullet shells. The handmade tap handles are made of wood, except for the upper barrel of an AR-15 at left.