Portland's Rising Tide Brewing rides growth wave

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PORTLAND — Rising Tide Brewing Co. is embarking on a three-part, 6,400-square-foot expansion to meet the demand for more beer and more event space in East Bayside.

Nathan Sanborn, co-founder and director of brewing operations, said the brewery has already started to move into 3,500 square feet of space formerly occupied by Greener Cleaners, next door to the brewery’s production space and tasting room on Fox Street.

Next summer, the brewery hopes to move into 3,200 square feet of space being vacated by its other neighbor, Maine Craft Distilling, which is moving up the hill to Washington Avenue and expanding in Freeport.

Part one of the expansion will be a dedicated space for experimental beers brewed with wild yeast and souring bacteria. It will allow brewers to keep production equipment for wild and non-wild beers separate. Unlike beers brewed with traditional brewers yeast, wild beers exhibit uncommon, tart, and often sour flavors.

Sanborn said brewers usually take pains to prevent mixing, but because of space constraints, Rising Tide’s past forays into wild beer haven’t had that luxury. He joked that the new space will reduce the risk of cross contamination – and his lab manager’s heart rate.

The expansion into Maine Craft Distilling’s space will allow more elbow room for the brewing of non-wild beers on the brewery’s existing 5,500 square foot production floor, and provide a partitioned area for private events – what Sanborn called “a community room.”

The brewery completed a tasting room renovation that added a larger bar, new bathrooms, and increased their occupancy just over a year ago.

Sanborn said the rise of beer tourism in Portland and the brewery’s growing popularity has made it challenging to hold private events while the tasting room is open.

He said that increased outlets for creativity at his brewery “are always positive in my book,” and he hopes that uses for the private space might expand beyond the networking events, business meetings, and wedding receptions that are already held in the brewery’s tasting room.

Hopefully, the space will advance one of Sanborn’s top priorities as a brewer, which he said is “doing good in the community.” He also suggested use of the space might be donated to nonprofits or community groups.

Sanborn’s other priority, of course, is making what he called “balanced, drinkable beers,” qualities that have popularized the brewery’s trio of year-round beers: Ishmael, Daymark, and Zephyr. The brewery’s hoppy and smooth Maine Island Trail Ale, offered seasonally, is the brewery’s most popular beer and a mainstay on Portland taps during the summer months.

With greater production space, Sanborn estimated the brewery would produce more than 5,000 barrels of beer next year, up from about 4,500 barrels. 

Sanborn called that growth conservative in the craft-beer industry, which has exploded in Maine in recent years, mirroring national trends. 

It has also mirrored trends in Rising Tide’s neighborhood, which has earned the nickname “Yeast Bayside” for the number of breweries in the area, including Lone Pine Brewing Co., Bunker Brewing Co. and One Eye Open Brewing Co.

And Sanborn himself ultimately fits that larger narrative: he co-founded the brewery with his wife, Heather, in 2010 as a one-man-brewing operation. Heather Sanborn is the brewery’s director of business operations and newly minted state representative in House District 43.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

To meet increasing demand for its beer and its tasting room, Rising Tide Brewing Co. on Fox Street in Portland will expand next year into the space now occupied by Maine Craft Distilling.

Rising Tide’s Nathan Sanborn said the brewery’s upcoming expansion will result in a less cramped production floor.

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Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.