Storms aren’t the only thing a-brewin’.
For a young brewery on the rise, there’s never enough time (or beer) to go around. I had been trying to set up an interview with Nathan Sanborn, brewmaster and co-owner of one-and-a-half-year-old Rising Tide Brewing Company in Portland, Maine, but he’s been a little busy. Tuesday afternoon could work he tells me—although the brewery is a pick-up spot for a local CSA program and Tuesday’s the first day, and a bike-and-brew tour is coming through at some point too.
When I visited the brewery in a small industrial complex in Portland’s East Bayside for their first ever growler hours, it was no different. Heather Sanborn, Nathan’s wife, co-owner, and latest full-time brewery employee, is handing out samples and selling growlers while Nathan brews a batch of their Rye Pale Ale, Daymark in the back (and a kid giggles while watching something on an iPad in the corner.)
Rising Tide is one of Maine’s newest breweries, and while time may still be hard to come by, there will be more beer soon. After brewing on a tiny one-barrel system since they opened in October 2010, they recently upgraded to a 15-barrel system, which means Rising Tide’s beers will make their way to Massachusetts soon—hopefully by Labor Day.
Their core lineup, available on draft and in 22-ounce bombers, loosely invokes German ale traditions and runs the spectrum from hoppy and bright to “dark as squid ink and moody as the sea.”
Ishmael, the Copper Ale, tastes slightly sweet and malty, but well-balanced; Ursa Minor, their take on a winter wheat beer, combines a German Hefeweizen with an American Sweet Stout, and their Black Ale, Atlantis, presents smooth and hoppy with a hint of smoke.
Daymark, their Rye Pale Ale, uses Maine-grown rye malted by Valley Malt in Hadley, Mass. and showcases a floral, citrus aroma and a spicy rye taste. It stands out among Rye Pale Ales and IPAs on the market today.
“A lot of the Rye IPAs that I see out there are really much sweeter and so we really wanted to go in another direction, focus on having the rye character come through on its own. So we added rye and then added a lot of late hops to complement that,” said Sanborn.
An IPA will enter the lineup next.
“The IPA is a little bit sweeter, it’s got some of that caramel sweetness to it. The hops blend that I’m leaning toward has a lot of fruit to it, a little bit of citrus, some more orange, some pear.” He’s still tweaking the recipe, but estimates it will come out around 7 or 7.2 percent alcohol—“not a ‘super beer’ IPA but lots and lots of late hops.”
Sanborn, a native Portlander who recalls Gearys, Shipyard, and Gritty’s among his first beers, can now count himself among the second wave of Maine breweries who are straying away from English-style beers that defined the state’s beer styles for many years.
“There’s just so much more variety [in Maine] now than there was 15 years ago,” he said. “It’s really quite exciting being in Maine as a brewer and as a beer drinker.”
In Maine, Rising Tide is distributed to Bangor, Portland, and south of Portland. While the market is growing, there is still a vast amount of beer territory to cover.
“There’s still a lot of room for growth and maturation in the market here but I think that’s really exciting as a local brewer to see that we are continuing to grow and mature in terms of consumption. “
It’s just a matter of time.
To get a sneak sip of Rising Tide’s beer, visit them at their brewery in Portland for growler hours starting June 21. Or you could drink your way through the best of Maine’s craft breweries at the Maine Craft Beer Comes to Boothbay fest on July 14. Either the head owner or a brewer from every brewery will be their pouring beer!