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June 1, 2017

Lewiston brewer plans second location in Bridgton

Photo / Lori Valigra
Photo / Lori Valigra
Adam Tüüri, left, and Eben Dingman of Bear Bones Beer plan to open a second location in Bridgton to take advantage of the seasonal population boost in the summer.

Bear Bones Beer, a Lewiston brewery that opened 18 months ago, is preparing to open its second location in Bridgton, where its owners said it can take advantage of the boom in seasonal population and more than double its revenue.

"We've had good growth in our Lewiston tasting room," co-owner Adam Tüüri told Mainebiz Tuesday in a coffee shop across from his new digs at 2 Cottage St., where the company's bear logo and name were being painted on the doors. "But the heart of the issue as to why we are coming to Bridgton is Lewiston has no tourist or service industry. It has a blue collar industry and the town slows down in the summer when they use their disposable income to vacation elsewhere."

Bridgton, with a year-round population of 5,372 as of 2015, sees that number more than double in the summer as seasonal residents and tourists return to the nearby lakes and mountains. Bridgton also is a draw in winter because of nearby ski areas including Shawnee Peak.

Bear Bones, which will operate year-round at its new location, is in the same building as the Bavarian Chocolate Haus that plans to open soon, and near two cafes, a bookstore and a movie theater in the heart of Bridgton.

"We are profitable, but we aren't making a lot of money yet," said co-owner Eben Dingman. Tüüri added that the Bridgton location would more than double revenue, but he declined to disclose exact figures.

Roll out the barrels

Bear Bones still is awaiting federal and state permits before it opens, but plans a 1,200-square-foot tasting room on the first floor and a 1,000-square-foot barrel operation in the basement. It plans to move its barrel operation from Lewiston and age 20 to 30 barrels using whiskey, rum and wine barrels. Aging takes three months. The barrel beer will be sold as samples at the brewery and in Belgian-style bottles that are corked and in a cage. It also will be mixed with other beer.

Tüüri added that the barrel aging will let Bear Bones offer different types of beer and blends because it will be able to make sour beers in the barrels and use different bacteria and microbes to create new flavors.

"We plan to step up the barreling considerably," he said.

The duo will not brew beer in Bridgton, but instead bring it from the Lewiston brewery, where they also are expanding by pushing through a back wall that will let them increase the 1,200 square feet in use now to 4,000 square feet. That also would increase the number of people who could be in the Lewiston tasting room from the 12 seats to 80.

The Bridgton location is approved for 40 seats. Dingman said they originally planned to open in July, but discovered they needed federal approval before they could get state approval. The build-out with the bar and other features is slated to be completed by July. They also said they are approved to have live music inside the venue.

Bear Bones has three part-time staff in Lewiston and plans initially to hire one person in Bridgton. The owners will initially run the tasting room to assure it turns into the home-like feeling Tüüri said they are known for in Lewiston.

Bridgton developer Justin McIver, owner of Main Eco Homes, lured the pair to Bridgton, according to Tüüri, and has given them an undisclosed amount for a loan to build out the location.

The Bridgton Planning Board's final approval of the company's barrel aging, blending and bottle facility with tasting room came at a May meeting.

Tüüri adds that Bear Bones would like to collaborate with other breweries in the Bridgton area, including Norway Brewing Co., Saco River Brewing in Fryeburg and Maine Craft Distilling in Portland.

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