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March 7, 2018

Sebago Brewing's new Gorham space developed with room to grow

Photo / Maureen Milliken Kai Adams, co-founder and vice president of Sebago Brewing Company, celebrates the opening of the company's brewery and tasting room at 616 Main St., Gorham.

GORHAM — It was 2:30 p.m. on a cold windy Friday afternoon, but the new tasting room at Sebago Brewing Co. was already packed.

The 30,000-square-foot new construction at 616 Main St., west of downtown, is the culmination of a lot of hard work over the company’s 20-year history, said Kai Adams, vice president and cofounder. Other founders are President Brad Monarch and Treasurer Tim Haines.

The site, which also houses Sebago Brewing’s headquarters, is on a 258-acre parcel Shaw Brothers Family Foundation bought from ecomaine for $1.75 million in March 2016.

Two-thirds of the two-story building holds the brewery. The rest — about 6,000 square feet — is a tasting room, with woodfire kitchen, as well as Sebago’s offices. There is also a patio for outdoor drinking and dining.

Sebago added about 35 employees when the tasting room and brewer opened Feb. 27 and now has 225 employees company-wide.

The top question Adams and others at Sebago gets asked is whether the Sebago Brewing brewpub restaurant in downtown Gorham will close because of the new tasting room.

“It’s absolutely not,” he said. “It does really well and it’s a community hub.”

Gorham is “a great beer town,” Adams added.

Location, location, location

Photo / Maureen Milliken
The parking lot was full at Sebago Brewing Co., 616 Main St., Gorham, four days after it opened.

The brewery is on six acres of land that the Shaw Brothers Family Foundation is developing into a recreation and working farm space. Four parcels along Route 25 are set aside for business use, with the brewery being the first.

The location is ideal for the Sebago Brewing.

It is directly across the street from Nappi Distributors, which distributes Sebago products.

Route 25 — Main Street in Gorham — connects Portland to Westbrook, Gorham, southwestern Maine and New Hampshire’s eastern Ossipee region.

Some 27,000 cars a day go past the site, Adams said.

And the company wanted to stay in Gorham, where not only does the downtown brew pub do well, but town officials have been welcoming since it opened 17 years ago.

“This town is a great place to do business,” Adams said.

Sebago has had a brewery in the Gorham since 2005, starting with 8,000 square feet in the Gorham Industrial Park. But even after adding 5,000 square feet, the company needed more room.

Sebago sold 13,000 barrels of beer last year; its goal is to sell 17,000 this year.

The new space has 30% more brewing capacity that the industrial park building, with plenty of room to grow.

Adams said, though, the company is not focused on growth for growth’s sake, but wants quality growth.

Sebago has the luxury to set its own pace and make additions when the time is right.

“It hasn’t always been that way,” he said. “We struggled for years.”

'Destination brewery'

Photo / Sebago Brewing Company
Tours are part of the experience at Sebago Brewing Co.'s new brewery and tasting room at 616 Main St. in Gorham.

The vision for the new site was to have a “destination brewery,” he said.

“We’d have people come, take the tour, hang on the lawn and have some beer,” he said.

The brewery and tasting room capitalizes on the state’s thriving beer tourism industry. “The Maine beer bus and [craft brew] tourism is the connective tissue of the industry,” he said.

Adams, who’s vice president of the Maine Brewers’ Guild, said the organization’s mission it to make Maine the top craft beer destination in the country.

Pointing to Sebago Brewing’s four brew pubs — in Gorham, Portland, Scarborough and Kennebunk — he said the goal for the tasting room was to be “less pubby” and to be more “all about the beer.”

The menu includes wood-fired pizza, small plates and limited entrees, including “fun and unique items sourced as locally as we can get,” he added.

The craft brewing industry has changed a lot in the 20 years since he and Monarch started Sebago. “There were 18 craft breweries when we started,” Adams said. “Now there are 112 ... The consumers have matured. They know great beer.”

'20 years to get here'

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Sebago Brewing's brewery also has a patio. It's on Shaw Bros. Family Foundation land on Route 25 in Gorham.

The non-brewing portion of the building has occupancy for 192 and, while that includes office occupancy, most of it will be devoted to the tasting room.

Most of those seats were filled Friday, and Adams was thrilled. He said they had high hopes, but business was more brisk than expected.

“We’ve only been open four days,” he said.

The crowd was diverse — a mix of young drinkers and old, men and woman, people in business suits, construction gear and jeans and flannel.

“I can’t say enough about the staff,” he added, watching waitstaff and bartenders handle the constant flow of customers.

The 16 beers on tap are part of the draw, Adams said. The tasting room is designed to showcase what the company does best.

But he and his partners also wanted to make sure it was a fun place to come.

“It took us 20 years to get here,” he said as he watched more people come through the door Friday. “But it’s not just about being bigger, it’s about being better, and serving high-quality beer.”

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