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Updated: August 1, 2023

Tributes pour in for Maine craft beer pioneer David Geary

Brewery tour Photo / Courtesy of Don Littlefield The late David Geary, left, will long be remembered as the godfather of Maine craft brewing.

David Geary, a Maine craft-beer pioneer who founded the country's 13th craft brewery in 1983 with his wife, Karen, will long be remembered as the godfather to one of the state's most iconic industries.

Geary, 78, who sold D.L. Geary Brewing Co. in 2017, died July 26 surrounded by family and friends, according to press reports. 

"My dad often drank a Geary’s HSA [Hampshire Special Ale] in the evening when he got home from work, so Geary’s was a fixture from my earliest memories," Rising Tide Brewing Co.'s Heather Sanborn told Mainebiz.

"All of us who came after him in Maine brewing had a head start because he and Geary’s has already taught a generation of Mainers about craft beer in the decade before that term was even coined."

She also recalled running into Geary at an event at Portland's Little Tap House when she and her husband, Nathan Sanborn, were fairly new brewers, either in 2013 or 2014.

Geary "was drinking our Daymark Pale Ale and told me he thought it was really good beer," she said. "It was one of the most treasured and cherished compliments we ever received for our beer because David Geary was literally the godfather of Maine brewing."

Don Littlefield, president of Brews Cruise Inc., also had fond personal memories of Geary, whom he admired from afar before first glimpsing him at a Microbrew Showcase at the Great Lost Bear in Portland. "There he was in person, Ol' Brew Eyes."

Through Littlefield's work in local beer tourism, the duo got to know each other better over the last decade. Geary even joked about sharing the "D.L" name with Littlefield, although he never used that moniker.

Long before Geary's opened a a tasting room, Littlefield created a route for his company’s tour buses to stop at the brewery "just to tell his incredible story," he said.

“Once we started making Geary Brewing a regular stop on our tours, David would often serve as the host for our groups,” Littlefield noted. “He was clearly proud of showing off his space and the company, and I would easily see the famous twinkle in his eyes when he would field any specific question about brewing techniques.”

More recently, Geary expressed interest in working as a beer tour guide since he had a lot of time available. 

“His employment pitch was strong: ‘Who knows the Maine brewing industry better than me?’” Littlefield said.

'Forge ahead' message

Allagash Brewing Co. founder Rob Tod, who started his business in 1994, also paid homage to Geary.

"Without David and his pioneering in craft beer, it's unlikely that Allagash and so many other breweries would still be around today," Tod told Mainebiz. "He took a bold step to do something that hadn't been done in New England in decades, which was to forge ahead and brew beer independently."

Along similar lines, Rupee Beer's Van Sharma said that "Geary’s was a huge part of the origin story for Rupee. We brewed our very first pilot brew at Geary’s in Portland with Alan Pugsley, who was a vital part of that brewery's success being set up in the '80s."

Calling Geary's death a huge loss for the community, Sharma said that that "David Geary was an institution in beer, and we respect them [Geary's] as the oldest craft brewery in New England.”

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