SKOWHEGAN — Pam and Jeff Powers had a good week.

On Tuesday, the Skowhegan Board of Selectmen gave the town development office approval to file a letter of intent for a $180,000 federal grant application for their Bigelow Brewing Co.

On Thursday, the couple took delivery of 96 full-sized utility poles to be used to build a new hop growing yard, the same day they released their newest brew — Avery Peak 4088, a summer wheat ale made with orange and coriander.

When the couple opened their brewery on Bigelow Hill Road in May 2014, there were about 47 micro-breweries in Maine, company vice president Pam Powers said. Now there are 62 with 12 more set to open this year.

The plan is to quadruple the Bigelow Brewing operation, and Powers said it’s warranted.

“I don’t know any brewery that is struggling in Maine,” she said. “We have had an increase in sales every month. We are selling at capacity. We’re selling every bit of product we can make. We can’t make it fast enough. We’re turning down customers every week.”


If the state Economic and Community Development grant is approved, the couple will need at least that much more to expand the former horse-barn brewery by 50 feet for a new 15-barrel brew house. They currently operate with three barrels. They also want to add a one-acre hop-growing yard, extend the garage for storage and complete landscaping for an outdoor patio, where they will offer wood-fired pizza slices, samples of brews and local entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights. They also will host fundraising events, weddings and rehearsal dinners.

In addition, they plan to start canning their beverages for sale.

The couple opened with two beers in 2014 — Dementia Dog, a double IPA (India pale ale) with five kinds of hops that has a 7.9 percent alcohol content by volume, and Lying Bastard, which is 4.9 percent alcohol. In comparison, Budweiser has a 5.0 percent content and Miller High Life has a 5.5 percent alcohol content.

They since have added Bigelow Brown Ale, Jail Break Chocolate Chili Stout — made with tomato chili from New Mexico — and as of Thursday, the Avery Peak 4088, the number indicating the elevation of Avery peak in the Bigelow range in Somerset and Franklin counties.

“We can do about 100 gallons of brew on this system,” Powers said Thursday as she, husband Jeff and their daughter Jordan, 26, brewed up a batch of Avery Peak. She said by expanding from three to 15 barrels, “our system will be able to do 450 gallons, and we’ll have four fermentors that will hold 1,000 gallons.”

They hope to brew 3,000 gallons over the course of a month with some beers taking 14 days to finish and others taking half that amount of time.


“Our business plan has us starting at about 2,000 gallons a month and increasing production as demand calls for it,” Jeff Powers said.

Jeff Powers works full time as a shift supervisor at Catalyst Paper, the former New Page paper mill in Rumford. Pam Powers is a retired Skowhegan middle school teacher.

Bigelow Brewing Co. is the second brewery in Skowhegan. Oak Pond Brewery opened in 1996 off U.S. Route 2 near the Canaan town line. There also is the Kennebec River Brewery in The Forks, 50 miles north of Skowhegan on U.S. Route 201.

Farther afield are the Liberal Cup Public House and Brewery in Hallowell and the Belfast Bay Brewing Co. in Belfast.

The couple began converting the 36-by-48-foot former horse barn on Bigelow Hill Road in 2011 and started the licensing process with state and federal permits.

The Powers make about 100 gallons of beer each week, most of which is stored in a cooler on site, ready for sale from the brewery and from taps at local restaurants and pubs and in 22-ounce bottles and 64-ounce growlers for local stores.


The 96 commercial utility poles will be sunk into the ground 14 feet apart on one acre of land to allow a vehicle to pass through each row. Each pole will have a cable system on top and twine strung to the ground for the hops to grow on. A hop plant can grow 12 inches in a day during the summer, and plants take about three years to fully mature for harvest, Pam Powers said. They hope to expand to two acres next year.

“We’re also fencing that in next year, and we’re going to have sheep eat the grass, and chickens will be in there to keep the bugs off the hops,” she said. “We’re going to try to do all organic if we can.”

All the spent grains from fermentation will be compost for fertilizer, Pam Powers said.

Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild, said in 2014 that the state’s craft beer industry has had constant growth since 1986. Sullivan said craft beer brewers are independent producers who focus on small batches of beer with an eye on quality versus quantity. He said craft beer represents less than 15 percent of beer consumed nationally, but the numbers are growing.

If the grant comes through, the couple plan to hire six people, not including family members. New hires will include a full-time brewer and a person in marketing, sales and distribution.

Jeff Hewett, Skowhegan’s director of economic and community development, said his office has filed a letter of intent for Bigelow Brewing Co. to apply for the business assistance grant. The state has accepted the letter but has not approved the application yet.


Hewett said the money originates with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funnels funding to the state Community Development Block Grant program, which in turn carries it down to the community level and finally to the business. He said the grant application program is competitive statewide.

Hewett said the grant is similar to one granted to Maine Stitching Specialties, which used grant money for additional equipment and working capital for a logistics person to do preproduction and cutting work, as well as hiring a marketing and sales manager.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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