SKOWHEGAN — Four years ago the Bigelow Brewing Co. was just Jeff and Pam Powers brewing a couple of locally made beers from Maine ingredients in a converted horse barn on Bigelow Hill in Skowhegan.

That was 2014.

The brewery has doubled production every year since, adding a 48-by-50-foot brew room in 2016 and offering live music and wood-fired pizza on weekends. They make 1,200 barrels of beer in 10 different varieties every year. They even grow their own hops on an acre of land next to the brewery and soon their own pumpkins for their Pumpkin Ale.

Now, the Powers are hooking up with the Maine Brewers Guild for a ride in the Maine Beer Box to be featured at the seventh annual Leeds International Beer Festival in Leeds, England, in September.

The Maine Beer Box arrives in Skowhegan on Tuesday to take delivery of one 31-gallon barrel of Bigelow Brown, a fusion of mildly roasted malt with mild hop bitterness, Powers said. The brewery will be open 5-8 p.m. Tuesday with pizza, live music by Conner Reeves and beer offered by the Guild — $5 for a pint and a personal size pizza.

The Beer Box trek then turns for pickups in Aroostook County on Wednesday, then to Brewer, three locations Down East, and on to Cushnoc Brewing Co. in Augusta, over to the mid-coast and finally to Geary’s and Rising Tide breweries in Portland on Friday.

“It’s huge,” Powers said of their inclusion in the second year of the Maine Beer Box. “Last year when we had our beer in Iceland with the Maine Beer Box, two weeks after the brew fest I had someone in the brewery who was in Iceland drinking my beer, which is pretty cool. It’s always nice to know that your beer is being sampled and experienced in areas other than this brewery or this state.”

Colin Hoffman, the assistant brewer at Bigelow, said the whole Beer Box operation is good for Maine beer and good for Skowhegan.

“It’s pretty amazing. The Beer Box is a pretty awesome idea to get Maine craft beer out there to all these places internationally,” he said between brews Monday. “To introduce our brand — the Maine brand of beer — to the world after the success we had in Iceland and bringing their beer back, I think Leeds is going to go extremely well.”

Powers said he and Pam are aware of the standards for beer and ale in England and that their Bigelow Brown is a “real beer” with no chemical additives. He said he thinks it will be well received.

“Pam and I were over in London four years ago, and I experienced a lot of beers that tasted very similar to what I was making,” he said. “There are no chemicals in my beer. It’s all local ingredients. It’s all natural ingredients.”

Powers said his brew house is one of 68 Maine breweries participating in the Beer Box this year out of the more than 120 breweries in Maine.

The Maine Beer Box is a custom-built, 40-foot-long refrigerated shipping container with 78 beer taps and a self-contained draft system that was commissioned in 2017 by the Maine Brewers’ Guild. Serving as a symbol of the collaborative spirit of the Maine and American craft brewing industry, according to the guild’s website, the Maine Beer Box is utilized as part of a multi-year project based around a global exchange of beer among brewers from Maine and countries around the world.

The Maine Beer Box has been called the world’s largest mobile “kegerator” and is fully capable of delivering beer anywhere by land or sea, ensuring that Maine craft beer can be transported in ideal conditions and served fresh off the tap, according to the web site.

The project is done in partnership with Eimskip, an Iceland-based shipping company with its North American headquarters in Portland.

The key aspect of the project is that it is reciprocal — Maine brewers ship beer over, share beers from the Maine Beer Box at a festival, then ship the host country’s beers back to Maine.

Part marketing initiative, part goodwill trade mission, part economic development initiative, the Maine Beer Box was filled with Maine craft beer and shipped to Iceland in its inaugural run in June 2017, where the beer was offered to paid attendees at the biggest beer festival in Icelandic history, according to the website.

Powers said his wife, Pam, recently was elected to the Maine Brewers Guild board of directors. He said having Bigelow Brewery represented on the board and the brewery itself as a venue and a destination point for beer, music and wood-fired pizza in Skowhegan have been good for the local economy and good for business all around the region.

“It’s good for this area,” he said. “It actually gives central Maine a voice in what’s going on. She can go down and bring information from this area to the guild so they know what we’re facing and what we’re working with. If they’re coming to Skowhegan, they’re stopping for gas, they’re stopping for a sandwich — it’s people that are experiencing the area that may not have come here in the first place.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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