Rolling on the River
The inspiration to build a brewery commonly strikes while people are drinking beer. In the case of Dirigo Brewing Company, the seeds of partnership and possibility presented themselves during an appointment for a new set of tires.
Last year, Mark Paulin, owner of Paulin’s Tire & Auto Care, struck up a conversation with a customer at his Forest Avenue location. Her name is Molly Bull, and when Paulin learned that her husband, Tom Bull, was the former brewer and co-owner of Bull Jagger Brewing Company, his interest was piqued.
Tom Bull started homebrewing with his father at age 19. His brewing career technically began when he got a job as a bouncer at Gritty’s, eventually landing a position in the brewpub’s brewery. Stints at the now long-shuttered Stone Coast Brewing Co. and at Casco Bay Brewing Co. (before it was acquired by Shipyard) followed. In 2011, Bull launched Bull Jagger Brewing Company with business partner Allan Jagger.
Bull Jagger was the first and only Maine brewery to exclusively brew lagers. The flagship beer was Portland Lager, a fruity and crisp brew made in the Helles style. It soon attracted a sizeable local following. Unfortunately, that business partnership didn’t last long, and the 7.5 barrel brewery closed in early 2013. Not long afterward, however, state laws governing the operation of brewery tasting rooms were loosened, giving rise to Maine’s thriving tasting-room scene.
Mark Paulin and Tom Bull, with the help of their significant others, plan to make Dirigo Brewing Company a big addition to that scene this spring. Their 15 barrel brewhouse, with over 100 barrels of fermentation capacity, is taking shape inside an old mill in Biddeford. Dirigo will join a small cluster of breweries in the Biddeford-Saco area, which includes Banded Horn, Barreled Souls, and the Run of the Mill brewpub.
Dirigo’s tasting room will be over 2,000 square feet, with big windows that provide stunning views of the Saco River and historic mill buildings nearby. Tasters and growler-fills will be available on premise, and draughts will be distributed across the state.
Paulin wants the tasting room to appeal to all types of people. “If you’re a business person and you want to go talk over a deal, I want this to be the kind of place where someone says, ‘You know Dirigo? It’s got a cool vibe, let’s go talk down there.’ But I also want the hard-hat guy to come in and say, ‘This is my kind of place.’”
The new brewery’s line-up will be lager-centric, but not exclusively so. Bull said he plans to bring back some of the beers he brewed at Bull Jagger, in addition to other styles, including a few ales.
What’s the difference between brewing an ale and a lager? Bull has a one-word answer: “Patience.”
Lagers, which are fermented at colder temperatures, take significantly longer to make. Ales can be brewed in as little as two weeks, whereas lagers can take up to two months before they’re ready. That’s why Dirigo has so much fermentation capacity — to ensure they have the space (and the time) for the lagers to fully develop.
The spectrum of lagers goes far beyond the pilsners and Budweiser-style brews most folks know. “There’s a whole world beyond the pale yellow, fizzy lager that we all think of,” said Bull. “It stretches the gamut of colors, tastes, flavors and textures.” Dirigo Brewing Company’s offerings will include a familiar Helles lager, but also a Martzen, a crimson-colored festbier, and a Baltic Porter.
The options for good, locally produced lagers have grown in the three years since Bull Jagger closed, but there’s still plenty of room (and demand) in the market for variations on the style. Bull, who drove a cab for a while after Bull Jagger’s demise, always knew he’d get back in the brewing business. “Once it’s in your blood, it’s in your blood,” he said.