New brewery helps save old Gorham gem

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Kai Adams, one of three co-owners of the new Sebago Brewing facility in Gorham, shows a tour group new equipment.

Kai Adams, one of three co-owners of the new Sebago Brewing facility in Gorham, shows a tour group new equipment.

Kai Adams

Production plant

Sebago Brewing

A cap in the production plant

GORHAM — Sebago Brewing Company’s new facility that opened to the public Tuesday on Route 25 in Gorham is a shining example of just one step towards saving a historic land tract.

The brewery’s new headquarters, pegged last year at costing $5.5 million, features a tasting room, restaurant, offices and a production plant. It’s situated near Westbrook at 616 Main St. (Route 25), a commuter artery.

“This is so exciting to have this right at the gateway to Gorham,” Gorham’s Town Council Vice Chairwoman Sherrie Benner said Friday following a tour of the facility.

Sebago Brewing Company is co-owned by Kai Adams, Brad Monarch and Tim Haines. They built their modern facility on a portion of a large, old tract owned by the Shaw Brothers Family Foundation that wants to save the tract — a former farm.

But, the town specified that frontage of the foundation’s 258-acre tract, previously zoned industrial, be earmarked for commercial uses.

The land tract was an eye-catcher for the expansion-minded Sebago Brewing, established in 1998. In the past decade, it outgrew its former headquarters in Gorham Industrial Park.

“We innovate and change,” Adams last week told a group touring the new facility.

Its restaurant seats 192 and its new, custom-made stainless steel equipment in its production plant can brew 5,000 gallons of beer in four batches per day. “This is amazing,” Tom Ellsworth, Gorham’s director of economic development, said Friday about the plant.

The production plant has four times the capacity of its former plant in the industrial park. “In the craft beer industry being able to create a lot of different beer styles is important, and we want our brewers to show their talents and be able to explore new taste possibilities,” Adams said.

“We don’t just want to be bigger — we want to be better.”

Tours of the plant are available to the public. Tiff Gillespie is tour and tasting manager while Matt St. Hillaire is general manager of the restaurant.

The new facility opens at 11 a.m. daily and closes Sundays through Wednesdays at 9 p.m. and closes at 10 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.

Sebago Brewing has brewpubs in Kennebunk, Portland, Scarborough and Gorham at 29 Elm St.

Now, Sebago Brewing has 225 employees companywide, up from 190. In the new facility, 35-40 work in hospitality, four in sales, five in administration and 16 in brewing.

The new brewery has a country setting of about six acres overlooking farmland. The brewery marks just one step, a Shaw Brothers Family Foundation official said Tuesday, about its plans to preserve and protect the tract that pre-dates the American Revolution.

Sebago Brewery owners have a long-term lease of their site from the non-profit Shaw Brothers Family Foundation, established by Jon and Danny Shaw. The full 258-acre land tract owned by the Foundation was purchased from Ecomaine, the waste and recycling cooperative, for agriculture and public recreation preservation.

Most of the foundation’s tract traces its roots to a 300-acre land grant in 1730 belonging to John Tyng of Massachusetts during the reign of British King George II. Maine was then a district of Massachusetts, and the grant preceded the arrival in 1736 of settlers into Gorham, then a wilderness.

Before the foundation acquired the land tract, former proposals for the site that didn’t materialize included ones for 900 homes, a stump dump and an electrical generation plant.

The foundation’s vision for the property includes public walking trails, access to the Presumpscot River, hayfields and other agricultural purposes.”The intent is to save that farm,” said Jon Shaw of Shaw Brothers Construction, Inc., headquartered on Mosher Road in Gorham.

Gorham is one of several community members in Ecomaine. To receive the town’s endorsement to buy the large tract, the Shaw Brothers Foundation agreed that land along the street would be available for taxable buildings that would bolster the town’s tax base.

Sebago Brewing became the first. “There’s three other lots,” Shaw said.

The Shaw Brothers Foundation has initiated the permitting process with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for approval of the other three lots. The foundation has perspective deals for two of the lots but they haven’t been finalized yet.

Possible new tenants could include a restaurant, farm market or ice cream shop.

Pine trees and brush have been cleared from much of the former farmland. Shaw said more than a mile of trails have been built but work was halted. “We’ve been stopped by the Department of Environmental Protection,” Shaw said. “We hope to get permission to finish the trails.”

Now at the earliest, Shaw said, trails could be open by this time next year.

Shaw said the brewery is the first step in fulfilling the vision of the foundation and the town. Shaw said he visited Sebago Brewing Monday.

He described the Sebago Brewing owners as “really happy.”

“There’s a lot more to come,” Shaw said.

Robert Lowell can be reached at 854-2577 or rlowell@keepmecurrent.com

Sebago’s cooks prepare wood-fired pizza in their new restaurant.

Guests visit the tasting room at Sebago Brewery in Gorham on Friday, Feb. 23.