Ian McConnell (right) and Ron Graves at Banded Horn Brewing Co. [Photos: Tom Minervino]
The first beer from Biddeford's first brewery is now flowing from taps. Late last week, kegs of Banded Horn Brewing Co.'s Veridian IPA started popping up around Southern Maine. The initial brew is described by owner and brewmaster Ian McConnell as a very drinkable dry, hoppy IPA (5 different hops are used) that's "very light in malt profile" and around 6% ABV. Coming soon is the Pepperell Pils, a "German-style pilsner with American hoppiness," according to McConnell. The name is a tribute to the brewery's home in the historic, 150-year old Pepperell Mill on the banks of the Saco River. "It seemed a good idea to give a nod to where we are," McConnell says. It's also a good intro beer for those looking to dabble in craft brews. "Craft beer's main responsibility is to educate consumers," he says. "Craft beer isn't a specialty thing — it's for everyone."
Unlike many of the other new craft breweries in Maine that are from accomplished home brewers scaling up their operations to commercial size, McConnell brings large-scale experience to Banded Horn, having worked his way up from intern to head brewer at Brooklyn's Sixpoint Brewery, which is regarded as one of the top craft breweries in the Northeast. Right now, it is just McConnell and his cousin Ron Graves (who was with McConnell when he got his start in home brewing) running the brewery operation. They fabricated much of the equipment themselves and have designed a set-up that will allow for expansion in their 5,500 square foot space. McConnell says his Sixpoint days have proven invaluable in getting the new operation off the ground: "Given the issues we've had, everything that's gone wrong and everything we've had to tackle, I don't know how you could have done it without professional experience." Here's a look at the brewery, with more about Banded Horn after the photos:
For the time being, Banded Horn's beers will be available only on draft at Maine bars and restaurants. There is a tasting room planned at the brewery (with a bar constructed from wood salvaged from another Pepperell Mill building) for early next year, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. It will pour samples and offer growler fills to go. Six packs of bottles are also in the long-term plan, but there's no immediate timetable for that. "Someday I'd like to put it in bottles," says McConnell. "Right now we're just getting our feet off the ground. There will be no trouble moving a good amount of draft beer."
McConnell says a main goal of his is to make Banded Horn's beer accessible and consistently available. He said it will regularly be on tap at Elements and Mulligan's in Biddeford, as well as at Nosh and the East Ender in Portland and Run of the Mill in Saco. Distribution will be limited to some core areas (Southern Maine and Bangor) at first so that demand can be met. "Having your beer available consistently is important to the consumer," McConnell says. "We don't want to let the taps run dry. Some breweries create a false demand, but that's not what we're looking to do. I want everything to grow very organically."
While Banded Horn's starting operation is modest, McConnell has big goals. "We're going to make the best beer we can and let the market decide," he says. He's aiming to produce 4,000 to 5,000 barrels in 2014, with hopes to expand within the current space in the coming years and eventually distribute throughout New England and into New York and Pennsylvania. "I'd like to see Banded Horn be one of the premier regional breweries in the Northeast. We don't want to send beer more than 500 miles from here because the product suffers when it travels across the country."
Banded Horn just announced on Facebook that it will have an official launch party at Nosh on Dec. 27, starting at 6 p.m. Veridian IPA, Pepperell Pils and Norweald Stout will all be available.
· Banded Horn Brewing Co. [Facebook]
· Banded Horn Brewing Co. [Kickstarter]
· All Coverage of Banded Horn Brewing Co. [~EMAINE~]