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21st Amendment's Nico Freccia on Selling Beer in Maine

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21st Amendment Brewery from San Francisco is now distributed in Maine, where co-founder Nico Freccia spent formative years. But how will he convince locals to drink his beer?

Nico Freccia (L) and Shaun O'Sullivan, co-founders of 21st Amendment Brewery.
Nico Freccia (L) and Shaun O'Sullivan, co-founders of 21st Amendment Brewery.
21st Amendment Brewery

San Francisco's 21st Amendment Brewery, named for the repeal of prohibition, is available in Maine as of this month. To celebrate, the 14-year-old company held launch parties at Great Lost Bear on Friday, Sonny's and Nocturnem yesterday. Co-founder Nico Freccia was meeting and greeting at Sonny's last night before catching up with old friends from his childhood in Maine. Turns out his family moved to Yarmouth when he was five, and then to Portland during his middle school years, before ultimately drifting west.

Freccia explained that the full-scale production facility they're building in East Bay will help them meet constant demand for the beer (the brewpub brews its own beer but wider distribution has long been handled by a production brewery in Cold Springs, MN.) He has always avoided moving into markets without the proper capacity.

Eater asked Freccia the all-important question, though: How will 21st Amendment persuade Mainers - blessed with a booming beer scene and known for their "buy local" mentality - to drink yet another beer from away?

For one, we always hope our packaging will connect people to our product. It offers a twist on Americana, so we're having fun with familiar images. People connect with our brand and our story, and hopefully will continue to connect. We've always found our packaging, which has the advantages of the large canvas of cans (which can use the entire surface, rather than just a small label) with the added space of boxes, to be a strong element.

But there's a well developed craft market here, which I think is key. Hats off to Maine for making great beer. There are so many good local breweries. Mainers are hungry for craft. I think what we bring is unique offerings, like Hell or High Watermelon, or Bitter American, a hoppy, west coast-style session [low alcohol] IPA. We have a winter saison with whole cardamom pods that give it lemony, grassy notes, which is kind of an antidote to Maine's cold winters. Hopefully it'll remind people of summer when they're freezing their asses off.

Our goal has always been to focus on quality and consistency. At the end of the day when trying to cut through the mist of beer choices, I think we'll be a clear-cut fallback in terms of high quality and excellent flavors. People want variety; I'm the same way. If the first new beer I try isn't good, though, my next will be something I know and trust. I'd like to be around long-term for consistency and quality. Local is unbeatable, but when you move to a new market you're faced with new challenges, and often the bigger guys have the clear advantage in quality there. The new facility we're building will only help with our goal of providing the best product at all times.

Those seeking an alternative to Shipyard's Melonhead, which uses syrups to approximate a watermelon flavor, may be interested to know that Hell or High Watermelon uses real watermelon puree for a secondary fermentation. It's a recipe Freccia said he created as a homebrewer back in the late 90s, a wheat beer with "a kiss of watermelon," which he never imagined he could pull off on a professional scale. "It's a solid summer beer," Freccia enthused. Will Mainers agree?