Two Ideas Mason’s Brewing Had to Grow in a Tough Craft Market like Maine

A state like Maine houses one of the most competitive beer markets in the country. Yet, it’s also one of the smaller populations when it comes to craft-centric audiences. That can mean intense competition for a newer brewery like Mason’s Brewing Company and the need for being different than breweries around the Brewer, Maine facility (across the river from Bangor).

Chris Morley, who designed the brewery after extensive travel through the US and Europe, found ways that could separate his brewery from the competition. Brewer delves into distribution ideas with Mason’s in the upcoming November/December 2020 print issue, which is in your mailbox soon. Two other ideas were discussed and shared here.

Food & Beer Tourism Exposure

As an ‘okay’ homebrewer and one that had traveled and drank beer all over, Morley knew what he liked and how he would set up Mason’s. So the brewery was set up in the vein of how he would want himself as a beer tourist to be interested in. That meant a German Beer Hall feel with a brewpub. Being located on a river meant lots of outdoor space as well. So large from the start was the thought as Mason’s began with a 20-barrel brewhouse.

Since they could make large batches and not all would be consumed on-site, distribution along the I-95 corridor in Maine was the first plan as tourists could see the beer on shelves and take an interest in stopping along the way to Bar Harbor in the summers.

“They would find our beer and fall in love with it,” he said. “And then when they went home, they wanted to find it at their local store or bottle shop.

“So we’ve had a pretty good following that way.”

In hindsight, having that exposure and additional outlets paid off during the COVID shutdown.

“We still could put beer on shelves while other breweries had totally shut down,” Morley said. “Where there were vacancies on the shelf, we were able to send beer out. Not at the same volume, but regularly to other states. And I think that that really helped us from a cash flow standpoint, it definitely kept the brewery going while others were shut down.

“Having that exposure into other states definitely put us a leg up on some of the other folks that just didn’t have that ability for that scale to keep things kind of moving at, ‘what normal would normally look like.’ ”

The One-Off Art That Changed it All

Beer Zombie, a Mason Ale Works collab that features a zombie on the can, the “end of the world” theme is strong at Mason’s Brewing. As a brewpub, Mason’s launched into 12-ounce cans early on with what Morley called a very earthy and generic-looking hop cone logo. About two years ago he shared his can with illustrator Ben Bishop.

“He made fun of my old cans and I cried a little bit and called him names and then went home and had this concept of a one-off, and I pitched it to him,” Morley said with a laugh. That one-off became Hipster Apocalypse IPA.

“He killed it,” Morley said.

Bishop — who is one of the current illustrators for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comic books — and Morley worked on Hipster with lots of inside jokes and Maine-isms in the can art, with the famous Bangor Paul Bunyan statue lying in ruins on its side while the hipster character is standing on the Penobscot Bay with a T-shirt that says ‘Stephen King Rules.’

Once that can rolled out, Morley said people started asking for more.

“Then the pressure was on,” he said. Now, the IPA series is four deep (along with REKKR and Liquid Rapture) with the newest being Mushroom Cloud, a Hoppy Farmhouse Saison, which was just canned for the first time this summer after being on draft for a few years.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. Maine Beer This Week: November 19th, 2020 | Beer Releases, Can Drops & Tap Lists

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.