An Allagash Brewing Co. brewhouse employee grinding some of the 430 lbs of coffee beans from Speckled Ax coffee in preparation for the Map 40 Belgian-style stout in January 2018. Image courtesy of Allagash Brewing Co.
By Chris Sweet
Waterville’s first micro brewery started up in January. Waterville Brewing Co. is located downtown in the Hathaway Creative Center along the Kennebec River. Co-owner/brewer Ryan Flaherty and co-brewer Eric Willett plan to open to the public once Willett returns from his Army deployment in the spring. In the meantime WBC is producing the beer and prepping the facility. Look for a stout, a red ale, a saison, an IPA and a DIPA at the launch. WBC is a large two-room space divided by the brew house and a tasting room. The location, a repurposed former mill building with mixed usage, is reminiscent of the Biddeford-Saco locations featuring Run of the Mill Public House and Brewery, Banded Horn Brewing Co. and Dirigo Brewing Co. along with other small businesses and apartments/condos. The craft beer economy in Maine continues to filter out from the largest population centers as brewers seek unexplored markets where real estate costs are relatively lower.
A federal law passed by Congress in December will save Maine craft brewers a collective $1 million per year on taxes. The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act was passed as a part of the larger, much talked about federal individual and corporate tax bill. The carve out for craft brewers reduces, by half, the federal tax to $3.50 per bbl. for the first 60,000 bbl. produced. Above 60,000 bbl. the tax is $16, a $2 drop from $18 per bbl. The Portland Press Herald estimates Maine’s two largest breweries, Allagash Brewing Co. and Shipyard Brewing Co., figure to save more than $200,000 in excise taxes in 2018. The savings for smaller brewers will likely be minimal but still very welcome. Will this translate into lower prices for the consumer? Probably not. Foundation Brewing Co. co-owner Tina Bonney told the PPH the tax cut will equate to an estimated five cents per four-pack. In other words, not enough to impact retail prices.
Maine brewers might be able to lower retail prices by lobbying state lawmakers for reduced state taxes. One member of the legislature who could introduce legislation of that kind is Rising Tide Brewing Co. co-owner Heather Sanborn whose political career continues to grow. Sanborn, a current Democratic Representative for Portland has filed papers to run for the Senate District 28 seat. The district encompasses Portland and Westbrook.