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Islands of found dreams: Shipyard plans IslandTime ale, collaborates on Virgin Islands creation

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FROM THE ISLANDS Shipyard Brewing founder Fred Forsley stocks Island Hoppin’ IPA. FROM THE ISLANDS Shipyard Brewing founder Fred Forsley stocks Island Hoppin’ IPA.

Shipyard Brewing Co. is doing some island hopping, both in Maine and in the tropics.

The brewery, located at 86 Newbury St., plans to introduce an island-themed ale.

"We're working on one that's called IslandTime, we don't have the packaging finished yet but that will be coming out in the spring, so that's kind of exciting, it's a session IPA," said Fred Forsley, Shipyard founder.

The concept required some massaging.

"A lot of people see it on lakes in Maine or on the ocean in Maine, or in the Caribbean, one or the other. It's been a big debate internally at the brewery," Forsley said.

His take is the person sipping this ale will form their own impressions.

"You take a sip, close your eyes, and wherever you think Island Time is," that's what the IPA signifies.

"That's the idea, Island Time is in your mind," he said.

A designer found a clock with no hands on it to help depict the imaginary place of relaxation with no deadlines or time limits.

While Shipyard prepares for IslandTime's launch, the brewery can take partial credit for another island-inspired brew — Shipyard has been helping kindred spirits in the U.S. Virgin Islands introduce their own IPA — Island Hoppin’ IPA.

This IPA is the brainchild of St. John Brewers, which consists of college classmates Chirag Vyas, who grew up in Providence, R.I., and Kevin Chipman, a friend and former roommate from the University of Vermont.

Alan Pugsley, renowned brewer from Shipyard, who still consults with the Newbury Street brewery, traveled to the Virgin Islands to help St. John Brewers.

"They opened up a pub down there, and they put in a little brewery, and Alan Pugsley was down there and helped them open up the brewery," Forsley explained. "They were working in a bar and starting small, so we've been helping them through the process."

According to the St. John Brewers website (http://www.stjohnbrewers.com/ourstory.html), Vyas, who

had been living and working in California as a scientist for NASA, and Chipman, who had worked as a physical therapist at a Boston medical center, "quit their jobs, sold their belongings, and purchased one-way tickets to the Virgin Islands. …"

With Pugsley's help, the pair began brewing.

"The very first batch of more than 1,300 cases of Tropical Mango Pale Ale arrived on a 40-foot container from their bottling partner in Portland, Maine, Shipyard Brewing Company," the duo reported. "Chipman and Vyas boarded the car ferry from St. John to St. Thomas and loaded half of the beer in a rented warehouse on St. Thomas, and the other half into a truck to store in their apartment on St. John."

Forsley stocks Island Hoppin' IPA, among the lines of ale from St. John Brewers.

For those who relish familiar tastes, Shipyard continues to brew Pumpkinhead, a Thanksgiving-time favorite (Shipyard Pumpkinhead is a wheat ale with "delightful aromatics and subtle spiced flavor," 4.5 percent alcohol by volume, or ABV).

Forsley also listed Monkey Fist IPA (a copper concoction, 6.9 percent ABV); Sea Dog Wild Blueberry Wheat Ale (4.7 percent ABV); and Sea Dog Sunfish (4.6 percent ABV).

"Our biggest seasonal seller is Pumpkinhead, which we're just coming out of, we sell close to 60,000 barrels of that," Forsley said. "Shipyard Export is still a strong seller, and Monkey Fist IPA is our fastest growing beer right now. Our Sea Dog Blueberry is still a very strong one, but the Sea Dog Sunfish is growing as well."

Shipyard GingerBreadHead Ale is Shipyard's newest seasonal, Forsley noted.

Shipyard GingerBreadHead Ale (4.6 percent ABV) "is like a spicy, rich, gingerbread cookie you can drink," with flavors of molasses and brown sugar accented with ginger, cloves and cinnamon, the brewery noted. First brewed November 2014, Shipyard GingerBreadHead Ale is available November to February.

"It's launching for the Christmas season, it should be hitting the shelves pretty soon," Forsley said.

Forsley and his cousin, Bruce Forsley, who heads sales and marketing, and Pugsley, head brewer, forged a business that continues to grow.

The first Shipyard beer was brewed in 1992 at Federal Jack’s Brew Pub in Kennebunkport Harbor.

Forsley and his team built the Portland brewery in 1994.

Pugsley moved to Maine from England where he’d learned to brew under Peter Austin at the world-famous Ringwood Brewery in Hampshire, according to an online history of Shipyard. "The launch of Federal Jack’s coincided with the birth of America's craft beer industry and by 1996 Shipyard was the fastest growing craft brewery in the country," the history recounted.

Today, Shipyard Brewing employs over 110 at the Portland plant, and statewide employment peaks around 900 in the summer and drops down to 350 in the winter, Forsley said. Shipyard maintains a brew pub in Eliot and White Cap Lodge Brew Haus at Sunday River.

A Sea Dog brew pub operates in North Conway, N.H., and similar pubs can be found in South Portland, Topsham and Bangor. They also operate in Orlando and Clearwater, Fla., with a recent installation of a three-barrel system in Orlando, Forsley said.

In Portland, the brewery is in the midst of updating heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; Forsley estimated the company is spending about $2 million.

"We've been here over 20 years, and when you do that, you have to replace things," he said.

"We saw a record number of people this vacation season, it was amazing how busy we were. We didn't keep a head count but we broke records on sales," Forsley said.

"Our soda line, Capt'n Eli's, is having great success throughout the country right now, we just came out with a black raspberry and a cola which are new and sold at Hannaford Brothers and Market Basket," he noted.

Forsley started the brewery, but his father, Eli Forsley, had an impact on the business.

“My dad was a World War II vet and he set up a veterans home in Gray, Maine, Gray Manor for Veterans, for those who had some social challenges. … He had no connection to the beer business, but he's an inspiration for the root beer. … My dad loved root beer."

Forsley has a son named Eli, but he said no plans are settled on handing off the business. "They're going to have to put me in a box before they take me out," he said, laughing. "We haven't really thought about it. … Everybody's still in college, and there are a few who are out who are in the business working with us, so we'll see," he said.

"Shipyard is now the 15th largest microbrewery in America, producing 80,000-plus barrels of ale every year," the Bangor Daily News reported. For details about the business, visit https://shipyard.com.

Upcoming events involving Shipyard include:

Thursday, Dec. 3, 2:00pm to 8:00pm | Weekly Thirsty Thursday Happy Hour at Buck’s | Buck's Naked BBQ, Portland.

Thursday, Dec. 10, 5:00pm to 7:00pm | Winter Warm Up Party | Brian Boru, Portland

Thursday, Dec. 10, 7:00pm to 10:00pm | Jason Spooner Duo at The Top of the East, Westin Portland Harborview