Of all the considerations that go into starting a new brewery, location is one of the most central. Most brewers opt for a spot near the heart of a populous area and do so for two obvious reasons: increased foot traffic and proximity to more draft accounts.
But when Dustin Johnson and Tim Bissell, founders of Gneiss Brewing, started brainstorming locations in 2012, they decided to go in a more pastoral direction. The brewery is situated on Dustin’s family’s land amongst rolling farms and forests in Limerick. They started brewing in early 2013.
Photo courtesy of the Gneiss Brewing Company.
Gneiss is committed to a concept, the self-coined “agrogeobrewery”. They feed their spent grain to the small farm’s pigs, who in turn help till and fertilize the area where they’re growing hops and malt. Now they’re set for an expansion. I sat down for a Tweiss — Gneiss’s weizenbock, a toasty lager amber in color at 7 percent ABV — with Tim Bissell to discuss the foundations and future of Gneiss.
Photos courtesy of the Gneiss Brewing Company.
Phoenix: Tell me more about the “agrogeobrewery” concept.
Tim Bissell: Dustin’s always been into homesteading and doing as much in-house as possible. We’re on eight and a half acres and we had it logged four years ago. We’ve been getting pigs every year, they turn the land over for us. It’s a beneficial closed-circle thing, and it creates a little more work, but if you’re gonna build a brewery in the middle of nowhere, you might as well do something with all that land. There’s always going to be a consideration to what we can grow on-site and what we can get locally, and how we can tie it into the beer.
You’re a few years in and you’ve done beer in a range of styles. Are you more interested in experimentation or refinement at this point?
With our size, that’s a tough balance. We always want to be experimenting, but as you create accounts, you have to make sure you have beer available when people want it. As we look at expansion, we’ll be taking our core brands and keeping them going as much as we can, and then filling in the schedule with barrel-aged beers, some one-offs ... keeping it fresh. We want to get more beers in rotation, we just need more tanks.
What are some trends that you’re liking in the Maine beer industry?
I love the fact that Maine has become known for IPAs, and I like that a lot of those same breweries are starting to branch out and make other styles of beer. The beauty of beer is variety, there’s a beer out there for everybody. If you don’t like hops, there’s a stout for you. If you don’t like dark beers, there’s a pilsner for you. It’s not good enough now to just be a local brewery, you’ve got to be a good local brewery, and I think to prove how good you are you should make a good variety of beer. I’d like to see that trend continue.
What more can you tell me about your expansion and the next steps?
The back side of our building is now a full-on tasting room. We’ve got 10 taps. It’s nice to have a tasting room where we can host people now, a place where we can enjoy our beer in a little more of a relaxed setting. And we’re closer to the wood stove, which is way nicer. Beyond that, for expansion, we are planning to add on to our production space. Those plans haven’t completely been fleshed out so I don’t want to say too much, but it’s in the future.