I first tasted Eben Dingman’s homebrew about ten years ago, when we were roommates at the University of Maine at Farmington. We were snobs on a budget then. Ron’s market would often bring in distressed cases – beer about to pass or having just passed its shelf life – of Gritty’s, Geary’s and the like, and we could grab a six pack for $4. I don’t think either of us could have predicted the meteoric rise of brewing in Maine, and it’s nice that our paths have wound us both into the industry. Eben opened Bear Bones Beer with his co-brewer/owner Adam Tüüri in February of last year. Since then they’ve been brewing a variety of styles, and some very interesting takes on those styles. The Pink Pils, for example, is a lager brewed with beet juice. The juice imparts a gorgeous pink color, and the earthiness of the beets work in perfect concert with the base pilsner. They also brew a pale ale with smoked malt, and are perhaps best known for their cream ales (the double C.R.E.A.M. and triple C.R.E.A.M., outstanding Wu Tang nods, and both delicious). I sat down with Eben over pints at the Thirsty Pig to chat about his young brewery.
Phoenix: Tell me about how you got started, your background in brewing, and how you settled on Lewiston.
I started brewing when I was living in my family's farmhouse in Turner. One of my good friends had a bunch of equipment from his father's days as a brewer. I brewed mainly lagers and wheat or barley wines initially. As the basement of the farmhouse stayed in the 50's all summer, lagering was the logical choice. When I moved to Farmington for school I was living in an apartment, but space was at a premium and that meant long lagering times were not possible without a basement, so I made the switch to a keg system and attempted some more ambitious recipes.
Adam and I started brewing together in 2013. We started out by building a new 5-gallon home brew kit, combining our keg systems, throwing out all our prior prejudices about brewing, and starting with an empty recipe book. For the next 2 years we alternated as the recipe originator and head brewer, weekly, as we developed and fine-tuned a catalog of recipes.
Lewiston, is the service city for a large area of Maine, including the towns that both Adam and I grew up in. We considered other areas in Maine, but Lewiston was always home, and it represents hope and revitalization. It’s Maine's 2nd city, and we are its 2nd brewery [alongside Baxter].
Phoenix: You make a variety of styles, but a lot of attention has been paid to your cream ales, what draws you to that style?
The Double C.R.E.A.M. is a beer inspired by a drinking session in Mexico City's La Paloma Azul, a pulqueria. Pulque is a thick beverage fermented from Agave. As i was drinking, I began to think "pulque is to tequila, as beer is whisky, but what is that to bourbon?"I held that thought until I had a chance to create an answer, the Double C.R.E.A.M. While not a typical cream ale, it fit more closely into this style category that any other.
Phoenix: You recently announced an expanded barrel aging project, what can you tell me about that? Will you be aging clean beers, or will there be some wild/sour stuff as well?
We will be focusing on barrel aging, lacto souring and brett. We may bring a koelschip in and do some truly wild ales at some point. but that is not imminent.
- Published in The Clink