Wander Route 1, drink Maine beer

It’s June and summer is here. Ahem, if you consider that the average temperature has been camped out between 51 and 63 degrees, with a few wonderful exceptions. summer is here.

But hey, forget the temperature and focus on all the positives: breweries, wineries and distilleries, many of them dotting the two-lane highway that snakes up the coast, are waiting for you to visit and imbibe with abandon.

Just a “dite” off Route 1 in the city of ships is Bath Brewing Company, occupying a downtown building whose rooftop patio has a view of the mighty Kennebec River. Pack your jacket in case the “summer” weather holds at mid-60’s and sit outside sipping brewer Peter Heggeman’s tasty ales and watching the boats course north and south on the river.

Peter Heggeman in the domain of his brewery in Bath

I got Heggeman to submit to an interview and here it is, up close and personal:

Kate: You worked at Shipyard Brewing for eight years. What would you say was your biggest triumph?

Peter: My biggest triumph was breaking through tradition to get them to brew their first lager.  The Imperial Pilsner

Kate: Biggest challenge?

Peter: It was a large established brewery, so learning that it takes a lot of time to turn a ship that big was definitely a challenge, but it taught me patience!

Kate: What have you learned from your customers at BBC in the past year? What feedback do you get most often?

Peter: The diversity of customers has been much greater in the brewpub setting. At the industrial park in Portland, where I was head brewer at Geary’s, you had people seeking out craft.  At the pub we have that, but also those people who are having their first foray into the craft beer culture.  It’s an opportunity for us to educate people.  The best feedback I can get is not from the grizzled IPA vet giving me the nod, but rather the domestic beer drinker trying something new and saying “Hey, that’s not too bad”

Sit inside or on the rooftop patio overlooking the Kennebec River

Kate: Have you changed the beer styles you’re making based on feedback?

Peter: In some cases I’ve made a beer more mellow, and in other cases I’ve made them more intense.  Our pale went from a light crisp citrusy APA to a more complex gritty rye pale.  Our Blood Orange Blonde made way for a less tart and equally drinkable hefeweizen.  In a large production facility it takes time and feedback to get back to you, where at the pub you can hear it right outside the brewhouse door.

Kate: What is your “desert island” beer?

Peter: My beer choices change with my mood.  Sometimes I want a more complex stout, or a grippy IPA.  One thing I will always enjoy and has a special place in my heart is a good German Helles.  Weihenstephaner Premium is excellent, and I would never be upset about having a liter stein of that beer!

Kate: What is your background and what was your craft beer introduction?

Peter: I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in History from University of Maine at Orono in 2004. 

  1. In college I was a huge Bass fan, that was my go-to.  Then I moved on to Shipyard Export which was my first introduction to American craft beer.
  2. I started homebrewing when I worked at a marina.  I made a batch or two of beer, but I mainly toyed around with ciders.  I didn’t go absolutely crazy homebrewing until I started at Shipyard.  I dove into that because I wanted to be a better brewer.  There is no better way to learn than to fail a few dozen 5 gallon batches at a time! 
  3. When I was working at Handy Boat I got the sailing bug.  I had sailed some with my dad growing up, but it wasn’t anything like what I was introduced to on Casco Bay.  I crewed on one of the boats that did Thursday night races through Portland Yacht club, and we also took part in most of the Saturday races.  It was a long season, but I loved it so much that I took the plunge the following year and got myself my very own boat.   A friend of mine and I were going to do some chartering and lessons, but it never really worked out.  Lucky for me doing some boat work on the side is what introduced me to someone who helped me get into the brewing industry.

Kate: Who does the cooking at BBC and what’s on the menu for spring and summer?

Peter: Tony Mandeville is our chef at Bath Brewing.  He does a great job for us, and really takes pride in making a menu that complements what we’re going for at the brewery.

Grilled cheese for adults paired with crisp, fresh beer equals bliss

He has a few tricks up his sleeve.  One thing that we’re finding is that the beer centric people that come in love the snacky sorts of foods, so we’re expanding that in our menu. 

Summer is on its way, and we’re on that RT 1 corridor, so you have to make a dynamite lobster roll right?  He’s coming up with a few special items and I can’t wait to add to my expanding waistline!

Kate: What plans do you have for celebrating your 1st anniversary?

Peter: We’ll see!  The pub celebrated their first year in March.  We had live music and we released a few special beers for that weekend.  We’ll have to double up on that for our year one brewversary.

Kate Same question for upcoming Bath Heritage Days?

Peter: We are taking the reins on a Bath Beer Garden on the waterfront.  We’re working with Main Street Bath and Flight Deck Brewing to bring a little piece of the craft brew scene to Heritage Days this year.  Craft Beer and live music for five days on the waterfront in Bath… in the summer… with fireworks, what could be better?

Kate: Will you guys ever serve a lobster roll?

Peter: We released recently and it’s huge, AND our line doesn’t stretch across RT 1 (referring to Red’s Eats in Wiscasset). 

Kate Cone

About Kate Cone

Kate Cone has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, is a freelance writer and the author of "What's Brewing in New England: A Guide to Brewpubs and Microbreweries," published by Downeast Publications in 1997 and completely updated in 2016. She has been a foodie since age 8, when her dad taught her how to make coffee and an omelet, lifelong skills for happy eating.