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New Brunswick business brews eclectic affordability

October 18, 2018

Gwen Davidson
HOPP ON OVER: Black Pug Brewing will open next Saturday on Bath Road. Owners Jason Allen and Sam Wilson hope to offer a diverse set of flavors in their beer, from Thai-PA to Vanilla Stout.

Along Bath Road, just a little ways down from Pine Street Apartments, sit Cameron’s Lobster House and a State Farm Insurance office. Next door is an unassuming white-paneled building with a purple door, on which a piece of paper is taped to the glass. Scrawled in black Sharpie, the paper reads: OPENING OCTOBER 27.

Behind the sign lies brightly lit room with turquoise metal bar stools, orange walls and purple molding. Straight ahead are several floor-to-ceiling steel tanks boiling beer in preparation for the much anticipated opening day of Brunswick’s third small craft brewery, Black Pug Brewing.

When Sam Wilson and co-founder Jason Allen decided to open a brewery in Maine, Flight Deck Brewing on Brunswick Landing and Moderation Brewing on Maine Street had not yet opened.

“This was a real desert in terms of craft beer. There wasn’t much between Portland and Rockland,” said Wilson, standing in Black Pug’s tasting room. “I thought that we could fill a niche in this area and thought it was underserved in terms of the variety of craft beer when you look at places like Portland and [the rest of] Southern Maine.”

Wilson believes Black Pug, though a competitor to Flight Deck and Moderation, will still provide diversity to the craft beer scene in the region.

“The other breweries in town seem to be doing a lot of really good barometers of the style. They’re doing perfect examples of a classic style at Moderation or they’re doing a classic IPA over at Flight Deck,” said Wilson. “We’re taking those styles and adding a twist to them. We’re going to open with six different beers and only two of them really are with traditional ingredients and traditional process behind them. That’s how we differentiate ourselves, by making something a little atypical.”

Two of the beers on tap that Wilson cited as more unconventional are his Thai-PA, a lemongrass-ginger IPA, and Vanilla Stout, a vanilla, chocolate and coffee white stout. Wilson has been developing these recipes—as well as the other beers that will be featured at the opening—since he started home brewing eight years ago.

“I was never really satisfied just doing a standard version of something, because for me, the fascination of brewing comes from finding how the different flavors will play with each other between the hops and the spices or fruit or whatever that we’re adding to a beer,” he said.

While Wilson gained experience from years of brewing experiments, Allen is an expert on the business side of things.

“We go back to high school. Jason works in the financial field full-time, so when I had the idea to start a brewery, it just made sense, because I’m not a finance person at all,” said Wilson. “Bringing him on was really helpful too in terms of turning this from a hobby into a business.”

Turning the business into a storefront on Bath Road only began this June when Wilson, his father and Allen began renovating the space. They hoped for an October opening and will make it just in time.

“It was pretty much a DIY thing. We built the whole bar. We painted everything. Other than plumbing and electricity, that was all us. Family, friends, a big, big group effort,” Wilson said. “It’s been pretty nonstop. I’ve had two days off since then.”

At this point in the renovation process, the brewery looks ready for customers, with custom Black Pug stickers, t-shirts and growlers ready for sale on the counter. Every few minutes, a deep, electronic voice rings from the pinball machine in the back of the room across the brewery, calling out a gargled version of the pinball game’s name, “Flash Gordon,” which Wilson said was a particularly competitive arcade game in the 80s. And above the sleek, 600-pound concrete counter is the brewery’s menu board with notably low pricing on the wall.

“We want to make it accessible. One pet peeve for me has been seeing some of the larger breweries basically charging for access to a beer,” said Wilson.

While much of the venue’s final touches have taken place recently, the business’s name has remained the same since the start. Wilson started calling his brews “Black Pug,” after his own pug, Gir, in his early years as a home brewer.

“We were sort of pug-like in our mission. We’re doing kind of off the wall, crazy things. We’re small. We’re trying to put as much quality into it as we can so it just fits branding wise,” he said. “Pugs are crazy little clowns. So we’re going to be trying to be the clowns of the brewing world in terms of weird and unique styles.”

The brewery’s opening will begin at 2 p.m. next Saturday, at which there will be seven beers and one nitro brew coffee on tap. Taco the Town, free pinball and 20-percent-off growlers will await customers donning Halloween costumes.

Editor’s Note, 10/19/2018 at 9:58 p.m.: This article  has been updated to correct the opening time on the brewery on Saturday, October 27. It will be at 2 p.m.

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