Maine Beer Com­pany Co­founder Dan Kle­ban’s 6-pack is lupulin-fo­cused with equal love for Bel­gian and Bel­gian-style funk, fla­vor, and char­ac­ter.

Maine Beer Com­pany has de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion for ex­pres­sively hoppy beers, so it’s no sur­prise that half of Co­founder Dan Kle­ban’s 6-pack is lupulin-fo­cused. But his love for Bel­gian and Bel­gian-style funk, fla­vor, and char­ac­ter fills out the other three

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Contents -


re­ces­sion hits, guy loses job, guy sets out to build a busi­ness around some­thing he loves rather than jump­ing back in the cor­po­rate rat race—but what sets Dan Kle­ban’s Maine Beer Com­pany apart is a dual fo­cus on val­ues and qual­ity and just how in­tently they pur­sue both. In the world of brew­ing, artists are plen­ti­ful, as are busi­ness­peo­ple, en­gi­neers, and even ide­al­ists. But har­ness­ing the strengths of each of those per­son­al­i­ties is a true bal­anc­ing act.

Maine Beer Com­pany has done it, cre­at­ing ground­break­ing hoppy beers from their sus­tain­ably pow­ered brew­ery in Freeport, Maine, while giv­ing back to en­vi­ron­men­tal

causes in a con­sis­tent and in­ten­tional way. Kle­ban is known for his use of hops, so it’s no sur­prise that his dream 6-pack starts with a clas­sic in the IPA genre.

Bell’s Two Hearted

(Kala­ma­zoo, Michi­gan) “I grew up in south­east Michi­gan. My brother went to school in East Lans­ing, Michi­gan, and I re­mem­ber go­ing up to visit him in my late teens, go­ing out to eat at a lo­cal col­lege bar, and or­der­ing Two Hearted. I didn’t know there were brew­eries around back then—this was 1994, prob­a­bly—but af­ter or­der­ing that beer I was like, ‘holy smokes there’s some­thing dif­fer­ent about this.’ It was the first ex­pe­ri­ence hav­ing a beer from a brew­ery that was close to me.

“As I en­tered the home­brew­ing world and then the pro­fes­sional brew­ing world, I came to ap­pre­ci­ate the craft that went into for­mu­lat­ing that beer. To­day, with this pro­lif­er­a­tion of IPAS across the coun­try, it still holds its own as one of the best IPAS made in the United States. That’s say­ing some­thing for a beer that’s been around that long. It’s a well-bal­anced IPA. It’s not over-the-top bit­ter; it’s just pleas­ant. It’s ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to achieve that kind of time­less­ness. That beer is an ex­am­ple that has with­stood the test of time, and I would put it up against any IPA that any brew­ery is mak­ing in the United States.”

Al­la­gash White (Port­land Maine)

“I moved to Maine in 1999—I was 21 at the time—and that was the first time I ever had a beer that looked like Al­la­gash White, that smelled like it, that tasted like it. It was prob­a­bly the first Bel­gian-style beer I had. I don’t know that the term ‘craft’ was part of my vo­cab­u­lary back then, but I knew that I was drink­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent and unique, and I could tell that who­ever made it put some real time and ef­fort and pas­sion into it.

“It was a brew­ery that was right down the road, and back in ’99, that was still a unique phe­nom­e­non. I’m very well con­nected with Al­la­gash now, and it deep­ens the mean­ing of the beer when you come to know the sto­ries be­hind it, es­pe­cially the strug­gles that Rob had for years try­ing to con­vince peo­ple that it was sup­posed to be cloudy, and it was sup­posed to taste like that. I ap­pre­ci­ate it even more know­ing the blood, sweat, and tears that went into cre­at­ing that brand.”

Rus­sian River Pliny the Elder

(Santa Rosa, Cal­i­for­nia) “When we started our brew­ery in 2009, I hadn’t had any beer from Rus­sian River, but I had heard about them. Ob­vi­ously, we don’t get Rus­sian River in Maine and prob­a­bly never will get Rus­sian River in Maine. But I re­mem­ber as a home­brewer lis­ten­ing to home­brew podcasts and read­ing home­brew ar­ti­cles, and Vin­nie and Natalie [Cil­urzo] had de­vel­oped quite a rep­u­ta­tion for what they’d built. Then I re­mem­ber

the first time I had some, and it was one of the few beers that lived up to the myth. You build things up in your head—not just beer, any­thing in life—and are of­ten let down, but that beer cer­tainly did not let me down.

“Even though I’d never had it be­fore, when I drank that beer I said to my­self, ‘These are the beers we’re mak­ing here, too.’ Vin­nie and I didn’t know each other and had never had each other’s beer, but their ap­proach to brew­ing was sim­i­lar to the thing we were try­ing to cre­ate up in Maine at the time—clean, hops­for­ward beers that weren’t su­per bit­ter.”

Fan­tôme Sai­son

(Soy, Bel­gium) “The guy who taught me how to home­brew shared a Fan­tôme Sai­son with me be­fore I started home­brew­ing with him—he’s a part­ner at the law firm where I prac­ticed be­fore I started the brew­ery. He had a bunch of us young as­so­ciates over as a team-build­ing thing and shared a bunch of beers from around the world with us. He shared some Bel­gian beers, and Ger­man beers, and Amer­i­can beers, and taught us the dif­fer­ence be­tween ales and lagers. It was a fun lit­tle course. This was one of the bot­tles he shared with us.

“I re­searched it a bit af­ter I had it, and the story of that brew­ery and the mys­tique be­hind it are some­thing that I had never ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore. The al­lure of this lit­tle barn out in the coun­try­side in Bel­gium where this guy was just cre­at­ing these beers where you kind of just ‘got what you got,’ and more of­ten than not it turned out to be re­ally, re­ally good. So to this day, if I can get my hands on a good bot­tle of it, it’s al­ways a spe­cial treat.

“Dany [Prignon] of Fan­tôme is such a col­or­ful char­ac­ter, and look­ing at his ex­am­ple added a lot of life to what brew­ing could be.”

Half Acre Daisy Cut­ter

(Chicago, Illi­nois) “Matt Gal­lagher [of Half Acre] and my brother and I met in 2009 at CBC in Bos­ton, right as they were start­ing—we ran­domly sat down at the same lunch ta­ble, and we hit it off with Matt. Since then, in a lot of ways, we’ve grown up to­gether.

“I re­mem­ber hav­ing Daisy Cut­ter and think­ing, ‘These guys get it. These are the kind of beers I like. These are the beers we’re try­ing to make at Maine Beer Com­pany.’

“Bal­ance is num­ber one for me. It’s not overly sweet; it’s not overly bit­ter. It has a nice dry hop to it. The hops va­ri­eties are the kind I like—the cit­rusy, flo­ral, piney side of things—and it’s de­signed in a com­bi­na­tion that just hits the mark.”

Lawson’s Finest Liq­uids Maple Trip­pel

(Water­bury, Ver­mont) “Many of these beers are spe­cial, not just be­cause they’re great beers, but be­cause there’s a story and a con­nec­tion that I have to the brewer. Sean and I started the same year. We were both brew­ing on glo­ri­fied home­brew sys­tems be­cause the term nanobrew­ery didn’t ex­ist back in 2009. I was brew­ing on Blich­mann 45-gal­lon pots on lob­ster burn­ers, and he was brew­ing in his barn out back on a very sim­i­lar setup.

“Sean is a spe­cial guy in our com­mu­nity up in New Eng­land and is one of those guys who makes great beer and could cer­tainly have a big ego but is ex­tremely hum­ble. Maple Trip­pel is one of the first com­mer­cial beers that you could tell started out as a home­brew. It’s not a beer you’d con­ceive of that would sell. The care he put into that beer, from the hand-ap­plied la­bels and the foil on the top—i dare to say he wasn’t mak­ing a ton of money on that beer—but you know he loved to make it, and it be­came a cult fa­vorite and gained him his much-de­served no­to­ri­ety.

“All of that aside, on a win­ter night, it’s so com­fort­ing to pull out a snifter glass and pour some of it, then drink it like a nice liqueur.”

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