On a recent sunny and cold Sunday near Christmas, I went to Bissell Brothers brewing company in Portland with my family.
Beer lovers spread out at tavern tables and along the windows in the vast and beautiful tasting room at the old mill at Thompson’s Point.Under the tall Christmas tree were boxes and bags bursting with toys the Brothers were collecting for the Toys for Tots holiday drive. Christmas spirit was palpable.
Then, while roaming about the place, exploring, I spotted The Sign. The Grinch was in the building. It showed a sketch of a donkey with the text: “There are a thousand ways to be an a**hole. Stealing glasses is one of them. Please don’t steal. It’s lame.”
Right below that was a framed, typewritten letter from a glass thief, who, after thinking better of his or her deed, sent $20 to Noah and Peter Bissell with a profuse apology for “lifting two of your glasses.”
Both signs got a belly laugh out of me and I showed my husband, who also laughed. But truth be told, the cost of replacing stolen glasses can get prohibitive, especially for the small breweries who have to count every penny to make their businesses work.
TIP: most breweries offer some type of “swag” for sale, especially glasses. If you don’t see a sign with prices, ask if you can buy them. The cost is usually pretty affordable. I’ve paid anywhere from $4 for a tiny sample glass at Marshall Wharf (Belfast) to $5 for a pint glass I just bought at Kennebunkport Brewing Company (Kennebunk). They make great, inexpensive holiday gifts, too.
All of this got me thinking: what do other brewers want to tell their prospective customers before they visit their tasting rooms? I reached out to several and these are the tips I received:
From Tina Bonney, who with her husband John and their partners Joel and Christie Mahaffey own and run Foundation Brewing Company in Portland:
We love the energy from all the different visitors who come into our tasting room. We have a lot of regulars who visit every week, but we also get many people coming in for the first time.
One thing that visitors from out of state sometimes don’t understand is our growler labeling rules here in Maine. Our policy is that we can only fill our own growlers. Most people are perfectly fine with that even though they are sometimes disappointed that they can’t use the ones that they brought from home.
We sometimes have folks who don’t know the proper care for a used growler and bring in dirty growlers to have re-filled. We are careful to tell everyone that all you need to do with your growler is rinse it with hot water, leave the cap off and let it air dry. That’s it!
We have great visitors to our tasting room. Even when the line is long on a Saturday afternoon, people are in great spirits. The beer fellowship of the tasting room is one of our favorite things about the brewery.