The Skinny: Brewery Extrava opened a craft brewery and tasting room at 66 Cove Street in the East Bayside neighborhood this past summer. Combining the entrepreneurship of Joe and his wife, Charlene, with respected brewmaster Michael LaCharite, the new brewery focuses on variations of Belgian and other European beer styles. It took a lot of work to put the vision together, not only for the beer itself, but also for the 1,000-foot rustic tasting room which abuts the brew house. Extrava means “arising out of a journey.” Here’s how they did it.
Brew Guide: How long did it take from “Hey, maybe we should open a brewery” to your first day you opened the doors open to the public?
Doherty: I’d say a little less than a year. My wife and I had been talking about it for some time, and took a trip to Europe to decide if we wanted to open a brewery. There’s great beer culture there. We were able to talk with several brewery owners and research some of the beer styles we hoped to focus on.
Brew Guide: Beyond the concept, when you began to do the build out, how did you know which contractors and tradespeople to use?
Doherty: It was a combination of Michael’s experience in the industry as well as talking with other brewery owners who’d been through the process. It was a lot of decisions. Where do we source the equipment? Who is experienced with installing it? What contractors do we use? But being part of the craft brewery industry in Maine where you’ve got 150 breweries, we all talk to one another and you’ve got the Maine Brewers Guild as a resource as well.
Brew Guide: Apart from the build out and equipment decisions, there are a lot of other considerations to realize your vision. What kind of artists and craftspeople did you hire to execute your vision?
Doherty: It took a lot of creative and talented people, most of whom are from the Portland area, to translate our vision. For example, we worked with an artist, Jared Goullette, a Maine College of Art grad. We found Jared because he happened to be working on Urban Farm Fermentory’s building. Initially, we were talking to him about branding and ended up hiring him to paint our mural. And we also worked with Tim Hill, of Tim Hill Fine Woodworking. He helped us create a vision for the tasting room and then installed the wood elements within the space including the majority of tables and benches. But, before a can of paint was purchased or a single piece of wood was cut, there were dozens of hours spent working and reworking concepts. And they were all just as invested in our success as we were; they took great pride in what they contributed to the overall project.
Brew Guide: We all know branding is crucial, but what about marketing? Do it yourself or hire someone?
Doherty: We weren’t in a position to hire a marketing firm or dedicated in-house staff. We looked for freelancers, web developers and graphic designers within our budget. They helped us refine our plan and then largely it was up to us to execute the plan. Fortunately we have developed local relationships to continue to help us with branding and social media.
Brew Guide: What advice do you have for people who have a dream of opening a brewery in Maine after everything you’ve gone through?
Doherty: We’ve had lots of fun over the past year along with a ton of learning, hard work and overcoming challenges. I think one of the traps a new brewery can fall into is being overly focused on the beer and not taking into consideration all of the other knowledge and skills required to get up and running. Do your research; spend lots of time building detailed plans. Reach out to brewery owners. Ask about their experiences, what they’ve learned. It’s a really collaborative industry—people will help you.