Jon Stein and Ian Heyse turn a pipedream into reality
There’s an old brick warehouse on a neighborhood street two blocks from downtown Ellsworth that’s gotten a new lease on life, thanks to the vision and determination of Jon Stein and Ian Heyse, two longtime friends turned business partners, who opened Fogtown Brewing Company in January 2018.
A storage waystation for railroad equipment, boats and lumber early on, the two-story building was a Greyhound bus service facility in the 1940s, then a telephone parts warehouse, and later a print shop. For the last 20 years, it has languished, filled to the rafters with storage. Today, you can belly up to the beautiful wood-topped bar or relax at the picnic tables and enjoy a great menu of craft brews.
“We spent 2 ½ months cleaning up the place and moving stuff out, then another year and a half designing and building the new interior,” said Stein. “We did a lot of the work ourselves, the timber framing, drywall and such, but we had plenty of help from friends too, and hired professionals to do the plumbing and electric.”
Stein and Heyse are enthusiastically brewing a variety of different styles, and with a dozen taps, there’s always something new to sample. Opening in the depths of winter gave the pair some time to ease into the operation, to talk at length with local patrons, to see what kinds of beer they enjoyed, and then add those to the mix.
The popular favorites include the Maine Coast session IPA, the kettle-soured Yellow Submarine, a Maine pilsner known as Foglight, the Night Nurse chocolate stout, and Clockwork, a blood orange and grapefruit IPA. There’s also an amber rye, a Belgian IPA, a farmhouse IPA, and a brew made with Thai chilies, lime and coconut, among other interesting offerings on an ever-changing list.
Stein grew up in Pennsylvania and has been homebrewing since high school. Heyse spent his youth in the Ellsworth area before heading west to attend Colorado College, where he met Stein and became friends. Stein majored in biochemistry, while Heyse studied ecology and biology.
After graduation, both men worked construction and a host of seasonal jobs, and traveled extensively. Stein ended up in Christchurch, New Zealand working at a brewery. He swabbed the decks and cleaned kegs before moving into brewing and bottling and getting hooked on the business. A couple years ago, he ended up on the Maine coast helping Heyse with a building project.
“We talked about our shared pipedream of brewing,” Stein said. Soon enough, the two settled on Ellsworth, which they both agreed was “a great town for a brewery.” Town officials were excited about the idea and provided much-needed assistance in turning the proposal into reality.
On nice days the big garage door is hoisted up and you can sit outside on the street front patio. Indoors, it’s a rustic living room of sorts, a comfortable space with warm lighting that’s welcoming to locals and visitors alike. Eclectic music plays in the background, but you won’t find a television or Wi-Fi. There’s live local music on occasion, and a regular round of food trucks for sustenance, in addition to the popular popcorn machine.
“It’s family friendly place where you can try a new brew, talk about beer and meet other people,” noted Stein. By the way, the name Fogtown? It’s from a poem that captured the imagination of both guys. “It provides a sense of place that people can connect with.”
— Text & Photos: Carey Kish of Mt. Desert Island. Carey is editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide, and author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, and an avid beer drinker.