February 15, 2016
We recently brought our USBG tour to visit with Tom Bull and check out his soon to open Dirigo Brewing Company in Biddeford, Maine. See what we found in this special preview report.
The name Tom Bull brings up a knowing smile with many craft beer drinkers in Maine.
Tom Bull and Mark Paulin of Dirigo Brewing Company. Photo by Ben Moore, Active Beer Geek
He started home brewing back in 1991, when D.L. Geary Brewing Company was just celebrating their 5th Year of Beer. He also spent time learning professional brewing as an apprentice at Gritty McDuffs.
He later worked at Stone Coast Brewing Company (1995-2008), tending the bar at the busy venue during busy concerts and on the dollar draft nights. And when they needed a extra hand in the brewery from time to time, Tom was often tapped to come downstairs and help out with production.
Tom has even spent time on the distributor end of the business, working with Mariner Beverages and making sure that their fresh beer was delivered all over the State of Maine.
Then in 2011, Tom opened his first brewery called Bull Jagger Brewing Company. This revolutionary brewery, located in Portland’s famous One Industrial Waycraft beer incubator, specialized in crafting exclusively lagers.
Four of them made quite an impact in the scene at the time: the flagship Portland Lager, Big Claw Pilsner, a highly coveted Baltic Porter, and a Märzen called Crimson Lager.
To this day Beer Advocate only identifies this beer as Crimson Lager. But if you looked at the label, featured front and center is an image of the North Star and the word Dirigo surrounded by a specialized design reminiscent of a scroll.
What nobody knew at the time was when this beer was packaged in 2013, the two men behind Bull Jagger had already agreed to part ways. Tom’s original brewery closed its doors in March of that year, a little over a month after Carla’s blog post was published.
But an interesting thing happened before that abrupt closure. A new LLC was formed in late January of 2013 with the name Dirigo, LLC. And the registered agent for that new company? Molly Sinclair Bull, an attorney in the State of Maine. She is also the wife of Tom Bull.
Tom knew that he had hit upon a good name with Dirigo. It is the motto of the State of Maine, Latin for I lead, or I direct. It is featured in a scroll design front and center in our state seal, right below another design element, a gold North Star.
Dirigo was a good beer name, but it could be an even better brewery name. So he acquired the company name at a time that he actually had no concrete plans for opening another brewery.
Tom worked in and around the industry over the past few years. Every once in a while his handiwork would turn up in a beer brewed at Liquid Riot Bottling Company in Portland. Each year there seemed to be a Märzen that turned up for Liquid Riot Oktoberfest celebrations that had been brewed by Tom Bull. But yet there was no word as to plans for another Tom Bull brewery.
Then all of a sudden things took a turn for the better for Tom, and all because his wife needed tires on her car.
She visited Paulin’s Tire & Auto Care, a small auto repair business with four locations founded in 2001 by Mark Paulin. Molly struck up a conversation with Mark, and eventually her husband Tom’s past success and uncertain future in the brewing industry was brought up.
It just so happened that Mark Paulin, not exactly a hard core craft beer aficionado, was looking to diversify a little bit and invest in a new business venture. Tom’s track record and plans seemed solid, and in June of 2015 a Facebook page popped up for Dirigo Brewing Company of Biddeford, ME.
One of the first posts contained a picture with some familiar imagery.
Last week we brought a group of bartenders from the Portland chapter of the United States Bartender’s Guild on a special preview of Dirigo Brewing Company. Tom Bull was the one to suggest we visit, as he is eager to show off this amazing space.
The 1820’s building is best described as being located at the river end of Pearl St in Biddeford. Their location overlooking the falls on the Saco River is striking, and the large tasting room will take good advantage of that.
The site is still under construction, but it’s clear that soon beer will be flowing at this historic site. Here are some pictures of the space taken during our visit.
While we were visiting last week, the Portland fabrication company Tigpro was delivering the final fermentation tank. In a short time the brewhouse will be delivered and tested, and then Tom’s lagers (and ales, too) will be available once again. Perhaps by this time next month you can be enjoying Dirigo beers in the fantastic new tasting room.
Look for the beers from Dirigo Brewing Company to be draft only to start, available at the tasting room and distributed by Mariner Beverages to area bars and restaurants.