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Welcome to the Team: Tom Major

Staff Tom Major

I am Tom Major, a new person on the Maine Brew Bus team.  So far, I am a lifelong Portland resident. I’m three decades into a high school teaching career, but after writing Brewing in Maine (Arcadia Publishing), I decided to see if I could get a little closer to the beer industry.

I started homebrewing in the 1990s, and somewhere in the back of my basement, a dusty bottle of mead has been aging for twenty years.  If I can work my way through the cases of smoked porter in front of it, I might try it someday soon.

I want to introduce myself to the Maine Brew Bus community with a few precepts and a couple of quotes.  I like to have precepts to ground and guide me, especially when I’m starting a new job.  Precepts would probably be important when moving to some new city too, but I wouldn’t really know because Portland is where I have always lived.  

PRECEPT #1   HAVE FUN

Actually, that might not have been my first, but I saw that it was Rule #1 on the Maine Brew Bus chalkboard.  Yeah, I am the sort of guy who reads the rules on the chalkboards on buses.  As rules go, it is a pretty easy one to follow, especially when the other folks who work at MBB follow it all the time. 

PRECEPT #2   LEARN SOMETHING

Not surprising for a guy who has been teaching high school classes for thirty years, right?  History, chemistry, microbiology, economics, geography, art, even politics  — they all converge at the intersection called BEER.  

When I was writing Brewing in Maine, I learned far more about beer and brewers than I could fit in the book.  But the first time I rode the Maine Brew Bus, I learned things I had not known.  I aspire to learn more about Maine beer every day and to sharing what I have learned with all the guests on the bus.

PRECEPT #3    BE RESPONSIBLE

Buzzkill, right?  But it is a core principle when I am enjoying beer.  For example, I started homebrewing while Angus King was governor, but by Governor Baldacci’s election, my son was headed to middle school.  A cellar full of beer was plainly a bad idea, so more than a few beers went down the drain and the brewing gear got packed away.  

Two gubernatorial terms is enough time for a lad to grow up and head to college, so my fermenter started bubbling just about the time Governor LePage came to office.  

The Cat in the Hat had another way of saying it:

“It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how.”  

Twitter/Maine Brewers’ Guild

PRECEPT #4 / QUOTE #1 DON’T BASH BEER

The was the refrain of a speech that Andy Thomas of the Craft Brew Alliance made at the Beer Summit a few years ago.  When I was in college, we drank a lot of Busch and Meister Brau.  We thought we were living large when we got a case of Stroh’s.  Those who drank Heineken were more sophisticated than the rest of us; a rare pint of Guinness was inconceivably exotic.  And it was all good, even the Busch and Meister Brau.  

Of course I was thrilled to get home in March 1987 and find a beer called Geary’s Pale Ale on tap at Raoul’s Roadside Attraction in Portland.  I tried to make the case that I brought back to school last until graduation, but that wasn’t happening.  Fortunately, a local store had begun carrying the short-lived Portland Lager, and once I was back in Portland, I found Geary’s at Three Dollar Dewey’s, and the Great Lost Bear, and even a laundromat / pub called A Bar of Soap, where D.L.’s daughter Kelly tended bar in the basement.  

When Gritty McDuff’s opened in 1988, I learned to appreciate cask-conditioned ale.  I will confess that I was slow to understand what Allagash was doing, but like every other beer drinker in America, I have been scrambling to make up for lost time.  Sours?  Hit me.  Porters?  I’m in.  Rauchbiers?  Goses?  American adjunct light lagers?  New England-style IPAs?  Fill the steins to dear old Maine, right?  Don’t bash beer.

Tom Major with Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

QUOTE #2  I”M JUST HAPPY TO BE HERE.

I’m not a hotshot young pitcher aspiring to play in the major league, but as I join the Maine Brew Bus team, the clichés that Crash taught Nuke in Bull Durham feel pretty relevant:  

“I’m just happy to be here.  I hope I can help the [Brew Bus].  I just want to give it my best shot, and the good Lord willing, things will work out.”  

-Tom Major has not been teaching so long that he has taught the grandchildren of his former students, but that’s bound to happen soon. He was homebrewing in the Clinton Years, took the Bush Administration off, but returned to it during the Obama Era. That had less to do with politics than not keeping cases of beer in the house while his son was growing up. Now that the young man has gone west, the cellar is well-stocked once again. Arcadia Publishing kindly released Major’s book, Brewing in Maine, in 2016.