Blue Barren Distillery opens for the season

By Susan Mustapich | Jun 12, 2019
Photo by: Susan Mustapich Jeremy Howard, left, and Andrew Stewart, right, have opened Blue Barren Distillery, at Lyman Morse, for tastings and cocktails.

CAMDEN — Blue Barren Distillery is easing into the season, with its outdoor bar now open for tastings and cocktails.

On June 10, co-owner Andrew Stewart was keeping an eye on the Vendome still inside the building, where production of a new rum is underway.

For the moment, until the company has a full product lineup, the distillery is offering free half-ounce tastings of Barren's Blueberry Eau de Vie and Harbor Gin, he said. A new lavender and lemon Barren's Glendarrah Gin will be ready soon, to be followed later this season by several additional gins, rums and liquors.

The story of Blue Barren Distillery began a few years ago with discussion about how to keep a family blueberry farm going.

Seventh-generation blueberry farmer Jeremy Howard was talking about the crash of the blueberry industry with Stewart, who owns the Drouthy Bear, a Scottish pub in Camden. The influx of highbush blueberries had caused the price of Maine's lowbush blueberries to drop from about $1.75 per pound, to 35 cents a pound, Stewart recalls, and Howard was worried about the survival of his family's farm.

"Normally, you'd have a discussion like that over a beer and that's the end of it, but this one kept going and going," Stewart said. The two friends started talking about distilling blueberries, along the lines of what Scottish farmers turned to hundreds of years ago to maximize profits from barley crops, Stewart explained.

The two incorporated, bought a still, and last summer harvested the lowbush blueberries at Brodis Farm in Hope, which Howard's family owns.

The first product, "l'eau de vie, is the soul and the core of the company because of the blueberries and because we're in Maine," Stewart said.

He said he and Howard think of blueberries as the grapes of Maine. While blueberries don't have the same sugar content as grapes, the fruit is local and "what we're going to be using every harvest season," Stewart said.

Barren's Blueberry Eau de Vie is made using "a very traditional European style, with no sugar added for the fermentation or after fermentation," Stewart said. This clear brandy obtains its characteristics during fermentation with champagne yeast and hundreds of hours of distilling, according to Stewart. Aging for several months in glass jars aerates and oxygenates it — makes it smoother, he said.

Barren's Blueberry Eau de Vie doesn't taste like a blueberry pie, or blueberry wine. Stewart describes the taste and aroma as dry.

"It's not a sweet product, it's a very dry authentic eau de vie. If you smell it, you're getting lots of fruits notes. It's a very complex aroma, a very complex flavor," he said.

The flavor of Barren's Harbor Gin begins with the inspiration of a Plymouth-style gin, which is a slight variation on London dry gin, Stewart said. "It's not quite as intense with the juniper flavor, and it's a little more earthy and a little more citrus."

"We have started transferring what would be a traditional Plymouth-style recipe to botanicals that we grow here in Maine," he said. "Within a year or so, we should be using all the botanicals from Hope's Edge farm, Jeremy's farm, Glendarrah in Appleton, and other places around Knox County."

Rum also is on its way. "We're going to have white rum, a black rum and a spiced rum," which, Stewart said, are "fun, quicker products aged for a least a month, possibly two." These faster rums will be offered until aged rum, which will be one of the company's core products, is available. The rum will be aged in oak for at least three years — probably longer — and aging may be eight years, similar to Scottish single malt, Stewart said. He and Howard want the best product possible, and don't want to rush it, which means "it's going to be ready when it's ready, not when we want it to be ready."

The distillery and bar's location on Camden Harbor came about from another conversation with a friend. Stewart said it was just luck that he was telling Drew Lyman that they were looking for a place to establish the distillery, and asked if he knew of anything.

"We wanted something that was zoned in a way that we could produce, but also visible and appealing enough for people to visit," Stewart said. "This is almost a dream come true," he said, adding the boatyard "has been wonderful since we started out."

Blue Barren Distillery is located at 1 Wayfarer Drive, and is open Tuesday through Sunday 3 to 8 p.m. Hours are expected to expand during the coming season. For more information, visit bluebarrendistillery.com, the Blue Barren Distillery Facebook page or email andrew@bluebarrendistillery.com or jeremy@bluebarrendistillery.com.

Barren's Harbor Gin and Barren's Blueberry Eau de Vie are distilled from Maine low bush blueberries harvested from Brodis Farm in Hope. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
Andrew Stewart, left, and Jeremy Howard, right, pose with their Vendome still and are planning to release new gins and rums this season. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
Comments (1)
Posted by: Douglas E Collins | Jun 13, 2019 06:39

Great story !!  I'll be testing these products out.  It will be hard to wait the 8 years for the rum though.  GOODLUCK, I hope you guys have great success.



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