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Brewing for fun & profit.

Brewing for Fun & Profit

A group of young entrepreneurs join the pub-brewing boom.

The three partners that started Gritty McDuff's brewpub in Portland, ME., style themselves "the youngest brew-publicans in the country," a notable distinction in a very young segment of the industry.

Ed Stebbins, Robert Pfeffer and Eric Harrison are all in their mid-20s, newcomers to the fastest-growing part of the brewing industry. In a business that can demand 100 hours a week from each of them, their youth stands them in good stead.

"Portland needed a brewpub," Robert Pfeffer says. "and since nobody else had done it yet, we decided to grab the opportunity. We knew the demand was there," he continues, "because this has always been an ale town and a draft market. Back in the 70s, Portland had the highest per-capita consumption of Bass Ale in the country.

"In any business," Pfeffer says, "once you establish a client base it snowballs. That's what's happening to us. There's been a very steady increase in total business." Pfeffer reports beer sales this past winter rose 50% over the previous year.

The brewpub is located in an old brick warehouse that stands in a restored section of Portland's old port. The actual brewery is located on the ground floor, behind glass windows to allow examination by curious patrons. The brewhouse is an English Peter Austin design, one of many characteristics that Gritty's shares with the D.L. Geary brewery a few miles away.

The two operations have the sort of fraternal business relationship that seems so prevalent in the world of microbrewing. "Our relationship with David Geary is very important to us," says brewer Ed Stebbins. "I can't imagine there's a relationship quite like it in the country. We both figure that the more people who drink micro beer the better for both of us."

Another commonality is Gritty's past association with Alan Pugsley, former brewmaster at Geary's. "Most of our recipes were inspired by Alan," Stebbins notes, "including our bitter and pale ales."

"Brewpubs are the business to be in," says Eric Harrison. "The problem with micros is that the consumer is starting to get overwhelmed by choices. In some parts of the country there's also getting to be a lot of competition for shelf-space.

"In addition," Harrison continues, "a brewpub isn't burdened with a lot of the costs that a micro has to deal with, like bottling, packaging and marketing. Those costs are three times what it costs to brew the beer."

For the future, the partners report the possibility of expansion to other cities. "Now that we've got our system down," Pfeffer says, "it's just a matter of finding another perfect location."

PHOTO : Brewer Ed Stebbins and President Robert Pfeffer in Gritty McDuff's Austin-designed

PHOTO : brewhouse.
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Title Annotation:1990 Microbrewery Report
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Article Type:Interview
Date:May 14, 1990
Previous Article:Coors contemplates another brewery to increase production.
Next Article:Quality control for microbreweries; keeping micro-organisms at bay.

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