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A room with a brew

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Marsh Island brewmaster Clay Randall prepares brewing equipment at the brewery's Orono location, a former car repair garage, on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. Marsh Island brewmaster Clay Randall prepares brewing equipment at the brewery's Orono location, a former car repair garage, on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. (edge photo by Kevin Bennett)

Marsh Island Brewing opens tasting room in Orono

ORONO Craft beer is proving to be big business in the Bangor area. Now, another one of the brewing operations in Orono is making the leap to pouring their own beers from their own taps.

Marsh Island Brewing owned by Alice Swett and her family (who also own Swett's Service Center and Deli in Bangor) - has been in operation for just over a year, brewing and bottling a variety of beers in a former gas station located on Main Street. But while those bottles have proven popular in bottle shops and restaurants all over the state, the time has come for the brewery to take the next step.

And so Marsh Island will be opening a tasting room of their own this weekend. The tasting room's hours will be from 4-11 p.m. on weekdays, noon to midnight on Saturdays and noon to 7 p.m. on Sundays.

Rick England works as part of the brewery operations team and as an assistant brewer for Marsh Island. The head brewer is Clay Randall.

'The plan was always to open a tasting room after about a year,' England said. 'We've spent about three months working on getting the space ready.'

That includes installing eight devoted tap lines that will feature a selection of Marsh Island's popular offerings their Downrigger and 20 Gauge IPAs, for instance, or the Wooly Bugger Pils as well as at least one line featuring a brew available only in-house. Customers will be able to buy and fill growlers as well as pints and paddles.

Bottles will also be available, as well as a new addition to the party. Starting soon, Marsh Island will also be canning a few of their brews. Those cans can be purchased at the tasting room as well. There will be a limited menu, but in truth, the beer will be the focus.

The room itself will have a unique aesthetic, combining many of the existing elements remaining from the building's more utilitarian past with some lovely new touches; in particular, the new bar is something special, constructed from beautiful red oak pulled from a single tree in Winterport.

As things stand right now, the tasting room's seating capacity is 22, though standing room will put overall capacity somewhere close to 30. However, the plan is for some outdoor seating as well; there will be a temporary outdoor setup through the fall, but the idea is for there to be a more permanent outdoor space starting next year.

And while Marsh Island's focus has been on bottling for most of its existence, Randall and the rest of the crew have been fastidious in their preparation for the tasting room's opening. While the brewing and bottling hasn't slowed, Randall has also been filling the cooler with keg after keg of Marsh Island's finest.

'As you can see,' Randall said as he held open the cooler door, 'we've got plenty of beer.'

In a relatively short time, Marsh Island Brewing has established itself as a purveyor of quality craft beer. Now, they're going to be able to deliver their beer directly to their customers. It's just another example of the vast and varied growth in the area's beer scene.

And now there's another stop on every local beer lover's must-visit list.

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