Dec 17, 2021
Today’s podcast was inspired by a single tweet, or more accurately a reply to tweet, from Bissell Brothers cofounder Pete Bissell. It came in response to a post about a new Good Beer Hunting article entitled Making it to a Million — How Allagash Helped Grow Maine’s Grain Economy.
It was a story about the remarkable fortunes of a handful of grain farmers and maltsters in Maine, who have benefitted from Allagash’s drive to include more local grains in their beer. It’s a wonderful example of a brewery doing something not because it’s easy, but because it’s right – something the myth of craft was built on. But as the article made clear, Allagash were not the only Maine brewery pursuing the strategy. Bissell Brothers were also name checked, and Pete’s brother Noah actually quoted. Still, Pete wanted to make it clear that local grain wasn’t little aside for the brewery, or some kind of corporate responsibility box ticked. It was a passion of theirs, and their contribution to Maine grain’s rise is perhaps as big as Allagash’s.
That fact, coupled with Pete’s little moment of Twitter defiance, gets to the heart of Bissell Brothers. On the surface they seem like another haze-focused brewery – complete with a world-famous double IPA, a killer brand identity and lines around the block every other weekend. While that’s all a source of pride to Pete and Noah, it’s only the start of the Bissell story – something the brewery struggles get across.
In this podcast I sit down with Pete and Noah to talk about the brilliant fact that their flagship beer, Substance, is 97% Maine grain, but more so about everything that surrounds that choice – the positives such as the impact on sustainability and local business, but also the negatives such as higher costs and accepting the fact that many customers simply won’t know or care. We reflect on the beer industry as a whole in the light of COVID and widespread condemnation of its working culture, and consider how marketing has become so reductive that doing the wrong thing is getting easier, while explaining how you do the right thing is only getting harder.