In 2017, Dwayne Johnson, the movie star formerly known as The Rock, reportedly flew his assistant to Portland, Me., one winter afternoon. Her mission? To snag a case of Bissell Brothers Brewing Company’s New England-style IPA (NEIPA), The Substance.
“We’re not really sure what happened, but a courier with the proper credentials from the local private jet company showed up to buy some cases and told us it was for The Rock,” Peter Bissell, who co-owns the brewery with his brother, Noah, recalls. “She left as quickly as she had come.”
Since opening in late 2013, Bissell Brothers Brewing Company has been at the heart of a thriving beer scene in Portland. Its NEIPAs like The Substance, Reciprocal, Lux, and Swish are among the industry’s most highly regarded.
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To meet demand, the brewery relocated to a 10,000-square-foot facility on Thompson’s Point, near Portland’s airport, in 2016. Two years later, it increased production to 8,500 barrels.
The brothers and their business continue to evolve. “The second you lose focus of what’s really the task at hand here, someone younger and hungrier than you is going to take what’s yours,” Peter Bissell says. “You have to keep your finger on the pulse and be willing to constantly learn and get better. We know that, and that’s what we strive to do every day. We want to be several steps ahead, and I think we are.”
Last summer, the brothers opened a second brewery and taproom a few hours away from Portland, in their rural hometown of Milo. The facility, called Three Rivers, features a 10-barrel brewhouse and a coolship and focuses on barrel-aged and sour beers. “Basically anything fun that might tickle our fancy,” Peter says.
Here, Peter shares his thoughts on sour beers, the impact The Alchemist’s Heady Topper had on him, and why he’s intrigued by wine.
1. What’s your desert-island beer?
Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze. This is one of my favorite beers of any style, it’s just the perfect sensation for my particular beer-drinking DNA. I’d have to find a way to keep it ice cold — I like it frosty, a bit colder than it’s often served — but I’d rock this on a spit of land in the South Pacific for sure.
2. What’s the beer that made you fall in love with beer?
The Alchemist’s Heady Topper. The first time I observed the incredible relationship and power between the beer and the experience and the place. It mystified, amazed, and inspired me for sure.
3. FMK three beer types: IPA, pilsner, sour.
This is brutal. I would f*ck sours. Hot, wild, exciting, with a worldliness to them, all the makings of an intriguing one-night stand that turns into something more. IPA, I would marry. My rock, the reason we have nice things. These flavors won’t run, baby. And I would have to kill pilsner. It’s the one you should have married all along.
4. You’re on death row. What’s your last-supper beer?
Barreled Souls Stay Puft. Local (to me) over-the-top decadence in a stout. A sweet finish to this life.
5. You can only drink one beer for the rest of your life. What is it?
Our flagship, The Substance Ale. I would happily go down on our own ship. It was pretty much the only thing I drank for the first year we opened. When I drink it now, I taste those early days, and this incredible ride. I’d sign on for life.
6. What’s the best and worst beer in your fridge right now?
Best would be Bellwoods Jelly King. Worst, the frozen can of our Wet Hop Lager from September that’s solid as a brick after staying outside at last’s night’s staff party.
7. If you could no longer drink beer, what would be your beverage of choice?
Wine intrigues me because of how little I know about it. I’m very into Sauvignon Blanc, or any dry white wines. I also absolutely love Margaritas and play with lots of different versions at home. And if I’m just watching a movie and putting my feet up, I’ll mix Skyy vodka and flavored Polar seltzer. I don’t need beer calories late at night!