Home brewers become brewery owners — it’s a well-worn narrative at this point. But far less cliché is “the couple that brews together stays together.”
Deedra Zeeh and Patrick Doherty, the proprietors of Nuts and Bolts Brewing, still work full time (at Idexx and own a burgeoning brewery in the Bidderford mills). They both brew and contribute recipes, and they’re both in their mid twenties. They’ve got plenty of energy, but a composure that belies their years. Nuts and Bolts is operating on a comparably tiny system, they’re cultivating a neighborhood watering hole atmosphere, and they’re doing so with good beer.
Both Pat and Deedra grew up in York county and attended USM. Together as a couple around four years, they’ve been brewing for even longer than that. Their tasting room occupies a modest space off Biddeford’s Main Street near Banded Horn and Dirigo, two other breweries contributing to what some folks call the “Biddossance.” When I visited the highlights were an IPA Pat has been tweaking through different batches and a saison with Thai tea that Deedra conceived and brewed. The three of us chatted as they popped back and forth pouring for customers.
The Phoenix: How did you get into brewing, and what made you want to scale up?
Patrick Doherty: I started brewing before I turned 21, for reasons that are obvious based on that answer. After I moved out of the dorm, I moved dangerously close to the homebrew shop in Portland. One thing led to another and before I knew it I was renting warehouse space to homebrew because we were doing it so much that a studio apartment didn’t cut it. Every homebrewer talks about starting a brewery eventually Some of them follow through, I guess!
Deedra Zeeh: We just started out as a homebrewing thing in our tiny Valley Street apartment in Portland. Then we were renting out space and doing the same recipes enough to where we actually had too much beer to drink ourselves. It got to the point where we started thinking “maybe we can do this commercially” and we started casually looking around, then we found this place and suddenly it became a real thing and developed from there.
Give me an overview of the brewing system, one barrel, two barrel…?
Patrick: We’ve been brewing at one barrel capacity. We can go up to a barrel and a half; these are 55-gallon drums. I bought them, fabricated, put all the fittings and valves in myself. Really, this a stones throw from a homebrew system.
I’m really loving this Thai tea saison. What’s the technique for adding the tea?
Deedra: This is an old homebrew recipe and I’ve been able to experiment a bit with different tea blends. I’ve found that if you add the tea even at the end of the boil or in the whirlpool it’s too hot and you extract too much bitterness. So I basically just dry hop with the tea.
For this summer are you guys planning to keep everything taproom only? Will we eventually see some kegs getting out to draft accounts?
Deedra: We’ve had a “good problem” so far, in that we’re barely keeping up with consumption. Our grand opening was way bigger than we expected so we actually had to close down briefly because we were out of beer! I think right now we’re just trying to keep our base satisfied since we’re dealing with a small system, which has its advantages but also has its minuses. We’ve already started discussing at least getting some kegs out to some local restaurants, but nothing as far as canning or anything like that yet. That’s down the line.
Patrick: Yeah, for the time being if you want our beer, come see us!
Nuts and Bolts Brewing | 7 York Street #204, Biddeford