At nine years old, Bissell is old enough to know how the industry works and young enough to keep their fans enthralled with new types of beers with every release. What started off as a 500 barrels per annum venture now produces over 8,500 barrels annually. There are plenty of news articles and interviews about the founding brothers – Noah and Peter Bissell – available online. There are two recurring themes in all of them: the story of two young brothers taking a risk and making it big and their love for their hometown, Milo, Maine.
How It Began
Milo, in its glory days, was home to several large manufacturing companies. The early and mid-nineties saw several of them shut down, forcing people to move out of the small town. Today, Milo’s population is roughly 2,000 people. This is where Peter, the elder brother, used to stay until he moved to Portland to continue his further education. Noah, the younger brother, was still in Milo, but got to frequently visit and meet his brother, who was staying with friends close to his college. At the time, Peter used to work at a restaurant named Diamond’s Edge, where the pay was good and the work was hard. After his education, he actively got involved in setting up and marketing his photography business. Noah, on the other hand, had a few sips of craft beer out of his elder brother’s fridge, and at 19, his curiosity in the brew egged him to experiment with brewing by himself.
So in 2010, Noah made his first attempt at home brewing, the result of which he recalls was disastrous. But he kept thinking that he had what it takes to make beer better than what was available in the market at the time. As the brothers like to say, they did a lot of things led by their instincts back then and continue to do so because they’ve almost always turned out to be right. Noah had to take a break from actively planning for a brewery with his elder brother to focus on his studies, while Peter had his own business and personal life keeping him occupied. But the idea had not died; it was just put on the back burner.
The Next Step
In 2011, when Noah had to make a career choice with his degree in philosophy, he felt that there were no viable options available for him in the market – at least none which inspired him to work for someone else. His passion for brewing beer remained strong, so he asked Peter if he would join him in opening their own brewery. Surprised but excited, the elder brother agreed, and the first thing they did was invest time in understanding the business in the best possible way. They started working at a brewpub in Portland called the Thirsty Pig owned by Allison Stevens. The brothers served food, brewed beer, took classy photos of the place and its dogs to create event posters, and sub-consciously started planning for their own venture. Above all, they took care to understand what types of beers people enjoyed the most, and Noah especially was keen on talking shop with customers. He quickly became that affable beer geek that customers wanted to chat with, and his shifts started becoming more popular. Peter, who had met Stevens when he did the restaurant’s photoshoot, also got engaged in meetings with potential business partners while serving food to them.
After a couple of years, in December of 2013, the brothers were confident enough to take the next step and launched their first and still highly-popular drink, The Substance.
The brothers thought they knew the business pretty well by then, but today realize how naive they were. They had to handle their own expenses, find a decent place to operate out of, get supplies, and handle delays. Soon, their first premises at 1 Industrial Way became too small to fit their booming business, and they moved to a larger space a few hundred yards from the first one. An old railroad repair building was renovated to house the Bissell Brothers’ expanded business, post which the brothers were encouraged to make their next big move: open a branch in their hometown, Milo. Called The Three Reivers, it is currently managed by their dad, who has now retired. The place acts as a brewpub, storage facility for the business, and the experiment ground for the brothers. It is also house to their coolship, using which, they hope to soon sell sours and barrel-aged naturally fermented beers.
Bissell is not just a major hit in Milo because the town’s people want their boys to do well. Bissell has managed to woo just about anyone who’s had their drinks, including Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, who had sent his secretary one winter night to pick up some of their NEIPAs. Although they have a long list of highly-rated beers, some of their most popular drinks, going by customer reviews, are their hoppy IPAs such as The Substance and Swiss, their oatmeal stout, which is a full-bodied drink, and their Aussie UPA is considered ‘fiendishly good’.
People walk in for a quick drink and leave four hours later after downing five drinks and carrying all that they physically can. One consistent feedback from all customers is the top-notch customer service in all three of Bissell’s locations. From juice boxes for kids to explaining to novices about their beers and what would be best suited to them, customers have loved every aspect of their service.
If you are looking to try some new and exciting brews, Bissell Brothers Brewing Company is certainly the right place for you. You can visit the Portland brewery at 4 Thompsons Point #108, Portland, ME 04102, or visit them at 157 Elm St., Milo, ME 04463 in Three Rivers.
To know more about the brews they serve, you can contact them via phone at 207-808-8258 or visit their official website.