By Deborah McDermott
October 02. 2014 2:00AM
KITTERY, Maine – Dan Ford said he is so close to opening Maine’s first ever sake brewery that he can almost taste it – but he’s looking for a little help from the Seacoast community and beyond to see him over the finish line.
Ford is the owner of Blue Current Brewery, which he hopes will begin producing its first bottles of sake in time to toast in the New Year. While much of the equipment has been purchased or built, there are still several pieces of equipment that still need to be procured.
To help the business reach its goal, Blue Current has mounted a Kickstarter campaign to raise $33,000. The campaign is more than half way toward its goal, with contributions of nearly $18,000. The campaign ends Oct. 11.
Ford has long been an aficionado of sake, a Japanese wine, since living in Japan nearly a decade ago. When he was laid off after the stock market crash of 2008, the financial consultant soon hit upon the idea of opening his own sake brewery in his home town of Kittery. He is today an advanced sake professional, one of only 87 in the world, he said.
Blue Current Brewery has taken longer to get off the ground than he hoped. In a Herald interview in January, he said he anticipated production to begin in March. He said transforming what had been an open warehouse on the Route 1 Bypass into a sake microbrewery took more time – and capital – than he originally thought.
“The building itself needed more work than I expected. It depleted my resources, finishing it,” he said. “Doing things with less money just takes a little bit longer.”
Sake is not wholly a wine product, because it is brewed like beer, but it is not a beer product either. Ford said it is a difficult brewing process with “multiple parallel fermentations.” It’s also a new product for America, with only a handful of sake microbreweries scattered throughout the country.
Ford said he found importing equipment from Japan was prohibitive, so he designed his own fermentation and storage tanks – six all together, so he can brew multiple sakes. The rice steamer was created to his specifications by University of Maine engineering students.
A special rice is used to brew sake, grown in California and milled at a sake milling facility in Minneapolis, Minn.
While he already has purchased some rice, the Kickstarter funds will allow him to buy more, and to buy equipment that will be used in the final stages to pasteurize, bottle and label the product. Some of the money will also be used to complete plumbing and electrical work.
Ford said if “all the ducks are lined up by mid-November and we can start brewing a batch” — it takes six weeks from start to finish — in time, he hopes, for a New Year’s Eve toast.
He said distribution will be largely in Maine to begin with, but he hopes to see Blue Current sake in restaurants and stores throughout the nation. His goal is to open a tasting room at the bypass microbrewery within a year.
“Everyone can’t wait to taste it,” he said. “It is a natural, healthful, vegan, gluten-free choice, with less calories than wine. And the best part is, with sake, you’re not going to have a hangover in the morning.”
For more information on the Kickstarter campaign, go to www.kickstarter.com and type in Blue Current Brewery in the search field. To learn more about the brewery, visit bluecurrent.net.