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Supporting Allied Whale
This is the story of how a rained-out vacation made for a very special connection between a Portland brewery and COA’s Allied Whale.
Several autumns ago, David Kleban came up to Acadia National Park to go camping and hiking with his wife Heidi and their young daughter Zoe. Then it rained. Instead of hitting the trails, the family headed into Bar Harbor, where they discovered the Bar Harbor Whale Museum.* Lured by the brilliant white whale skeletons hanging in the window, the family found itself delighted by the many interactive exhibits that packed the small museum.
At the time, David was working as a financial analyst in Portland. Next to being with his family and adventuring outdoors, he loved hanging out with his brother Daniel, a lawyer with a passion for brewing beer. Then David had an inspiration. Why not switch things around? He asked his brother whether he wanted to spend his life in an office or in a brewery. In 2009, they launched Maine Brewing Company.
While not fully letting go of their day jobs, they purchased a fifteen-barrel vat known as a brewhouse, a huge steel cylinder where the hops and grain are mixed, and an even larger fermenter where the beer sits while the yeast does its work. After testing and retesting their recipes, they began brewing, then bottling.
I met David one October afternoon in his Portland brewery, now containing five spotless, gleaming, stainless steel vats, each about as large as the mixer of a cement truck. We talked about David’s love of beer, his fascination with whales, and his connection to the environment, fostered during his childhood in Toledo, Ohio. David had been a member of a local organization known as the Naturalist Scouts, taking hikes and camping, and also helping to maintain local parks.
Raised to care about the world around them, just brewing beer wasn’t enough for the brothers. Their beer carries a message: “Do what’s right.” This corporate motto is announced on their website and inscribed on their beer labels. And they follow it, getting their electricity from wind power and donating their used grain, yeast, and grain bags to local farmers. “We knew from the get-go that we wanted to give back,” says David.
While trying to figure out how best to do that, he stumbled upon the website for One Percent for the Planet, an organization that makes it easier for businesses to give a percentage of profits to environmental causes. Browsing the website, they found that among the certified organizations in Maine was one connected to the very museum that had brought a smile to Zoe’s face. They now donate a percentage of the profits from one of their beers to Allied Whale, and a percentage from another to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. “I have a thing for animals that don’t have a say,” comments David. “Especially the highly intelligent animals.”
The ale that connects to Allied Whale is called Zoe. Another beer is named Lunch, after a finback whale followed by Allied Whale since 1982.
Maine Brewing Company is small, hands-on. The day I visited, Daniel was busy driving a little red forklift; David was working the phones. Between their two fermenters, they net about 1,500 barrels a year. In the beer world, their resulting 46,500 gallons of beer is about as small as COA’s student body. “We are really small,” emphasizes David. “We don’t have aspirations to get big.” Sounds like a perfect match!
*The Bar Harbor Whale Museum is currently closed due to construction on its former site.