It may not have been divine inspiration, but it has worked wonders.
In 2013, Brother Donald Paul, co-founder of the Franciscan Brothers of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a monastary in Bucksport, began selling a beer he’d named Whoopie Pie Porter. He and his fellow Episcopal friar, Brother Kenneth Leo, had been running a bakery in Bangor for over a dozen years, and the iconic Maine pastry was in the case, but it wasn’t in the beer.
“Pastries aren’t actually part of the recipe,” Brother Don confessed. “It was more a matter of branding a pretty traditional chocolate porter.”
Whoopie Pie Porter was a big hit, and in 2018 the holy men opened Friars’ Brewhouse Tap Room, on Main Street in Bucksport. Brother Don also gained the confidence to take some risks with the recipe, adding lactose, vanilla and butter flavorings “to more closely replicate the flavor of our whoopie pies,” he said.
Pastry stouts have since become fruitful and multiplied at breweries all over Maine. Down in York County, Barreled Souls Brewing, in Saco, has been collaborating with Congdon’s Doughnuts, the beloved bakery and restaurant on Route 1, in Wells, on a series of doughnut brews, including Congdon’s Maple Bacon Fritter Stout, an apple-fritter stout, and Honey Dip Blonde, a light ale with a “sweet donut glaze finish.” In addition to being bottled, these beers have been served during Congdon’s After Dark, a food-truck roundup that’s taken place on summer evenings in the Wells eatery’s parking lot.
Orono Brewing Company worked with Biddeford’s Banded Brewing and Frank’s Bakery, in Bangor, to create Bake Shop Imperial Chocolate Donut Stout. Weighing in at 9.8% ABV, it’s brewed with “dozens of Frank’s donuts and additions of cacao nibs, vanilla beans, and lactose,” according to OBC.
Portland’s Lone Pine Brewing Company has released four collaborations with The Holy Donut, whose Maine potato doughnuts draw crowds of locals and tourists to their Portland and Scarborough shops. “A lot of our ideology as a company is about reaching out to the untapped customer base … getting their guard down before they even taste the beer,” Lone Pine co-founder Tom Madden said. “We use these products as an opportunity to reach out to consumers that we may not otherwise connect with.”
Madden said Lone Pine plans to release one Holy Donut beer per month going forward, and the two companies sell co-branded t-shirts and glassware at their retail locations.
Battery Steele Brewing, on Portland’s Industrial Way, used macaroons from the food cart Suga Suga in the mash last year when they brewed Looking for Owls, an 8.4% American imperial stout. And the brewer-baker relationship can work both ways.
HiFi Donuts, in Portland’s Monument Square, uses Gunner’s Daughter, the popular peanut-butter milk stout made by Westbrook-based Mast Landing Brewing Company, to flavor the cream filling of their éclairs. HiFi also uses beer and distilled spirits from Portland’s Liquid Riot Bottling Co. in some of their pastries.
HiFi co-proprietor Melissa Selvon said Liquid Riot’s Nama, a Japanese-style lager, is an excellent yeast starter for their dough. No brewers are using HiFi confections in their beers at present. Selvon said she’s open to such a collaboration, “but only with the right brewery.”
Liquid Riot is not that brewery. “We don’t do donuts in our beer,” general manager Matthew Marrier wrote in an e-mail. “That’s not in our brewery style or vision. We are more traditional in that realm. We do experiment with wild fermentation in the ways of fruit and wild yeast. But no pastries in our beer.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean no HiFi treats are consumed inside the Commercial Street brewery/distillery/resto-bar. “They hook us up with donuts,” Marrier added, “which is worth its weight in gold.”