“Courage is the commitment to begin without any guarantee of success.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“I don’t like to be told that I am too ambitious and I need to rope it in.”
— Tyler Inman, co-founder, Trinken Brewing Co.
Tyler Inman knows something about courage. In 2011, the former Special Forces soldier was on his third tour in Iraq when a combat injury ended his military career early. Opening a craft brewery in Maine, two days before Gov. Janet Mills declared a Civil State of Emergency in March, took guts of a different kind.
The year prior to that, Inman and his business partner, Ryan Bisson, were helping to get Bath Ale Works established. Bisson, a steelworker at Bath Iron Works and accomplished homebrewer, was developing recipes while Inman built brand identity and created social-media buzz. Pepper Powers, the entrepreneur behind BAW, encountered numerous roadblocks, the largest of which was finding a location for the brewery. Impatient with the delays, Inman and Bisson decided in May 2019 to strike out on their own.
It typically takes years for new brewers to develop a business plan; secure financing and a location; equip their space; get licensed by federal, state and local governments; brew their beer and open the taps. Inman and Bisson pulled it off in just 10 months.
The building they rented, on State Road in West Bath, has been a hair salon, a Zumba studio, a dojo, and most recently an auto detailing shop. Bisson’s experience at BIW proved valuable during the renovation — not only for installing the brewhouse and fermenters, but to construct the bar and furniture. He did all this while also laboring full-time at the shipyard. Bisson has always been an exceptionally hard worker. Inman recalls that his schoolmate from Morse High’s Class of 2004 bought a new pick-up during his senior year with money he earned working on his family’s fishing boat.
The pair chose the name Trinken, the German word for “drinking,” to reflect Bisson’s preference for German-style lagers and ales, as well as Inman’s ancestry. The brewery’s flagship beer, a hefeweizen dubbed Hanau, is named for the town near Frankfurt from which Inman’s grandmother emigrated. Das Knackig, the brewery’s kölsch, means “the crispy,” a concise description of its flavor profile. Their most recent offering, a dunkel named Von Wolfhausen, sounds über-German but is actually a movie reference (five bonus points if you can name the film).
Rocket Llama, Trinken’s stout, refers to the pack animals used to carry munitions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Screecher, the double IPA, refers to a local cryptid (a legendary creature a la the Loch Ness Monster). Basin Bomber, the session IPA, is a shout-out to a section of Phippsburg known for high speeds and high spirits. The inclusion of two IPAs among Trinken’s inaugural beers is uncharacteristic for a German-style brewery, but that’s still the dominant craft-beer style and new brewers omit it at their peril.
On March 14, Allagash closed its big tasting room in Portland due to COVID-19 concerns and Trinken held its grand opening. The bet that locals would turn out to support the new brewery was a good one. In the two days they were able to serve beer at the tasting room, they sold out of growlers, all the Hanau and Screecher. The virus crisis has slowed supply chains, but Blue Ox Malthouse, in Lisbon Falls, has kept Trinken stocked with barley, and a second shipment of growlers has enabled them to continue expanding their customer base.
A third staff member, Duke Reddoch II, is working nearly full-time in the brewery. Trinken met the income projections in its pre-pandemic business plan, and Inman and Bisson are even talking about adding fermentation capacity.
Pepper Powers attended the opening to wish the pair good luck and enjoy a Das Knachig. “Obviously it turned out well for them, as they got where they wanted to go pretty quickly,” Powers said. As for Bath Ale Works, Powers said, “we’re still plugging along.” BAW will be located in Wiscasset, and Powers said he hopes to open the brewery in late summer or early fall.