Paul and Abraham Lorrain of Funky Bow Beer Company

Going Pro by | May 2016 | Issue #112
Photo by Stephen Davis Phillips

For Paul and Abraham Lorrain, brewing beer is a deeply personal vocation. Paul, a farmer and organic landscaper, and Abraham, a microbiologist, used brewing to cement their relationship. When the father-son duo opened up the Funky Bow Beer Company amid the greenhouses and woods of Paul’s southern Maine farm, they also went to lengths to forge personal relationships with their customers. They’ve turned the brewery into a massive indoor-outdoor living room, replete with pets, bonfires and bluegrass music. “The combination of beer and music is an age-old thing,” Abraham Lorrain says. “So it only felt right that we’d give people music while they’re drinking our beer. They fit together so well.”

1. Unite with beer
Beer saved the relationship between Abraham Lorrain and his father Paul. The two went seven years without speaking, and when they reconnected, it was over rounds of beers. When Paul got Abraham a massive homebrew system for Christmas, occasional rounds of drinks became regular weekend brew days. Later, the act of launching a brewery anchored them together. “This all started because of beer, and now beer has become a way for us to connect with the rest of the world,” Abraham says.

2. Say no to sweater vests
Initially, homebrewing was a way for Abraham to apply his scientific impulses to a hobby. But after losing the grant that funded his job, he considered relocating to California to get his PhD. Thanks to some fatherly advice, brewing kept him at home, in Maine. “I said, Dude, you’re going to end up wearing a cheap sweater vest, teaching in a classroom you don’t want to teach in,” Paul recalls. Instead, he suggested they start a brewery. “I was at a crossroads in my life,” Abraham says. “I decided I’d try the beer first.”

3. Deconstruct it
Paul and Abraham decided to brew the kinds of beers they both liked drinking. That meant rewiring their brains, and approaching flavors in a whole new way. “We had to figure out what it was in these beers that we liked,” Paul adds. So he and Abraham went to work deconstructing beers, isolating flavors they liked, tying those flavors to ingredients, and building a stable of flavorful American ales from there.

4. Learn by doing
Thanks to Abraham’s background in microbiology and biochemistry, he walked into the brewhouse understanding fermentation and how to optimize enzyme behavior. Plus, years spent in a lab made him a sanitary ninja. He’s convinced that the only way to learn how to run a production brewery is to jump right into it, make mistakes, and work through them. “You can learn from textbooks, but things are a lot different in the brewery,” Abraham says. “There are just so many variables Mother Nature throws at you.”

5. Build a community
Funky Bow’s location on 20 acres of wooded farmland in southern Maine (which Paul describes as “the middle of so folkin’ nowhere”) has turned into a weekend destination. “Up here in the woods, it’s so different than being in a mill, or an industrial park, or a bar or restaurant,” Paul says. “We’re here in the middle of nowhere, drinking from mason jars, eating wood-fired pizza, on a farm,” Abraham adds. “People yearn for that, and it brings them up here.”

6. Take the difficult, simple path
In Funky Bow’s stable of American IPAs, Pale Ales, Porters, Red Ales and Wheats, the common denominator is an emphasis on creative simplicity. Funky Bow takes a style, strips it down to its essence, and then builds up recipes in a deliberate, clean manner. “I like simple, beautiful beer that’s consistent,” Abraham says. “It’s easy to make a complex, muddled beer. It takes a lot of knowledge and experience to make an elegant, beautiful beer, and I’m still working on it.”

7. Paint
When developing a recipe, Abraham thinks through incremental steps, from mash to glass. “What will mash look like? What about the pH? What will it taste like before it’s fermented? What do we want fermentation to be like? What should it look like in the glass? What temperature should you drink the beer at?” Funky Bow beers often go through a dozen iterations before they’re brewed at scale. It’s slow, deliberate work, but Abraham argues it’s the mark of a firm commitment to the brewer’s art. “It’s like painting,” he says. “It takes layers and layers of ideas to get to the finished product.”

8. Take your folkin’ time
So Folkin’ Hoppy, Funky Bow’s flagship IPA, takes incremental refinement to the extreme. The beer dates back to Paul and Abraham’s homebrew days, and they’ve been brewing it commercially for more than three years, but Abraham only recently got the beer where he wants it. “First it was too malty, then it was too hoppy,” he says. He finally has it dialed in, with “a little kiss of caramel malt” setting up a clean bite of Galaxy hops. “It’s a house beer. It’s clean, it’s drinkable, and people can drink one of them after another.”

9. Play the classics
Funky Bow still carries a torch for the humble Pale Ale, and Abraham gets as excited talking about his G-String Pale Ale as with any of his creations. “It’s smooth, it’s drinkable, it’s crushable, it’s everything a Pale Ale should be,” he says. The recipe has enough Cascade hops to pop on the first sip, but it’s scaled so customers can quaff a few during a trip to the farm. “Pale Ale has been thrown to the side,” Abraham says. “It’s my job to show people that Pale Ales can be hoppy, too, and drinkable. And if you want to drink a hoppy, hoppy beer, drink our others.”