My admittedly brief visits to Cambridges in NY, Vermont, and Maine have, nonetheless, left me feeling very connected to these communities. I’ve already written about how I was happy about the opening of East Outlet Brewing in Cambridge, Maine, so naturally I needed to speak with its founder.
Imagining that someone who just started a new enterprise would be busy, I wasn’t sure we’d find a good time to talk by phone. But with relatively little fuss, on a recent afternoon, I was chatting with Nathan DiMeo, who started the brewery and restaurant, which he said is “Doing a really good business. This will be the fifth weekend coming. We’ve got the wood fired pizza, our own homemade beer, and live glass blowing.”
Nathan isn’t originally from Cambridge, but he said he’s lived there for about 13 years, after a move from New Hampshire (which I understand is also the path followed by the town’s founders in the 1800s). “We just happened to be driving through, looking for houses in Maine. We started looking at a house in Cambridge in the center of town, and we ended up liking it.” What did he like about Cambridge? “We were just looking for a smaller community, a little less craziness. Cambridge is just a really laid-back town.” Moultonborough, New Hampshire, where Nathan started, would still be called a small town, but one with more summer tourism.
For most of the length of his residence in Cambridge, Nathan said he has worked from home. He also blows glass, which explains the inclusion of that theme in the restaurant’s weekly offerings, though he told me, “I mostly have other glass blowers coming in. I’m manning the oven at the moment.”
As for how he got into this business, Nathan said, “I had done home brewing for eight or nine years now. I never worked in a commercial brewery.” And East Outlet doesn’t yet reach the scale of a significant commercial brewery, given the size of the equipment he uses. “I purchased the system two years ago. It’s still a small system. It’s a home brew/commercial version, so it was easy for me to convert over to use it.” He said they’ll upgrade to a larger system soon, but, “We’re mostly going to be selling in this area of Maine. We probably will never make it past Portland with this size system.”
The restaurant is open on Friday and Saturday and Nathan is able to rely on friends for staffing. “We have a family friend doing the waitressing and we have one worker in the kitchen making pizza, and then there’s me doing the brewing and all that.”
Regarding his motivation for starting the restaurant and brewery, Nathan said, “Our whole goal was to bring a little bit of city vibe, Portland vibe, but keep it country. We love artwork so we have spray painting around the walls, the glass blowing, the live music, a comedian coming on Saturday. We’re trying to do something different, not the same thing that’s always here.”
I asked Nathan about his customers, and he answered, “I would say it’s a half-and-half mix. We have an older crowd who comes and a younger crowd. Not everyone is from Cambridge, some people travel to Cambridge.” Is he seeing a lot of friends at the restaurant? “Yes, a lot of them are people I’ve just kind of met as I opened the place, and I do have a good number of friends who are rooting me on in there.” But even some folks who weren’t looking for a brewery are being supportive. “There are people who have lived here for a long time, and they don’t want to change very much, but they have accepted this. We do have them coming here.”
Not long before we spoke, I had been reading that there was an extended power outage in Cambridge, so it seemed worth asking about the challenges that Nathan was facing with a fledgling business. In addition to the power outage — about which he didn’t say much more than “We have a generator now” — Nathan noted, “It’s not easy to become a brewery. There’s a lot of licensing, a lot of figuring out if we can do this in this building, if the town will be okay with this. We weren’t sure if people would be okay with it, but we’re not rowdy here, we’re not a bar. There are no complaints yet, that we’ve heard of.” And he noted that the the town selectmen have been there.
Looking ahead, aside from increasing the capacity of his brewing equipment, Nathan anticipates continuing with a busy restaurant. “We’ll always have the live glassblowing and we’re going to try to have live music here each weekend.”
To me, it sounds like East Outlet Brewing will continue to provide a fun social setting for folks who want a weekend dinner without leaving Cambridge.
How would you describe Cambridge
I would definitely say it’s a quiet peaceful town that’s great for hunting, snowmobiling, getting away from the city life.