The Substance

courtesy Bissell Bros.

I cannot remember where my love of beer started. It was not the first adult beverage I was exposed to, but living 4 blocks from my town’s craft brewery cemented by love for the frosty beverage.

My appreciate and enjoyment of beer grew when I took a job in the beer business with the top US company that produces draught beer equipment. I was a sales rep that covered the territory of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and West Virginia. No, that isn’t a typo, they were all of similar market size, so they were all one territory (Fun fact: At one point, West Virginia had 16 Budweiser Distributors, 4 alone in Morgantown, home of WVU. They were one of the first institutions of higher learning to allow beer sales at college football games).

Part of my duties were to arrange for draught beer 101 sessions in my territories for 1-2 weeks per year. I would visit my customers and one of my training staff colleagues would put on a class. In turn, I got to sample a lot of great beer. Not only did I love beer, but a lot of the offerings in New England are not available in PA (some of that is due to our VERY backward liquor laws, but that’s another blog post).

About three years in, I learned about Bissell Brothers Brewing. On my next trip to Maine, I met one of their top employees, Seth Vigue, at their first brewery, which was in a strip mall-style industrial park just outside of Portland, Maine. We helped them with draught issues, some parts orders and they sent down staff to attend our three day intensive draught school at our office.

I made my next trip to Maine about seven years ago and they had moved into a new facility in Thompson’s Point, an entertainment venue just outside the city of Portland. And in the midst of a tour of the facility, I learned two awesome things: first, they are fans of Tottenham Hotspur F.C. (English Football Team).

The exterior of the brewery at Thompson’s Point
Bissell Bros Tasting Room – courtesy Landry French Construction

Second, I was introduced to their flagship beer: The Substance.

I took one sip, and after tasting well over one hundred different beer, I fell in love.

This amazing beverage has hazy golden color with a thin white head. The aroma is balanced between tropical fruit with some wheat or oats in the mix I think() that makes for a smooth mouthfeel and softens the landing on the palate overall.

The biggest shock to me is that this is considered an IPA. And I do not like IPAs. Unlike a lot of beers, which have a citrus or wheat type taste – at least the ones I like – IPAs tend to be bitter. The more hops they have, the more bitter the taste.

It is a great beer and I get it every time I am in Maine, which is the only place I could get it, as they only distribute in their home state.

Fast forward to 2019, and I left that company for my current situation. I am very happy I made the move for many reasons, and it turned out the timing was great – they revamped the company and eliminated my positions two weeks after I left.

That means that it’s been almost five years since I last had The Substance.

Cut to August. Michelle and I earned a trip to Boston for our work in 2022, and we went. Our friends live near Portland and we made arrangements to visit them over the weekend after our Boston trip.

We had a sweet Chevy Malibu rental car in Boston and drove almost two hours to our friends’ home in Saco. We had a great time eating pizza from their home wood-fired pizza oven and playing board games. And we made plans to go to Bissell Brothers Saturday for lunch.

The area around Thompson’s point changed a little bit – they had a children’s theater and some of the building occupants changed. This included Bissell Brothers, who took the adjoining building and made another tasting room.

And, for the first time in five long years, I enjoyed two pints of The Substance. It was just as good and smooth as I remembered. It was such a great experience having my favorite beer again. And I was determined not to wait another five years.

I wouldn’t.

To that end, Michelle and I had discussed cancelling our flight home from Portland and driving back. That morning, we confirmed that we would drive home, making stops along the way.

This also allowed me to transport The Substance back home. Two cases, to be exact. Our friends allowed me to borrow two cooler bags and ice packs to keep it cold.

And I got another welcome surprise – Bissell Bros is expanding, and they have it in Philly and just outside DC!

So when the two cases I have are gone, I won’t have to wait another five years to drink it again.

But for now, I am enjoying my favorite beer in my home, and am thankful for the great memories I made during the trip.

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