October 2, 2017
2017 Next honorees

Next 2017: For Daniel and David Kleban, success as brewers also means giving back to the community

PHOTo / Tim Greenway
PHOTo / Tim Greenway
Daniel, left, and David Kleban, co-owners of Maine Beer Co., are adding 24,000 square feet to the brewhouse in Freeport.
PHOTo / Tim Greenway
David, left, and Daniel Kleban, middle, co-owners of Maine Beer Co., talk to brewer Paul Aho about a new pilot brew. The company’s special brews typically attract a crowd to the Freeport headquarters.

Daniel and David Kleban

Founders/owners Maine Beer Co., Freeport

Maine Beer Co.

525 U.S. Route 1, Freeport

Founded: 2009

Founders, owners: Daniel and David Kleban

What they do: Independent craft beer brewery with tasting room that features eight beers on tap, active in 1% for the Planet program, with 12 charitable partners.

Employees: 35

Contact: 207-221-5711

Outside the Maine Beer Co. in Freeport, heavy equipment rumbles over what will be a new parking lot in front of a 24,000-square-foot addition, now under construction.

Inside the tasting room, though, beer drinkers will still find Peeper, the first brew sold by brothers Daniel and David Kleban. At the time they developed their first brew, Daniel was an attorney at Pierce Atwood in Portland and David was in finance. They were brewing at home.

The brothers have come a long way since the first Peeper, originally Spring Peeper. In Maine's prolific beer brewing culture, Maine Beer Co. is a young adult, just a little older than drinking age. But it's been out of the house and on its own for a long time.

The company immediately stands out — from the "Do what's right" motto under its name on the home page and charitable partners list, which appears before the brews list, to the mission statement posted in the tasting room. The company's special issue brews attract hundreds of beer aficionados, creating crowds and parking jams on U.S. Route 1, even in the middle of winter.

The Kleban brothers, when they started out, wanted to make good beer, says Daniel, who goes by Dan. As he sits at a picnic table near the front entrance, he says they also wanted to have a positive impact on their employees, their customers, their community and, if possible, the world in general.

"People want to know that the company they're buying from is a responsible one," he says. "Money isn't the end all and be all."

The company is part of 1% for the Planet program, pledging 1% of its revenue to environmental organizations. "If every company did that, no matter how small, it would solve a lot of the world's environmental challenges," he says.

The company's 12 charity partners range from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund to Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

"When we first started out, it wasn't much [money]," Dan says. "But as you grow, as your sales grow, so does your contribution."

And grow the company has. In 2010, they moved the brewing operation from home to "beer row" on Industrial Way in Portland, across from the Allagash Brewing Co.

The company outgrew the site, and has been in Freeport since April 2013. The 24,000-square-foot addition is expected to be done before the snow flies.

"We can't make any more beer," Dan says. "We're busting at the seams."

He doesn't know what makes the company so successful in a market crowded with competition, particularly since tasting rooms became legal in 2014.

But Zach Schmesser, event coordinator for the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, does. "They make a quality product, employ great people," he says. "Everybody wants to be associated with them." Schmesser says that even when the Klebans aren't around, the employees exude the class the company is known for.

Anne Marisic, the company's events and marketing director, was one of its early fans. She was manager at a bar in Washington, D.C., that had 50 draft and 500 bottled beers on its menu when she first tasted Peeper. It stood out. "It was balanced and nuanced," she says.

She met the brothers when they visited in 2012 for their official Washington release. She's been working for them since July.

"A lot of people can make really good beer," Marisic says. "But [the Klebans] are a really good community partner." The 1% for the Planet program is embraced not only by the brothers, but by the staff. "It rings very true and earnest."

Schmesser says the company approached the bike coalition in 2015, asking if it could be a sponsor.

"It's really amazing that they're lending their popularity to us," he says. He says their beer is so popular that he went to three different Portland stores to buy the company's limited edition Post-Race Snack, brewed for this year's BikeMaine event, on the day it was delivered, and it was sold out.

The company highlights one of its charitable partners each month. More than that, it advocates for them. The Klebans have been supporters of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

The bicycle coalition, Schmesser says, "is an organization near and dear to the company … They're just not about bike advocacy, but they do great work promoting Maine."

The large solar array on the property takes care of about 50% of the company's electricity needs. The solar arrays get "as close as we can" to taking care of 100% of its energy consumption, Dan says. Some 90% of the company's waste is recycled, much of it as compost, feed and fertilizer for local farms.

Maine Beer is also an active partner in the robust Freeport business community. For instance, L.L.Bean begins and ends its employee bike rides at the company.

The company's message "resonates with beer drinkers," Dan says, even those who aren't familiar with the 1% for the Planet program when they first come in. "They ask about it, and most of them think it's pretty cool."

In the end, it's about more than selling beer.

"When we started, if I'd just wanted to make beer, I could have just done that in my garage," Dan Kleban says. "We wanted to make more than just good beer."

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