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November 29, 2017
Mainebiz Food Insider

Mainebiz Food Insider: Shipyard partners with Three Rivers Whitewater on Sugarloaf Brew Haus

Photo / Lori Valigra
Photo / Lori Valigra
Fred Forsley, owner of Shipyard Brewing Co. in Portland, is partnering with Joe Christopher, owner of Three Rivers Whitewater, to promote and operate the Sugarloaf Shipyard Brew Haus in Carrabassett Valley.

It's a partnership made in Maine — Three Rivers Whitewater, located primarily in West Forks and known for warm-weather outdoor adventures that include whitewater rafting, is taking several steps west for the winter and joining forces with the Shipyard Brewing Co. to promote and operate the Sugarloaf Shipyard Brew Haus in Carrabassett Valley.

"I was looking for a winter home for myself and a lot of my staff," Three Rivers President Joe Christopher said. "I was looking for a restaurant opportunity and looking to round out the year in this area of Maine."

He and Shipyard "have been teammates for a long time," he added, noting that it made for a natural fit to partner with Shipyard at its brew house at the Sugarloaf Ski Resort.

Three Rivers Whitewater began as a rafting company on the Kennebec River in northern Somerset County in 1997, and runs rafting trips on the Kennebec, Penobscot and Dead rivers, as well as tubing, skydiving, vacation packages and lodging. The company also owns the Boatman's Bar and Grill restaurants in West Forks and Millinocket.

The fact the Shipyard Brew Haus caters to the ski crowd, with Sugarloaf Mountain right outside the window, appealed to Christopher. "Myself and Shipyard and its associated brands have been teammates for a long time," he said.

Courtesy / Three Rivers Whitewater
Courtesy / Three Rivers Whitewater
Joe Christopher, owner of Three Rivers Whitewater and several related outdoor recreation businesses in the Katahdin Region, shown flashing a victory sign, sees his partnership with Shipyard Brewing Co. at its brew haus at the Sugarloaf Inn as a natural extension of his company's diversification.

The partnership with Shipyard is part of Three Rivers' ongoing diversification over the past decade as it's grown from being simply a rafting outfitter to a full-fledged hospitality company, with lodging, restaurants and event spaces.

Discussions about the partnership began last spring, and the restaurant, which is located at the Sugarloaf Inn, opened earlier this month.

"We're very happy to have Joe and his team involved in helping us promote and grow the inn rooms and the Brew Haus experience," Fred Forsley, president of Shipyard Brewing Co., said in a news release announcing the partnership at Sugarloaf.

Enhancing Sugarloaf's appeal

Sugarloaf was ranked No. 15 in Turnkey Vacation Rental's top 30 vacation destinations earlier this month, and opened for the season Nov. 16.

Skiers at the resort in the western Maine town of Carrabassett Valley have plenty to choose from when it comes to places to eat — the Brew Haus, which has been there for 12 years, is joined by 45 North, The Widowmaker Lounge, Bullwinkle's, the Bull Moose Bakery and Café, as well as food trucks — and that's just what's listed on the resort's website.

A new restaurant, Hunker Down, also opened just before Thanksgiving where long-time mountain pub Gepetto's had been in Village West. Owners Jason Loring and Mike Fraser own several restaurants both together and separately, mostly in the Portland area, including Nosh, Slab, Roma, Rhum, Bramhall and Big Jay's Chicken. The seasonal restaurant has craft beer from Bissell Brothers and the Maine Beer Company and serves pub food as well as healthy fare, such as Big Jay's Super Food Salad.

Hunker Down's owners are also opening Wax On/Wax Off (yes, it's "Karate Kid"-themed), as a more intimate apres ski gathering place, featuring sushi and burritos, next door. That restaurant will open around Christmas.

Building year-round tourism

A lot goes on at Sugarloaf during the ski season, and Christopher said one of the Shipyard Brew Haus's goals is to focus on the off season by becoming a wedding and event venue.

"It's one of the most beautiful settings in Maine," he said.

The restaurant features Shipyard's craft beers as well as a more locally sourced menu that's "built around the fun of being outside," he said. It's a menu that has ahi tuna, but also Maine lobster macaroni and cheese. The brew haus also added a Sunday brunch that includes food like petit filet and lobster carbonara.

Christopher said the Sunday brunch is part of a more all-around approach to those visiting Sugarloaf. "They've skied all day Saturday, and, heading home Sunday, they can sit down to a nice meal before they go," he said.

But he said they're also hoping the restaurant and brunch will appeal to non-skiers.

The partnership also "is a good opportunity for friends of Shipyard and guests of Three Rivers to get together," he said. "It rounds things up.

"The year-round thing is growing rapidly, and we want to be a part of that," he said.

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