Beneath the Beer

Kai Smith creates beer coasters from Maine’s natural resources, for Maine breweries and beyond.

One day, Kai Smith was reading about beer coasters. He had a small collection of unique finds, but he never gave the product much thought before. Beer coasters, known as beer mats in England, have a relatively basic makeup (paperboard and tissue paper), and they haven’t evolved much since their creation in the late 1880s. After learning how they’re made, Smith thought: “This could be done here in Maine.”

Smith felt that, with many Maine companies placing a large focus on sustainability and local brand identity, creating a coaster from the state’s natural resources was completely viable. With the help of the University of Maine Process Development Center in Orono and Maine Technology Institute, Smith developed a prototype using wood pulp and spent grain from local breweries, and he founded Maine Coasters and Bio-Boards. Smith is in the pre-commercial trial phase, and a number of breweries, including Allagash Brewing Company, Maine Beer Company, Rising Tide Brewing, and Shipyard Brewing Company, have been given prototypes for market research. In 2018 Anheuser-Busch approached him for prototypes. “I’m looking for a successful trial this spring that will allow me to get a large number of coasters into the marketplace,” he says. Roughly 90 percent of Smith’s efforts have been focused on product development, but in a few years his coasters could be beneath your beer. But how can you tell? Easy, Smith says. “You can see and smell the spent grain in our coasters.”

Share The Inspiration