A New Brewery Blossoms in Portland’s East Bayside
Belleflower Brewing Company has set roots in the Maine beer scene with an experimental spirit and welcoming tasting room.
Belleflower Brewing Company pulses beneath the afternoon summer sun. Freshly constructed picnic tables stretch across the outdoor beer garden. Twentysomething patrons sip hazy ales and laugh amid the hip industrial vibe of the surrounding East Bayside neighborhood. A whimsical floral mural spirals on the brick wall of the brewery as if looping in time to the Lake Street Dive song vibrating from the outdoor speakers. Although Belleflower Brewing has been open only since the end of March, it has the feel of a permanent fixture in one of Portland’s most heralded beer districts.
Within minutes of settling at a picnic table to chat with two of the brewery’s owners, Nick Bonadies and Zach Page, I start to see how a brewery this new can already feel so fully established.
Bonadies and Page first met in 2012 at an open call for volunteers to help build what would become one of New England’s most well-respected breweries: Trillium Brewing Company. Hungry to be part of the bourgeoning craft beer industry, they donned work clothes and spent their free time helping Trillium owner J.C. Tetreault build out his cozy brewery on Congress Street in Boston. “Helping to get Trillium off the ground was a huge learning experience,” explains the bearded, easy-talking Bonadies. “But even back then, I knew I wanted to start my own brewery.”
When Trillium opened in 2013, Page abandoned his graduate studies at Brown University to brew professionally under Adam Goodwin, Trillium’s first head brewer. Bonadies, although eager to work in the beer industry, remained at his job as an IT director for an ad agency. It was during this time that Bonadies made his first attempt to open a brewery. “In 2014 I bought tanks and leased a space in central Connecticut,” he says. “I was ready to make it happen.” But as fate would have it, his wife was accepted into a graduate program, which meant the couple would have to live apart for two years if he remained in Connecticut. He made the hard decision to sell off the brewing equipment and break his lease. Shortly after, he returned to Trillium as the director of development, reuniting with Page, who by then had risen to the position of director of brewing operations.
Trillium swiftly dominated the regional craft beer scene. Immediately lauded for its lush, juicy IPAs and chewy, well-balanced stouts, Trillium made a big noise from its cramped tasting room. Both Bonadies and Page were integral players in the brewery’s early success. In their respective roles at Trillium, Bonadies and Page helped the brewery scale up at a breakneck pace to an expansive brewery in Canton, Massachusetts, while opening satellite tasting rooms and restaurants, including Trillium Fenway, a half-mile walk from the legendary baseball stadium.
With a six-month-old and a desire to move out of Boston, Page, along with his wife and Belleflower co-owner, Melissa, decided to make the move to Portland. “We’d been visiting the city for years and loved it,” the cerebral Page explains. In 2018 he left his position at the thriving Trillium Brewing Company and came to the Forest City, where his talents quickly landed him a job at Lone Pine Brewing Company, where he helped the brewery expand production at its new location in Gorham.
Bonadies remained in his position at Trillium until April 2020, when he was laid off due to the arrival of the global pandemic. “I spent that first month sulking around my apartment before I finally started looking for another brewing opportunity,” he says. Still pained by his sudden departure from Trillium, he came across a post on the Massachusetts Brewers Guild message board that caught his eye. Brewery Extrava, a shuttered brewery in Portland, was for sale. Although it wasn’t yet officially on the market, Bonadies made plans to visit the location.
“I ran the numbers and knew I could make it work. But I also knew that if I was opening a brewery in East Bayside, I had to make great beer right away,” Bonadies explains. Home to a cluster of breweries, distilleries, kombucha producers, a winery, and a pair of coffee roasters, East Bayside is a world-class fermentation quarter. Bonadies understood from the get-go that his beer needed to meet the high expectations patrons have when they visit this neighborhood. So he reached out to his longtime friend. “Last August I wasn’t expecting a text from Nick saying, ‘You want to start a brewery?’” Page laughs. “I texted him right back: ‘Let’s meet tonight.’”
“My voice as a brewer comes from all my professional experience and my own creativity.”
The wind picks up in the urban beer garden; the picnic table umbrellas begin to jostle and rise out of their stands. Bonadies and Page rush from their seats. While they collapse umbrellas to keep them from flying away in the stiff breeze coming off Back Cove, I take in the thoughtfully curated ambiance and the list of finely crafted beers. The owners’ firm footing in East Bayside is not happenstance—it’s built on years of hard-won industry experience. Bonadies credits their early success with purchasing a turnkey brewery without the need for a yearlong build-out, as well as the vital work of Belleflower’s two other principal owners: his wife, Katie, a writer in charge of the brewery’s creative direction, and the aforementioned Melissa, who is developing the brewery’s food programs. Katie and Melissa are also responsible for the brewery’s bright, playful decor.
With the umbrellas secured, I ask how the co-owners would describe the brewing voice they’ve established at Belleflower. “My voice as a brewer comes from all my professional experience and my own creativity,” says Page, who is head brewer. Barn Hex, the juicy double IPA I’m sipping, backs up this statement. A New England–style IPA, it has the silky mouthfeel of a Trillium ale while the big citrus notes are reminiscent of a Lone Pine double IPA. But the flavors aren’t imitating those breweries; there’s a unique undercurrent that speaks to Page and Bonadies’s vision at Belleflower Brewing.
At the core of this vision is the desire to continually take risks. In the short time since they opened the brewery, Page and Bonadies have released 25 different beers, including Faerie Offering, a fruited sour with blackberries; Folk Magic, an IPA brewed with local honey from Backwoods Bee Farm in Windham; and an iteration of Secret Clubhouse Imperial Stout made with coffee and cinnamon. Bonadies says patrons have responded positively to this experimental spirit, as evidenced by the steadily packed tasting room and sales that have exceeded the owners’ expectations.
Now that their dream of starting a brewery has come to fruition nearly ten years after they first met, Bonadies and Page see Belleflower Brewing as a playground for their creativity. “When people come here I want them to trust us like they trust their favorite chef,” Page muses. “The menu will change, but trust that the beer will always be good.” If their first months in operation are a harbinger of what’s to come from this Cove Street brewery, beer lovers will be taking that trust fall into Belleflower’s apt arms for years to come.
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