South Gardiner distiller puts skills and flavors of Maine on the line

Jene J. Long

Bryan Hamner of Gardiner speaks to the digital camera on the set of the Discovery Channel show “Moonshiners: Grasp Distiller” in Tennessee. The episode Hamner was highlighted in aired Wednesday evening and is obtainable to stream on Discovery+. Photograph courtesy of Steve Townley

SOUTH GARDINER — Bryan Hamner hadn’t been distilling spirits all that prolonged when he came throughout an software on the internet to appear as a contestant on the Tv set display “Moonshiners: Grasp Distiller.”

“I used for it, just on a whim,” Hamner, who life in South Gardiner, claimed lately. “I just figured I’d toss my title in the hat.”

Through Wednesday’s episode, “Breakfast Booze,” Hamner, 36, stepped absent the winner of the breakfast spirit problem.

In addition to earning bragging rights, his winning concoction — which he’s contacting Blueberry Bourbon Pancakes — will be produced by Sugarlands Distilling Co. It will be on sale for a constrained time in Tennessee, exactly where the show is created.

“It was a enjoyable expertise,” Hamner claimed. “I’d do it all over again if I could.”

Outside Maine, admirers who check out the Discovery Channel clearly show may possibly be much more acquainted with the state’s beers. But Maine is home to a large variety of makers which includes the state’s 35 lively licensed distilleries, which generate whiskeys, gins, vodkas, rums and a wide variety of other spirits applying Maine elements in a lot of circumstances.


“We have a long tradition of pretty talented makers, and the distilling business is no various,” Ned Wight mentioned. Wight is the president of the Maine Distillers Guild and president and distiller at New England Distilling in Portland.

“Many of our distillers in the condition have received both nationwide and global awards for their spirits,” Wight stated.

Hamner, who distills equally as a pastime and professionally, is effective at Maine Craft Distilling in Portland.

His path to the competition was neither immediate nor small.

A amount of months handed right before he was contacted for a interview. When selected, he traveled to Tennessee in excess of the winter season to compete versus two other distillers.

The distilling system begins with making a mash, which ferments for about five times, offering contestants some down time. Hamner mentioned he employed that time to tour regional distilleries in the Gatlinburg and Sevierville locations of Tennessee.


Bryan Hamner of Gardiner raises a glass on the set of the Discovery Channel demonstrate “Moonshiners: Grasp Distiller” in Tennessee. In an episode that aired Wednesday, Hamner conquer two other contestants who were being tasked with crafting a breakfast-affected spirit. Photo courtesy of Steve Townley

The two downsides were being that his spouse was property in South Gardiner making an attempt to heat their house with wood, and he arrived down with COVID-19, which halted filming for a although. Due to the fact he could not fly household, he experienced to hire a automobile and generate just about 1,100 miles household, ahead of returning to Tennessee to finish the episode.

Hamner mentioned all the substances he utilized through the contest ended up from Maine other than for the corn.

He designed a blueberry buckwheat whiskey and added some maple syrup that he had produced and aged in an oak barrel. The buckwheat is a nod to ployes, griddle cakes designed from buckwheat flour that are component of French-Acadian cooking in Maine and japanese Canada.

“I manufactured it a issue to do that,” he reported. “I believe I’ll make Maine very pleased if they watch me.”

Even though he had made equally whiskey and a blueberry liquor before, this was the to start with time he mixed them in this way.


The other rivals manufactured a liquor from doughnuts and a Bloody Mary-flavored rum.

Very long in advance of he commenced distilling, Hamner mentioned he’d been a admirer of “Moonshiners,” and has watched the demonstrate considering that it started out airing. When “Moonshiners: Master Distiller” was spun off, he started off seeing that, way too.

“I obtained to meet all these fellas I have been watching on Television for yrs,” he said. “So that was actually cool.”

He also was ready to fulfill other folks who distill as a interest and was in a position to select their brains and share some understanding.

Hamner experienced been a residence brewer when he begun performing at the Blue Ox Malthouse in Lisbon Falls. After a couple of several years, he was promoted to manager in advance of relocating to Baxter Brewing Co. in Lewiston, in which he worked as a brewer on the night change.

Simply because he wished to operate times, he went to do the job for Maine Craft Distilling as a canning line supervisor until eventually the distiller place he currently retains opened up.

“When I was carrying out (brewing) as a task, I variety of acquired bored with beer, so I started out distilling on the aspect rather of brewing beer at property,” he stated.


Even though operating at Baxter, Hamner experienced access to limited cans — cans that really do not fulfill excellent management and are kicked out of the canning line — that go to associates or are trashed.

He identified out that the beer could be utilised to distill, and he started out experimenting with a home made even now he built about two decades in the past with a pressure cooker his brother-in-law gave him.

Now that the present has aired, Hamner explained he’ll keep on working at Maine Craft Distilling, but he’s hoping he can ultimately start off creating his personal recipes, possibly by way of a contract with a distillery.

“Maybe use it as a launching pad to more my distilling vocation,” he reported.

The episode Hamner is in can be streamed on Discovery+.


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