When Andrew Hazen started Andrew's Brewing Co. in 1992 there were — quite literally — a handful of small breweries operating in Maine. Lincolnville-based Andrew's Brewing Co. bears Maine Small Brewer number five because they were just the fifth small brewery to register with the Maine Brewers' Guild, which was established in 1986, said Andrew Hazen.

According to the Maine Brewers' Guild website, the state of Maine now boasts more than 20 registered breweries and the Maine Beer Trail is an increasingly popular attraction, with 25 breweries — including Andrew's — listed in the brochure. The website states that Maine was at "the forefront of the craft brew movement," which has since grown popular nationwide.

Andrew Hazen, 68, now works alongside his son, Ben, 37, to brew a selection of trademark beers and a rotation of seasonal brews. The father and son explained the slower winter months provide them with time to be creative.

"We're trying to do a single specialty beer in the winter," Ben Hazen said. Presently that beer is an aromatic, amber-colored brew that Ben Hazen referred to as an "experimental Scotch ale."

The Hazens explained that they're brewing the experimental beers in "pilot batches" which are about half the size of a standard, 341-gallon batch. They don't bottle the specialty beers, and instead hope to offer refillable growlers in the future.

The entire brewing process, beginning with milling the grain used in beer-making, is done on site at the small brewery, which is attached to Andrew Hazen's Lincolnville farmhouse. The mill is attached to the ceiling and large bags of grain must be hauled up a flight of stairs before the milling process begins. The mill just cracks the hull of the grain, explained Andrew Hazen; if the grain is made too powdery it will clog the brewing equipment.

About 500 pounds of grain are used in a single batch of Andrew's beer, said the Hazens. After the grain has been used in the brewing process one of two local farmers uses the spent grain as animal feed, so nothing goes to waste, they added.

"We used to compost it — and it made good compost — but it stank, it was just fermenting out in the pile," said Andrew Hazen.

The brewing process requires multiple steps and takes several days, from grinding the grain to conditioning the beer in a two-step fermentation process that lends natural carbonation to the beers produced by Andrew's Brewing Co.

"Our beer is naturally carbonated, we're one of the few that do it," said Andrew Hazen.

Additionally, the creation of beer is time and temperature sensitive, so the brewing process must be monitored closely, said Andrew Hazen. Water from the well at the Hazen farm is used in making the beer — Ben Hazen said the well must be tested periodically. Andrew Hazen added that the brewery's signature beers have been perfected during the past 21 years.

"A lot of this has just been trial and error over the years, in general everything comes out pretty close," said Andrew Hazen of Andrew's Brewing Co.'s beers.

Their beers include Andrew's English Pale Ale, Andrew's Northern Brown Ale, Andrew's Ruby's Pale Ale and Andrew's St. Nick's Porter along with several seasonal offerings, and are all 6.1 percent alcohol or less. Andrew Hazen said the moderate alcohol content of the beers Andrew's produces makes them "session beers," meaning beers that can be enjoyed over a period of time rather than being overwhelmingly alcoholic.

Ben Hazen began working with his father after serving in the military. The two co-own the brewery and work side-by-side on a daily basis. Ben Hazen, who also is assistant fire chief in Lincolnville, said he periodically gets called to fires while performing his duties at the brewery but if his dad happens to be on hand, he generally takes over brewing duties.

"We work pretty well together," said Ben Hazen, adding he has been working with his father for the better part of a decade, though he didn't immediately know that he wanted to take over the brewery.

"Being self-employed, sometimes you have your freedom and sometimes you don't. Beer doesn't take a vacation, but it's a good business," Ben Hazen said.

While Andrew's Brewing Co. uses the state's largest distributor, Pine State, they also sell beer by the keg and case straight from the brewery. They don't officially offer tours but maintain regular hours of operation for customers. Because it's just Ben and Andrew Hazen working at the brewery — and much of what they do is time sensitive — the opportunity for a tour mostly depends on how busy they are when an interested party shows up.

"We won't throw you out if you find us," said Andrew Hazen with a smile.

Ben Hazen explained they routinely hand out samples and bumper stickers when they're too busy to show passersby around the brewery.

"As long as they leave smiling," said the elder Hazen of visitors, smiling once again himself.

A fairly large amount of Andrew's beer is sold on tap at restaurants in Lincolnville Beach every summer, Andrew Hazen explained.

"We probably sell more beer down at Lincolnville Beach in the summer than anywhere, there's a lot of beer that goes through the beach," he said.

He noted Darby's in Belfast was Andrew's first account and remains one of their best customers.

Andrew Hazen said he began his brewery with a half-barrel system and soon upgraded to a 4.5 barrel system. Presently the brewery has an 11-barrel system in place.

"I started too small and we never had enough [beer]," Andrew Hazen said.

In addition to brewing equipment, the Hazens also bottle and label the beer on site. Andrew Hazen explained that orders for bottles, six-pack-holders and labels all have a minimum and Andrew's Brewing Co. is frequently able to share supply orders with other Maine breweries including Sebago Brewing Co. and Shipyard Brewing Co.

Andrew Hazen recalls the early days of hand-labeling beer bottles on Sunday mornings with his wife Judie's help. While the addition of bottling and labeling machines has helped make the process far less laborious, both father and son expressed their disdain for bottling days, which occur about once a week during the winter and twice weekly in the summer.

"I guarantee there's no brewer in the world that likes bottling days," said Andrew Hazen.

As one of the pioneers of Maine craft beer brewing, Andrew Hazen has had an opportunity to taste and judge numerous beer competitions. He said people often ask him to give his input on their homemade beer and he tries to do so honestly. He has seen the craft beer industry grow considerably since he began Andrew's more than two decades ago.

"It's basically a home brewing operation going wild," Andrew Hazen said of his successful brewery.

Andrew's Brewing Co. is among the 12 breweries that will participate in the Down the Chute Beer and Wine Tasting Challenge at The Camden Snow Bowl during the 23rd annual National Toboggan Championships on Feb. 8.

Courier Publications reporter Jenna Lookner can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at jlookner@courierpublicationsllc.com.