BELFAST — Rep. Jared Golden, D-2nd District, came to Belfast Aug. 26 to meet with the owners of Marshall Wharf Brewing Co. to discuss ways to cut red tape for Maine’s craft brewing industry and to gain information on how small business regulations are affecting brewers in the state.

Accompanying Golden was Louie Luchini, the New England Region advocate for the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Golden and Luchini spoke with Marshall Wharf Brewing Co. owners Daniel Waldron and Kathleen Dunckel for about an hour along the Belfast waterfront about a variety of issues.

Golden asked Waldron how the business was doing, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and whether the business availed itself of any federal funds to help keep it afloat during the pandemic.

Waldron informed the congressman that he and Dunckel purchased the business just before the onset of COVID in early 2020, and so they effectively ran into the full brunt of the pandemic, but they were able to be successful during the period.

Waldron said the business did receive funds through the federal government’s Payment Protection Program.

“It really saved us,” Waldron said, “because we had a lot of startup costs.”

Through the COVID pandemic, Waldron said his business was luckier than others in that they did not have to lay off any staff and in fact have continued to expand and grow their business.

Golden said staff retention was one of the primary goals of the PPP program, stating that one of the fears was that if employees left a business they may never come back.

Dunckel said the business also was able to get an Economic Injury Disaster Loan through the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2021, which further helped the business.

Waldron and Dunckel said their business was also helped by the public support they have received from the city of Belfast and from local residents.

Waldron said during points of the pandemic, people were thrilled to have a place in town they could go. The business’ location on the waterfront makes it a prime location for patrons.

Luchini spoke with Waldron and Dunckel about efforts at not only the national level, but also the state level to better level the playing field for local brewers, especially with respect to larger national distributors.

Waldron said that while the focus of the business is on the local experience of patrons at the establishment, the business also distributes brewed beer in cans for outside consumption. Some of the discussion during the meeting was on the aspect of distribution networks and how to better streamline the process for local brewers.

In a press release following the meeting, Golden said, “Across Maine, breweries are helping many rural communities revitalize downtowns, create jobs, and provide community gathering places, in addition to an impact of hundreds of millions of dollars on Maine’s economy.”

Marshall Wharf Brewing, though, has done more than just make those contributions mentioned by Golden. Dunckel made it clear that the business also sources a lot of other local businesses in Belfast, including local restaurants and food trucks, with their beer and uses Maine-based businesses for ingredients in the brewing process where they can.

For instance, the couple referenced using Buck Farms in Mapleton for some of their malts used in brewing beer as just one of the examples of working with other Maine businesses to help grow the industry. Golden mentioned that the farm in fact added and changed some of the crops it was producing in order to meet the growing needs of Maine breweries.

After the meeting, Golden said one of the reasons he wanted to talk to local brewers at this time was not only to form connections with those in the industry, but also to get input from brewers about possible pending regulations in the industry.