It started with an email with the subject line, “This is a crazy idea.” Fortunately, Liz Lovell, the 38-year-old manager of the North Haven Brewing Company, likes crazy.
Lovell and brewers Ben Lovell, her brother, and Jesse Davisson will be leasing and operating the first-floor restaurant space of North Haven’s historic Calderwood Hall building, taking the baton from building owner and original restaurant general manager Cecily Pingree.
Pingree purchased the building in 2012 from Herbie Parsons and converted it from a gift shop, studio, and storage space to three year-round apartments and a now-wildly popular pizza restaurant, which opened for its first season in 2014.
“Post-pandemic, we wanted to lean into the tasting room and provide a space for our community…”
“My intention was to build out the space and make it sustainable and pass the torch to somebody else,” Pingree said. “It feels like it has surpassed anything that I had sort of thought the building or the space could be. The building is thriving, it’s busy, people are in here year-round, the lights are on all the time.”
The time to discuss a transition felt right to Pingree this winter, when she sent Lovell that email.
The North Haven Brewing Company began operating out of Calderwood Hall’s first floor in 2016, with the brewery and a small tasting room opening onto a roped-off courtyard with limited outdoor seating. The business originally included sales to mainland restaurants, but the pandemic helped clarify the brewery’s priorities.
“Post-pandemic, we wanted to lean into the tasting room and provide a space for our community members, our patrons,” Lovell said. “It was so nice of Cecily to say, ‘I’m thinking about transitioning out of the restaurant and making it available but before I spread my net further, I want to check with you guys.’ We were honored that she had enough confidence in us to even think we could take this on.”
North Haven Brewing Company already revitalized one beloved North Haven institution in 2022—Fox Island Printworks. The company was founded on North Haven in 2011 and sold its catalogue of Maine-inspired designs to a mainland company in 2017.
“I was ready for another challenge and somewhere else to take the business, so we also purchased Fox Island Printworks this past year so we could use all of those amazing island designs for our cans and then print T-shirts and things like that we felt were really missing,” Lovell said. “It was a great opportunity to bring back some designs we really love.”
For the brewery and its patrons, as well as devotees of Calderwood Hall’s pizza, the brewery’s expansion into the upstairs space will bring benefits. Lovell said they are looking forward to using the original space exclusively as the production area, while the upstairs restaurant space will serve as their tasting room in the afternoons. Calderwood will still serve pizza and other favorites in the evenings with new kitchen manager Stephanie Brown, an islander with previous Calderwood kitchen experience, at the helm.
“For Cecily to be handing me the kitchen was a huge honor and super humbling,” said Brown. “I love the hall and I love what Jessie and Cecily have done there so much and so to be sort of sworn in as the new generation taking it over is amazing,” said Brown, who accrued additional restaurant experience in Burlington, Vt., after graduating from Champlain College.
Beer aficionados will also have access to expanded outdoor seating, as the brewery’s license will now cover the entire Calderwood lawn.
Year-round island residents can look forward to something special.
“If all the licensing comes in on time, we’re hoping to be open one night a week February to April, then be closed ‘til June,” Lovell said. The off-season menu won’t include pizza but will include other freshly made items. The North Haven Brewing Company’s tasting room is currently open one night each week.
“It’s an important time to have space to connect to our community, have some version of a livelihood, where we don’t need to be having potlucks in our homes to see people,” Pingree said. “We could never figure that out upstairs. The brewery offers up such a better year-round fit.”