MONHEGAN — Since opening for business at the beginning of summer, Monhegan Brewing Company has been working hard to brew beer fast enough to meet high demand.

“I would say every brewery has problems and our problems are the best possible problems to have,” co-owner Matt Weber said during a recent visit.

The Monhegan Brewing Company (MBC) was founded a year and a half ago by Weber, his wife Mary, and his father-in-law Danny McGovern.

McGovern has worked as a master brewer for 20 years, and he’s still affiliated with Marshall Wharf Brewing Company. MBC is his fourth brewery.

“This is our baby,” McGovern said of MBC. “We’ve got to take care of it.”

Weber also lobsters from the island, and the brewery is located in a building he planned to use as a lobster shop.

“I mean, we really don’t have enough room, but we can make it work. It’s pretty cramped,” he said. “But we thought that it seemed like a good time for the island to have something new. It seemed like a brewery would be a successful business with the way that craft beer is exploding in the country right now.”

The state changed its regulations about breweries a few years ago, Weber added, and are now allowed to have tasting rooms and sell beer on site, which is a valuable source of cash flow for a small brewery. MBC keeps what it has in stock on draft in their tasting room.

With the popularity of the brewery, both McGovern and Weber hope to expand and add more fermentation space. The business already expanded once this summer, with new equipment and a new tasting room.

“We’re not expanding for expansion’s sake,” Weber said, “but at the same time, I think there’s a way for us, out here, to maximize where we’re at and how we do business.”

The next big project is an English pale ale to celebrate Monhegan’s quadricentennial this year, the 400th since Englishman Captain John Smith set up a colony on the island.

McGovern talked to a British brewer and learned that the English only started using hops 250 years ago. Before that, they used anything bitter, from spruce tips to vegetables.

“He said, ‘You really don’t want to make anything they made 400 years ago,’ so I said, ‘Perfect, we’ll make a pale ale,'” McGovern said.

MBC brews a range of ales, from its stout-colored Dead Man’s Cove Black IPA to an orange seasonal Citrus Kolsch.

The brewing process starts on the second floor on the brew deck, where malted barley is milled through a pipe into the mash “tun,” an open-topped tank on the ground floor. In the tun, the grain is soaked in hot water, drawn from a local well, to release wort, a sugary liquid.

The wort is transferred to a kettle where it is boiled for an hour or two. Hops is added at regular intervals to the liquid as it boils, and from this point on, any impurity in the kettle or the fermentation tanks can ruin the entire batch.

At MBC, the used mash is shoveled out of the tun and taken by the Monhegan Garden Project, because it makes a good fertilizer.

When the wort and hops are finished boiling, the liquid is rapidly cooled and transferred to a fermentation tank, where yeast turns the sugar into alcohol. After an initial period of fermentation, the beer is transferred to a second tank to age. There, it naturally carbonates.

For the ales that MBC brews, the whole process takes about a week, longer for stronger beer.

While brewing on an island can be a challenge, Weber said supply is less of an issue than making sure they’ve ordered the right amounts.

“Our supply issues are really the same as any other breweries. It’s just one more leg of a trip to get here,” he said. “Where we run into problems is if we miscalculate our hops or our grain and we’re short—in an emergency when you’re brewing you can run down the road to another brewery and get something, but for us there’s very little margin for error.”

Being over 10 miles out to sea hasn’t stopped people from coming to MBC. McGovern said many people plan their trips and hikes around stopping in for a cool beer, and those staying and living on the island often buy growlers of brew to take home with them.

“I really didn’t think it would be this well-received,” he said. “I’m very pleased.”

For more information, visit