Ask any brewer, from the big brand brewmasters to the people with 5-gallon carboys fermenting in their garage, about the most important ingredient in beer and they'll tell you the same thing: it's the water. If that's the case then, there must be something truly special in Maine's H2O supply because the state has quickly become a craft beer hotspot. One of our favorites is Mast Landing Brewing Company, which tapped its first keg in Westbrook back in 2015. They've got everything a beer fan could ask for, from a lineup of hop-forward IPAs to mellow, malty milk stouts. And some of the best labels in the business, thanks in large part to their VP of Brand Strategy, and co-owner, Parker Olen.
Born and raised in Maine, Parker is the creative lead for the company and it's obvious to see how growing up here influences his design work at Mast Landing.
"I spent a lot of my childhood and my early life on the water with my family," he told us. "Some of my earliest memories are of looking out over the front of the boat in the middle of the ocean, with no end in sight. To this day, being on the water and on a boat is one of my favorite things."
The label for the Neon Sails IPA is a perfect example of how Parker brings his Maine experience to life through design. At first glance, it's an abstract representation of boats cruising along the water. But take a look up from the beer and gaze out over the coast and you'll see that same image up and down the shoreline. There's plenty of Maine in Parker's designs because he feels such a close connection to the area.
When the opportunity arose to come back home and co-own a brewery with his friends, Parker knew it was something he couldn't pass up, even if his background was in design, rather than brewing. "Knowing the team that we had in place and what we were bringing to the table, it was hard to imagine a way that Mast Landing would not be successful," he said.
Being able to live and work in a place where he felt at home was also a big factor in the decision to become a co-owner. "Maine is a phenomenal place to live and a phenomenal place to work. So when my partners and I all moved back after exploring other parts of the country, it was a no-brainer to open Mast Landing right where we wanted to be and where we want to be for the rest of our lives."
It's not easy building a business from the ground up, but for Parker it allows him to flex his creative muscles on a daily basis as he continues to develop and evolve Mast Landing's brand. He works closely with the brewing team to make sure their vision for the beer is represented through his designs. "The creative process of Mast Landing is a lot of fun," he said in between sips of his beer. "We talk with the brewers to learn about what they're thinking about—what style of beer, how it's going to taste, is it going to be bright, is it going to be tropical. And then we like to use that information to name the beer, and then create a design that's going to represent what's inside the can, on the outside, before someone even tastes it."
One of the best perks of his job—besides the whole running-a-brewery-with-your-buddies thing—is that there's always something new on the horizon. Every time a new beer launches, which is often for this adventurous and ambitious group, Parker can draw on past experiences to give each brew a unique identity, putting a little of himself on every can.
His current favorite Mast Landing offering is their recently-released Sanctuary IPA, which was brewed specifically for the opening of their new Freeport location. Big and bold, with four different hops and plenty of juicy notes, Parker summed it up as a "very balanced IPA. It hits all the marks for me."
Next on tap for Mast Landing is expanding the availability of their beer—which currently can be found up and down the East Coast—to fans all across the country. More cans in hands means people can enjoy a taste of Maine beer culture wherever they call home. And it means Parker can continue to tell his story on each label he designs.
"If someone asks me what my dream job is, I would say I have it. I'm able to be creative and own a brewery, as well as live in one of the best places on earth." he said. "Every day I wake up, and I look at my life, and see my family, and come to work, and know that I am living my dream job."
That's something we'll raise a glass, or a can, to any day.