Maine Irish Heritage Trail

South Portland Site Number 7
by Matthew Jude Barker

McGlinchey Brewery Site
Corner of Highland Avenue and Ocean Street
South Portland, Maine

McGlinchey Brewery SiteThe locally famous McGlinchy brothers James and Patrick, along with their brother-in-law John Bradley, purchased an extensive brewery in November 1858 in Cape Elizabeth from Gibbs and Robinson (who had erected the brewery in 1857), located a few hundred yards from the intersection of what is now Highland Avenue and Ocean Street (then known as Brewery Road and Barren Hill Road). John Bradley, who resided on Ocean House Road (now Ocean Street), also operated a brickyard nearby.

The brewery, known as the Forest City Brewery, was officially established on November 8, 1858 and the McGlinchys hired a brewer from Taylor & Sons' Brewery, Albany, New York, to superintend their business. An advertisement in the Eastern Argus of February 4, 1860 stated that they manufactured and sold pale and amber ale and that Doctor Augustus A. Hayes, state assayer of Massachusetts, subjected their product to a chemical analysis and reached the conclusion that their product compared favorably with the best ales (both domestic and foreign). Hayes declared that their beer was "free of acid" and "a perfect beverage as any the market offers." He was one of the first to design a system to test drinking water for any impurities.

By 1861 John Bradley was listed as the proprietor of the brewery, with a depot located at 17 York Street in Portland. James and Patrick opened another brewery, Casco Brewery, in January 1861 opposite the Portland Company's Works and opened wholesale depots at 89 Commercial Street and 140 Fore Street. From the early 1860s until about 1869, John Bradley continued the Cape Elizabeth brewery, when Englishman John Harrison took over. Bradley opened a smaller brewery at 17 York Street. While the McGlinchys and Bradley still owned the Forest City Brewery, they seemed to have leased it to Harrison briefly and then by 1871 they had leased it to local Irishman James McLaughlin (1825-1878) and one Robert B. Henry. Considering the extreme troubles the brothers and their in-law had had with the law since the late 1840s, they probably decided being silent partners was more in their interest. While they made the ale locally, they had to sell it in New Hampshire and Massachusetts for the most part. Since the enactment of Neal Dow's "Maine Law" (the first prohibition law in the country) in 1851, they had paid out thousands of dollars in fines for selling booze on the sly in Portland.

In 1871 McLaughlin and Henry advertised for 10,000 bushels of barley for their brewery. As local historian William B. Jordan wrote in his history of Cape Elizabeth, the spent grain from the brewery was "sold locally as cattle feed and was considered by many to greatly enhance the flavor of the milk" (A History of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, 1965). By 1873, James McLaughlin had gone into the flour and corn business and Robert B. Henry had apparently left for greener pastures. For many years in the 1870s James Kelleher, an Irish emigrant, was the overseer and head brewer of the brewery. In the final days of the brewery, the buildings were converted into a canning factory (early 1880s). The entire complex burned to the ground in September 1883. The photo above is what the area looks like today (2010).

RELATED SITES: James McGlinchey House, Gorham's Corner

Acknowledgements by Matthew Jude Barker

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