Brewer Stewart Mason is a familiar face around Bethel. When he’s working at the Sunday River Brewpub, he’s often called out by patrons who want to chat about the beer, the ski conditions, anything. Mason began as a home brewer in college and in 1994 landed a job at the former Commonwealth Brewery in Boston. There he worked under Tod Mott, now the brewmaster at the Portsmouth Brewery in New Hampshire. Mott is best known as the brewer of Kate the Great Imperial Stout, one of the most sought-after beers in the world.

Mason came to Sunday River Brewery in 1997 and was involved when the brewery expanded to a packaging brewery and a brew pub in Portland under the name Stone Coast. When Stone Coast folded in 2008, Mason returned to the Sunday River Brewery, now the only brewer. 

Mason, or “Stoo” as patrons call him, brews a lineup of year-round beers and a rotating menu of seasonal beers. The brewery has bounced back since 2008, and in the spring will expand from a seven-barrel system to a 14-barrel system.

Name: Stewart Mason

Age: 44

What’s your favorite Sunday River beer? My favorite Sunday River beer from the regular lineup is the IPA (India Pale Ale). Just can’t stay away from it.

You brew a lot of special, one-time brews. Are there any that people still ask about? Are there any you regret brewing? I certainly don’t regret brewing any particular beer, however some customers might have regrets for drinking it. People always have a favorite one-off brew and they still ask about them. There is always someone disappointed and someone elated at the release of old or new seasonals. Keep some of the people happy all the time and, well, you know the rest.

What’s your favorite beer from another brewery? My favorite beer is the one in front of me. The selections are so amazing these days, I’d be remorseful to pick a favorite. Plus, you can enjoy any beer for any occasion at any time with proper planning. I’m writing this in the morning so . . . Founders Breakfast Stout might be tasty.

Was it hard to find jobs brewing back then when you started at Commonwealth? Commonwealth was a turnstile for so many future brewers in New England, and I feel blessed to be a part of that. I moved back to Boston from Utah and went to every brewery in the area, filled out applications, and met no one until I hit the Commonwealth. A huge beard filled my vision and it was Tod Mott. He asked if I had won any awards. I said no, that I hadn’t tried to. He called me up later and let me start interning. It was awesome. Back in ’93 everyone was going to Seibel brewing school (the Seibel Institute of Technology) and getting smart. I started seeing the resumes pour in and there I was, the luckiest home brewer in town hoping not to get axed. Tod decided to keep the bird that was in the hand.

Do people in Bethel recognize you as the local brewer outside of work? Bethel is a small town, so yes, people know me as the town brewer. It almost feels like a political appointment.

How have growlers affected the business? Do you get growler-only customers now? Are they making it harder to brew as fast as people empty the kegs? Growlers have changed my schedule a lot. Last winter I had six guest taps on because I couldn’t keep up. Not for long. As a supplier I hate running out of beer because of my appointment, er, job as brewer. I now have a handle on the time frame for beers leaving the premises. Now we just can’t run out of growlers! I am replacing a seven-barrel fermenter for a 14-barrel fermenter this spring. And now I’m selling kegs to the public.

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