The outdoors of Steam Mill Brewing Meira Bienstock

BETHEL — On the outside, Scott Fraser might remind you of Breaking Bad’s Walter White in his early days teaching chemistry. Friendly. Humble. Genius. Then he gets this idea to use his chemistry knowledge for something other than his job…luckily, for Bethel, Fraser wanted to brew beer. What started out as answering chemistry questions for a guy in 1994, turned into he and his best friend opening their own brewery, which is today, an iconic local brewery in Bethel.

So how did this all happen? How does someone just know what the pH levels are supposed to be when brewing beer? How do you find the perfect manager who makes everyone feel welcomed but can also brew beer? Who can make up beer names that’ll have you choking on your beer in laughter while reading this? How do you find a staff during a pandemic? How do you stay open during a pandemic?

Fraser initially went to school for pharmaceuticals. Since 1994, he has been a pharmacist (now pharmacy manager) in Rumford.

“You build a rapport with people,” says Fraser. “I know my customers by name.”

“Around ’94, a man named Jack from Andover came in and was asking me all these really technical chemistry questions, like water chemistry. So I asked Jack, sort of tongue-in-cheek, what are you doing with this information? He said, I make beer at home. I said, Really! I’d like to learn how to make beer. He says, come out and I’ll teach you how to do it. So I went to his house in Andover, and spent an entire day with he and his wife, and he taught me how to make beer. He gave me a lot of our original equipment, I use one piece in the brewery today.”

Jack taught Fraser how to make beer and off Fraser went. He got his best friend, Brent, his former business partner who passed away in 2020, and taught him how to make beer.


“Lives and wives and careers kinda took over, and that took a back seat but we never really forgot how to do it,” continues Fraser.

Fast-forward to 2016. Fraser and Brent are at this tiny brewery in Portland, drinking their milk stouts, having a tour, and they said, we can do this, it’s not out of our wheel-house.

Thus, the dream became reality. The Steam Mill was born, in the actual Steam Mill section of Bethel, hence the name. “Because I had a pharmacy background, I could help him with water chemistry,” Fraser says. “Water is super important for beer. Super important. The water is huge because it’s the largest competent of the beer.”

Meet the Manager

No spark can happen without chemistry; however, people are attracted for a reason. That’s where James Kimball comes into the picture. Kimball is a native Bethel area resident, (Albany), and has been here his whole life, with some exceptions. Indeed, these exceptions are what make Kimball’s brewing and attitude signature. Kimball went to Southern Maine Community College in Portland, got a culinary arts degree, and while in college worked around Portland at multiple restaurants. From there, he worked other bars before he landed himself a job with Discovery Land Company, which is a celebrity-based real estate developer. He’d travel from Idaho to Montana, back and forth, off and on for almost six years. He came back to New England, helping Brent and Scott with anything they needed.

“Coming from Brent’s side of it, it would be Lori, his wife, we talked together, and like, she pretty much wanted me to do it [become the manager],” says Kimball. “And that was really cool. And obviously we’re family.”


In fact, the entire business is family-owned. Fraser’s wife and daughter work at Steam Mill Brewery, as well as James’ sister and brother-in-law.

With Kimball’s hospitality experience, he brings the big smile that brightens up your day when grabbing a beer. With his experience as a bartender, he’s already been immersed in the brewing process so that transition was smooth. With his experience traveling, he has a vast imagination. When discussing the name for the new beer, currently know as Jeepah 19, Kimball and Fraser begin laughing.

“I’m going into songs… Beyonce themes, I’ve narrowed them to Naughty Girl, I just figured, like ‘I’d take a naughty,’ people shorten a lot,” laughs Kimball excitedly.

He also received a text from someone saying it should be called, “XO.” (Another Beyonce song.)

“Or Daddy Lessons, that’s off her new album, I was just going to say, Daddy Issues,” he laughs heartily. “It’s cool because we have the power to do that. We have to send it in and they approve it.”

Steam Mill Brewing is still going strong, opening up a new location at 96 Sunday River, with outdoor seating again as well. The outdoor seating has been going strong since the pandemic, so they are keeping with it. Steam Mill Brewing was able to stay open through the entirety of it because it had outdoor seating where customers could social distance. There have been no COVID outbreaks traced back to Steam Mill Brewing from the pandemic, Fraser says.

Since Fraser and Kimball are both locals, they want to keep it a local space with a relaxing, low-key vibe. As a brewery, they help out local organizations by hosting an afternoon for them in the brewery, or designing beer cans for them to help raise money, or helping however they can.

“We have some good relationships with people, and you don’t want to ruin that, you know, we’re trying to help them out too,” Kimball finishes.

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