Underwriter Profile: Gritty McDuff's Brew Pub & Restaurant
Richard Pfeffer from Gritty McDuff's Brew Pub & Restaurant
By Cathy Wheelden
"At first I didn't like the name," says Richard Pfeffer, co-founder of Gritty McDuff's Brew Pub & Restaurant. Gritty's, as it is affectionately known, is arguably the most-recognized brew pub in the state of Maine. A world-renowned microbrewery, Gritty's boasts several internationally recognized ales. Their ales can be bought in many stores across New England and can be easily spotted by their recognizable "friendly bartender" logo. Originating in Portland, Gritty's now has two locations, one in Portland's Old Port and the other on the outlet strip in Freeport. Gritty's opened in Portland in 1988 when Pfeffer decided to leave his life as a stock broker for the rewarding world of small business ownership. Pfeffer began the business with three partners: Ed Stebbins, William Stebbins, and Jon Soule. The partners had a common goal; to create a true, English-style pub serving outstanding pub ales and great food. "Gritty's was the first brewery in Maine since the Age of Prohibition" Pfeffer tells us with a well-deserved smile and they have gone on to win several of Chicago's Real Ale competitions. Gritty's also has the prestigious honor of appearing as a Featured International Selection at the Great British Beer Festival.
The Portland pub can be found at the bottom of Exchange St. nestled between a cigar store and a toyshop. Upon setting foot on the creaky wood floor inside one has the sense of an authentic, centuries old business. With what Pfeffer characterizes as a "down-to-earth" staff and a rustic wood and brick interior, people have no trouble settling right in. Patrons are accustomed to Gritty's seasonal ales, the famous "Mug Wall" which contains 3,000+ mugs, and the aesthetically pleasing outdoor seating.
The Freeport pub has a totally different, yet "still Gritty's", appeal. One distinction is that this Gritty's has twice the seating and brewing capacity as its Portland counterpart. Another striking difference is the white walls with unique French scenery painted only in green. With its ample seating and small gift shop, the Freeport Gritty's has more of a family restaurant feel. But the camaraderie between staff and patrons, long wooden tables, and the familiar micro-brewed ales are true Gritty's style.
In keeping with a Maine-based feel, Gritty's welcomes local bands to play in a cozy corner of the bustling Portland location. Matt Robbins, WMPG's own former host of the rockabilly program "Get Hot Or Go Home!", has played at Gritty's with his band King Memphis. WMPG first caught Pfeffer's attention in 1995 when he tuned into our Blues Program "Evenin' Sun". A regular listener himself, Pfeffer says that, "(WMPG) listeners are probably open-minded, educated, and hand-crafted."
With Pfeffer's love of music and keen sense of duty for community involvement, underwriting for WMPG seemed to be the next natural step. Along with monetary donations, Gritty's is a regular food contributor to events such as Fat Tuesday, WMPG's annual Mardi Gras gumbo-making festival and open house. Gumbo making, Gritty's style, is a sometimes costly and time-consuming process. Two days in the making, Gritty's gumbo is filled with seafood, which has been known to contain whole crawfish. Gritty's distinctly downeast contribution has become a staple to those who attend Fat Tuesday.
WMPG is an important avenue through which USM can connect to, and help raise awareness of, the business community. Gritty's is a strong proponent of the symbiotic relationship between community and small business. Involvement with the local university keeps Gritty's connected to community issues. "I'm happy to support WMPG and USM as much as I can," says Pfeffer. In a world where so many businesses are out to use students for cheap labor and a fast dollar, Gritty's takes an open-minded view. Pfeffer sees college students as integral members of the community who are responsible contributors. The students' ideas, values, and views are worth consideration. WMPG's Mission includes the statement: To participate in and extend USM's community service, education, and outreach goals. Gritty's shares in WMPG's sense of duty. As Pfeffer so accurately put it, "Whatever you give to the community will come back to you".