What looks like a five-sided flower bud in marigold orange interspersed with teal hop cones sits proudly atop the brewery. Everyone who walks under the door at Belleflower Brewing in Portland, ME, sees this barn hex first.

A form of Pennsylvania Dutch folk art, hexes adorned barns as a cherished symbol of agricultural expression and family heritage.

Belleflower Co-Founder Nick Bonadies’ 200-year-old family farm in New Hampshire had one.

“I’m not one of those people that are like, yeah, we were on the Mayflower … but I’m pretty sure we were laborers in some field since forever,” says Nick, who grew up taking trips to his family’s centuries-old homestead.

belleflower brewing co-founder nick bonadies family farm with the barn and barn hex
Belleflower Brewing Co-Founder Nick Bonadies 200-year-old family farm and barn hex | Photography courtesy of Belleflower Brewing

“It always felt like a magical farm to me,” recalls Nick.

In this enchanting estate, almost a secret garden, if you will, stood an apple tree planted by Nick’s great-great-grandfather (“two greats!” he told me).

“The tree was really easy to climb, so all the kids liked it,” says Nick, who remembers that when the tree started to bloom, all these flowers came out that hung down like little bells. “That became the Belleflower tree.”

In Nick’s memory, that tree and the orchard, specifically, had a “good warm family feeling.” Exactly what Nick, his wife Katie, and co-founders Zach and Melissa Page wanted with Belleflower—their own little homestead.

One that also happens to brew fantastic beer.

At Belleflower, every beer has a meaning, traced back to a memory, a place in time, or a story. When you push open the door, you’ll discover another barn hex. This one a dual-color interwoven stalk of barley sporting flower buds and hop cones. Nick shares that this one means abundance, while the big one above the door stands for “love among family members.”

Much like that interwoven stalk of grain, moments of each of the four owners’ lives weave themselves through every inch of the brewery.

And if the seed started with Nick’s two-century-old family farm, the roots surely sprouted when Nick and Zach joined an email chain with a yet-to-open brewery in Boston called Trillium.

Taking Root at Trillium

belleflower brewing scrugsy hazy new england-style ipa
Photography courtesy of @belleflowerbeer

Both homebrewers in Boston in 2012, Nick and Zach wanted to pursue professional brewing. One day, while reading an article about a soon-to-open brewery, Nick noticed an email address at the end.

[email protected] or something like that,” says Nick, who sent an email into the ether. “I said I’m really interested in getting into professional brewing, and we’d love to help with anything at the brewery. Just let me know, and I’ll be there to work for free.”

J.C. sent a call out to a whole bunch of people who had contacted him.

“The email said to show up at 6 a.m. and bring work gloves,” remembers Nick.

According to Zach, those early days at Trillium were split in two—grunt work and actual brewing.

“There were weekends you’d show up and … we’d be actually building out the construction—getting all the equipment in place, painting walls, building out the taproom, all of that,” he says. When there wasn’t work to do on the space, they’d pilot recipes out of 55-gallon stainless steel drums.

“For a mash tun, we were using a stainless steel bathtub,” laughs Nick, who literally made a false bottom for it out of copper pipes. “It took me half a day to saw everything!”

But the two considered those early days great fun. “We scraped it together the best we could, and it turned out awesome for Trillium,” says Nick, pointing to his partner. “They’re world-renowned and this big company now, in no short part to this fellow right here.”

Trillium’s Number Two and First Open-Air Beer Garden

The grunt work paid off.

Eventually, Trillium hired Zach as their second-ever employee. Working under then-head brewer Adam Goodwin, Zach excelled.

“Basically, he taught me everything on the brewing side in the cellar,” says Zach.

When Goodwin left a year and a half later to start his own brewery—Charles Towne Fermentory—J.C. and Esther offered Zach his position.

“It was a very steep learning curve,” remembers Zach, who grew along with Trillium those first few years.

Although Nick had left Trillium, he came back in 2017, joining the brewery as Vice President of Supply Chain.

One of his first projects as a full-time employee was pitching and writing a proposal for a Trillium beer garden on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. “I think it was the first open-air outdoor beer garden in Boston,” says Nick. “I was pretty proud of that accomplishment.”

But almost like ships passing in the night, as Nick returned, Zach left.

From Beantown to Forest City

belleflower brewing taproom
Photography courtesy of Belleflower Brewing

In 2017, Zach and Melissa had their first kid, Maple, realizing they wanted to transition out of the city. With friends in Portland, the two moved to Forest City, and Zach took a job as Director of Brewing Operations at Lone Pine Brewing Company.

Nick stayed at Trillium, eventually leaving to become his own Director of Operations at Bountiful Farms, a cannabis dispensary. “It was an amazing transition career-wise,” Nick says. “But I was super bored and missed beer a lot.”

One day, while cruising social media, Nick came across a social media post from the executive director of the Massachusetts Brewers Guild.

“She said there’s a Maine brewery for sale. I don’t know anything about it. Here’s the phone number,” recalls Nick. “Two minutes after she posted, I just clicked on the number and called.”

Nick says the person who picked up the phone was perplexed. Apparently, the brewery’s information wasn’t supposed to be public at all. Nick responded plainly, “Well, somebody posted the phone number, and I’m calling, so can I come take a look!”

That was a Thursday.

On Saturday, Nick and Katie drove up to Portland. “We’d never even been to Maine before,” says Katie. “We’re riding to Portland as the kids are asleep in the back of the car, and we had this feeling like this is going to be really good.”

Everything Clicked Immediately

belleflower brewing co-founders nick and katie bonadies and zach and melissa page
Belleflower Brewing Co-Founders Nick and Katie Bonadies (on the left) and Zach and Melissa Page (on the right) | Photography courtesy of Belleflower Brewing

After seeing the space for the first time, Nick says he immediately called Zach with one question: “Hey, man, do you want to open a brewery?”

Melissa, who works as a full-time dietician but helps out at the brewery in her spare time, says from the first couple of phone calls to sitting down together, “[everything] just flowed really well.”

The stars started to align. The pieces began to fall into place. Whatever you want to call it, things just clicked.

Zach and Melissa had two kids; Nick and Katie had two kids.

Zach started in beer, working at Trillium; Nick honed his skills in beer at Trillium.

Zach and Melissa had moved from Boston to Portland; Nick and Katie felt good about moving from Boston to Portland.

Much like Nick answering Trillium’s call in the newspaper led to great things, could his response to a social media post about a brewery for sale do the same?

All these little moments throughout the Bonadies and Pages’ lives slowly, inexorably tied them together, bringing them to Portland to open Belleflower.

A Scrapbook of Stories

belleflower brewing scrugsy hazy ipa
Photography courtesy of @belleflowerbeer

That weekend may have been the first time Nick and Katie visited Maine, but now it’s home.

Walk inside Belleflower, and you aren’t just in a brewery. You’re in Nick, Katie, Zach, and Melissa’s own homestead.

Like turning the pages of a scrapbook, at Belleflower, every beer has a story. And every story now has a beer.

For instance, Belleflower’s first beer, Scrugsy, named after Katie’s mom’s dog.

“She’d go everywhere with him,” says Katie, who never met Scrugsy but says, “When I was growing up, there was this one place that [my mom] would take us to, which was a friend’s family homestead that had these beautiful wild fields of daffodils where Scrugsy is buried.”

Katie grew up with the story of this Malamute or husky (Katie can’t remember exactly which), carrying her mom’s memory with her all these years.

Just like Scrugsy, the beer is “the one we carry with us through everything,” says Nick. “That one is close to us. Scrugsy is our buddy.”

And many others, too. The beer has become the old (yeller) reliable for many folks, becoming one of Belleflower’s most popular beers. “They know it’s going to be good every time,” says Nick.

According to Zach, that beer has been the only one they piloted before scaling up to full batches, testing out three or four dry hop combinations. “We knew, especially for our flagship, it needed to stand out,” he says. “I’m a believer that there is still a lot of room to play and have fun within the New England IPA realm. It doesn’t have to be all Citra and Mosaic, double dry hop, and flaked oats.”

For Scrugsy, Zach included a 70/30 split of Enigma to BRU-1. “That combination of a little bit of white grape and a little bit of pineapple definitely stands out in the IPA realm on the first sniff,” he says. To the point where he says the beer can even be a little divisive. “People are used to very tropical-forward flavors in New England IPAs,” he says. “It has a touch of that but more depth, too.”

Whether the first beer or the 119th, that’s the thread to pull on at Belleflower. There’s always something just a little bit deeper to unravel. Something just below the surface that will uncover even more roots if you dare to sift. Around every corner is another beer with something to tell you.

When the Early Stars All Align

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Photography courtesy of Belleflower Brewing

You could come to Belleflower, just order a Scrugsy, drink it, and be satisfied. But you’d be missing what’s right in front of you—human connection and moments that become memories.

Melissa says with everything they do at Belleflower, Katie always draws them back to “Okay, but what’s the story?” she says.

“It sounds super cheesy… but when I think about the beers we make, I always try to associate it with a deeper feeling because that’s more tangible to people,” Nick says. “It’s a way to connect with somebody over liquid in a glass.”

Whenever he smells passionfruit in a beer, Nick thinks about walking with Katie on the Hanakapi’ai Falls Trail for their honeymoon in Kauai.

“We took this insane hike through a tropical rainforest that we were not prepared for,” recounts Nick. “Basically, there was passion fruit laying all over the ground, rotting.”

The fruit gave off a particular smell. Not bad. But whenever Nick gets a similar whiff, he thinks of that hike in Hawaii.

“If it doesn’t mean anything to you, why should it mean anything to anybody else?” asks Nick.

Katie, who also runs an art studio in Portland, chips in, “Bringing in a specific memory for us connects us to that universal human experience,” she explains. “The truth of feeling that experience.”

That’s exactly what happens with Early Appearance of Stars, Belleflower’s West Coast IPA.

“When I tried it, I was just blown away because I didn’t expect to love it,” says Katie, who admits she’s not typically a West Coast IPA drinker.

This one also came from a particular place and time.

“When do I like to drink West Coast IPAs?” Nick says he asked himself. “I was thinking about the farm … in the middle of New Hampshire. … You’re out on a summer day, it’s hot, you get the grill going, and then, oh my gosh, the stars start to come out. Even though it’s only 6 p.m., we start seeing stars.”

Apparently, Nick sent a photo of the farm to the team’s Slack channel. “It was the skyline over the barn with the stars just coming out,” he says. Everyone immediately knew they had hit on the beer’s name.

Watering the Seeds You Want to Grow

belleflower brewing water the seas shandy yuzu and water the seeds you want to grow peach ginger saison
Photography courtesy of Belleflower Brewing

Much like when Nick’s great-great-grandfather (that’s two greats, remember) planted the seeds for that Belleflower apple tree, Belleflower has been planting seeds of its own.

With community and family top of mind, Belleflower started a series of beers called Water the Seeds that they brew quarterly.

“The full name of the beer, Water the Seeds You Want To Grow, aims to answer the question, ‘How are we taking the work that we’re doing here and giving it back to organizations that we want to help do better?’” shares Melissa, who counts these beers amongst the ones she’s most proud of. As a part of the series, Belleflower donates proceeds from these beers to organizations like Sexual Assault Response Services of South Maine and the Pink Boots Society.

Past versions have included rose and yuzu or peach and ginger. Most recently, a vanilla chai blonde got dosed with chai spices. “I felt like that was something I had never tasted before,” says Melissa.

For Zach, these are his favorite beers to make “because they often use ingredients I’ve never used before,” he says.

Beer With Terroir

belleflower brewing gilded meadow dunkel
Photography courtesy of Belleflower Brewing

Sometimes, looking at Belleflower’s past creations feels like walking through the fields of a farm or the oasis of an orchard.

Ingredients often dictate the beer at Belleflower. Sometimes in surprising, unforeseen ways.

Like local Maine blueberries, which turned a beer green. Yes, green.

The brewery’s second-ever fruited sour included blueberry puree. “We’re pouring it into the tank, and I’m like, dude, the blueberries are green. What’s up with that?” says Nick.

At this point, Zach says, “It’s already going into the tank. We’re looking at it and [we’re] like, ‘Oh, that’s green.’”

“Wicked green,” chimes Nick.

Already committed, Nick and Zach plowed forward. “Yeah, it tasted awesome,” says Zach.

For a dunkel called Gilded Meadow, Belleflower found inspiration in the image of grain as it ends its growth cycle when they start to dry in the field before harvest. “Imagine a field at sunset right before the harvest, that magic hour of light hitting the stalks of grain as the wind blows; that’s Gilded Meadow,” says Nick, who is very proud of this beer.

Belleflower first brewed Gilded Meadow, a part of the brewery’s insanely delicious dark lager program, for Oktoberfest. “I can drink that beer all the time, and people come in specifically seeking it out all year,” says Nick. “I’m really proud of us [for our dark beers]. I think we do those exceptionally well, and I can’t wait until everybody else catches on.”

belleflower brewing best breweries 2023
Photography courtesy of Belleflower Brewing

Likewise, Zach recounts a collaboration with a local bakery and restaurant called Bread & Friends. “We’re looking at their menu, and they make a rye spelt loaf that’s incredible,” he says. So Zach took twenty-five loaves of that bread and freshly baked it into the mash, along with toasted rye berries. “It smelled great in the brewery that day,” he says.

The spelt rye beer called Belle & Friends came out “so smooth with great malt character,” Zach says.

“It had everything,” Nick agrees. “The crispiness of the crust and all that stuff; it was so good.”

From the beginning, Zach says they committed at Belleflower to use local malt wherever possible. He doesn’t know the exact percentage but guesses at least ninety-five percent of the malt they brew with is local.

“All our base malt, flaked adjunct, wheat malt, or Munich and Vienna malt come from Maine Malt or Blue Ox in Maine,” he says.

For instance, Into the Kaleidoscope, a massively popular double IPA featuring organic spelt from local farms in Aroostook County. “We have this massive breadbasket [here],” says Nick, who points out that the farmers grow grain as an alternating crop for their primary cultivar—potatoes. “We have access to all this high-quality barley that goes from Matt and Rob’s farm in Aroostook County to Blue Ox or Maine Malt and then to us, where it becomes beer.”

Into the Kaleidoscope respects that journey. “We’ve met the farmers and shook their hands,” Nick says reverently. “[With that beer], it’s impossible not to see it because it’s just, like, in your face all the time.”

Nick says when they release the double IPA, it’s not uncommon for people to drop buy just to buy a case.

As Katie puts it, “It’s the feeling of falling down the rabbit hole, looking into the kaleidoscope, and seeing the pieces change and the vibrancy of color.”

Making Future Memories With Belleflower

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Photography courtesy of @belleflowerbeer

Drinking at Belleflower isn’t just drinking. You’re drinking in the story of Katie’s mom’s one-eyed dog, Scrugsy. Of Nick grilling with his family out on the porch in New Hampshire while the first early summer stars start to appear. With each beer, you’re drinking in full technicolor, rotating pictures that snap you from the present to the past and back again.

For the future, while nothing is cemented in stone, Nick says the dream would be for the team to open up another space, preferably somewhere bucolic.

You know, to make a new family homestead. One with a barn hex above the door that welcomes you in warmly. Where people can come and go, spending a little bit of their lives making memories that they’ll remember for a lifetime.

At Belleflower, that’s always possible.