Chris and Robyn Esser’s first foray into brewing beer ended with a burning shoe.

But that inauspicious beginning didn’t stop the couple from perfecting their brewing technique. This spring the Esser’s and their business partners, Borden “Bo” Hallowes, and Allan Jackson, will invest more than $1 million to open Sanford Brewing Co. (website), a 4,500-square-foot craft brewery on Sanford Avenue.

Renovations began on the building at 400 S. Sanford Ave. began Dec. 21 to accommodate a 15-barrel (465 gallons) primary brewing system, a 3-barrel (93 gallons) pilot brewing system and a 100-seat tap room with food service.

The partners expect to host a grand opening for Sanford Brewing Co. by mid-spring.

Robyn Esser said she and Chris discovered the Sanford Homebrew Shop (website) shortly after moving to Sanford. They took a class taught by the shop’s owners, Gary Holmes and Aaron Libera.

The couple brewed their first beer the very next night after taking the class, but things didn’t go so well. A rubber valve on the boil kettle caught fire and Robin tried to put it out with the rubber soul of her tennis shoes, which melted the shoe.

“It wasn’t a great beginning,” said Robyn.

The journey to start a brewery included a new pair of shoes, lots studying and a few obstacles. Robyn said they encountered a number of self-serving, short-sighted property owners during their search for a suitable building. Those experiences let the partners to develop an unusual business motto: DBAD, or “Don’t Be A Dick.”

“We want to brew great beer and have a place where people have a good time,” said Robin. “We also want to be cooperative with the other businesses downtown and be an asset to the entire community.”

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