History Repeats Itself at a Little Brewpub in Naples!
After spending 13 years in Washington State, Michael Bray decided to return to Maine, where he had attended college. He traveled 3500 miles back to the East Coast to pursue his dream of establishing a unique style of brewpub at the location of a 130 year-old inn in Naples. The Mansard-roofed Victorian farmhouse had everything going for it: traffic count, visibility, charm, and an excellent reputation as a gourmet restaurant. Through hard work and determination, the attached barn eventually housed a small, custom made 3½ barrel brewing system.
Work on the brewery in the barn began in earnest in June of 1995 in preparation for the Grand Opening scheduled for August. In spite of the fact that Michael had never actually operated a restaurant before, things came together quickly. There was almost a strange sense of “deja-vu” about the entire venture. It wasn’t until he looked into the history of the old farmhouse that he discovered some interesting and eerie coincidences!
According to the Naples Historical Society, this was not the first time a tavern had occupied the site. In the late 1700’s, it was the site of an inn and tavern which served travelers on the stage coach run between Portland and Bridgton. The tavern burned to the ground in the early 1820’s, but was quickly rebuilt. It was then sold to a man named John Chute and his wife, Elizabeth. John was a believer in temperance and turned the building into a temperance inn called the Elm House, promoting abstinence from alcohol. His son-in-law, Nathan Church, took over the operation of the inn around 1840 and it became known as the Old Church Tavern. Temperance prevailed at the site until 1876 when the tavern burned down once again. The present building was built around 1880 on the south side of the Old Church Tavern’s former location.
As if that was not coincidence enough, a local resident, knowledgeable in the history of Naples, remarked that they thought it was great that the brewpub had been named for one of the town’s founding fathers, Washington Bray! This bit of information totally took Mike by surprise as not only was his last name the same, but because he was in a sense a Washington Bray, having just moved from Washington State!
One could almost imagine Bray sitting in the Old Church Tavern, in deep discussion about the future of this new town, sharing a pint of good ale. There was only one problem – at the time Naples was founded in 1835, the tavern did not serve any alcohol. Maybe that is why Mike Bray felt he needed to return to this site. Naples needed a place that served some really great beer in the old-fashioned, truly handcrafted tradition.
Bray’s Brewpub has become so much more in the community of Naples than just a place to grab a beer. It has grown into a destination venue, known for excellent food, quality ales, friendly clientele, and talented musical entertainment. Many of the innovations can be attributed to Mike’s co-owner,Sonja LaRochelle. A self-described “foodie”, Sonja is always creating and re-creating interesting dishes. Her strong background in restaurant management, as well as her experience of owning a wholesale pastry business, has made her a natural to infuse her own flare to Bray’s, adding gourmet desserts, enhancing the quality and variety of musical performances, plus fine-tuning a multitude of facets at the pub.
So, whether you’re in the neighborhood for a business lunch, happy hour drinks, of dinner and music with friends, Bray’s Brewpub is your place for any and all occasions. We would like to thank you, our customers, for making Bray’s your local, family, neighborhood pub.