Portland Barrel Company

Down East magazine sent me to photograph Ed Lutjens of Portland Barrel Company, Maine’s premier craftsman in the resurgent trade of barrel making. Ed is part carpenter, part blacksmith, part brewer: a true artisan.

The craft is a time-consuming one and requires patience for both Ed and his customers. He sources white oak locally in Maine and then must season it for one to three years. Once it’s ready, it takes a full day, on average, for Ed to steam and shape wood and steel into a watertight vessel. The final step is to “toast” the inside of the barrel over a fire, caramelizing the sugars in the wood that will ultimately shape the flavor profile of its contents.

I am always amazed by the artistry, attention and care that goes into making something seemingly simple, like a barrel, and my goal in this project was to communicate that.