Recent Work – Portland Barrel Co

This fall, Down East magazine sent me to photograph Ed Lutjens of Portland Barrel Company, Maine’s premier craftsman in the resurgent trade of barrel making. An honored profession for thousands of years, coopers became largely obsolete just fifty years ago when steel barrels and cardboard boxes superseded wooden casks. Today, they are making a comeback due to the rise of craft brewing and distilling.

Ed Lutjens is part carpenter, part blacksmith, part brewer: a true artisan. His craft is a time-consuming one and requires patience for both Ed and his customers. He sources wood locally in Maine and seasons it for one to three years. It is then quartersawn to minimize warping and moisture penetration.

On average, it takes a full day 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. My goal is to communicate that. Authenticity is essential in my images, so I try to capture people and brands as organically as possible.

See more images from this project in the full project gallery, and check out the Down East article.

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