First annual Maine Beer Week Celebrates Local Breweries and Businesses

Photo by Chelsea Ellis, The Free Press. Pamola Xtra Pale Ale cans prepare to be filled with Baxter Brewing Companies signature brew. Baxter, along with 26 other Maine brewers will be participating in the first annual Maine Beer week Nov.10-17 in Portland.

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Tinny, watery, bitter and hard to swallow are just a few ways some might describe the taste of America’s most recognized beer brands. America turned into a lager-loving country in the 1970s as high-profile marketing campaigns depicted rugged, stereotypically masculine men bearing a striking resemblance to the iconic Marlboro Man commercials; but instead of cigarettes, they enjoyed less-than-stellar brews.

The desire for more flavor, however, left some Americans searching for something above the average cold one. In the early 1980s, the demand for a better beer led to the opening of half a dozen American microbreweries in 1982 alone. The craft beer revival had begun, bringing homebrewing skill and technique back to local breweries across the nation. Craft brewing flourished in Maine, inspired by breweries in both New York and Massachusetts, and the state’s penchant towards local business development that includes Portland’s recent “Buy Local” initiative.

From Nov. 10-17, the organizers of Maine Restaurant Week and the Maine Brewer’s Guild, a non-profit corporation made up of 25 Maine brewing companies, have teamed up to present the first annual Maine Beer Week. Restaurants and breweries throughout the state are hosting events centered on Maine’s finest beers and the craftsmanship that goes into making each of the brews.

According to the Maine Brewer’s Guild, Maine is home to over 20 different breweries which produce more than 100 brands of beer. The city of Portland alone houses the Shipyard Brewing Company, Allagash Brewing Company, Gritty McDuff’s Brewing Company, D.L. Geary Brewing Company, Peak Organic Brewing, Sebago Brewing Company, Rising Tide Brewing Company and Maine Beer Company.

“There’s definitely a sense of camaraderie within Maine’s beer industry,” said Geoff Masland, brewer and director of business operations at Oxbow Brewery in Newcastle. “The collaboration and enthusiasm that comes from craft brewers gets passed along to beer drinkers.”

Oxbow Farmhouse Pale Ale is one of the many India Pale Ales being featured during Maine Beer Week. Described as an “American farmhouse brewery,” Oxbow brews all its beer in small batches inside a renovated barn. The brewery slogan sums it up: “Loud Beer From a Quiet Place.” Beers from Oxbow Brewery have only been in distribution for the last three months, but the brewery already feels at home.

“We feel extremely welcomed here,” said Masland. “I love meeting other business owners who love to do what we do.”

On Nov. 17 The Great Lost Bear, located at 540 Forest Ave. will be hosting Total Tap Takeover. From 5 to 9 p.m. all of the taps at the restaurant will be pouring award-winning drafts from twenty-one Maine breweries such as Geary’s Hampshire Special Ale, Shipyard’s Old Thumper, Allagash Barrel Aged Beer and Sheepscot’s Boothbay Special Bitter.

“We have sixty-nine beers on tap; most of them are dedicated to beer from Maine. Maine people love Maine beer.” says Ben Taylor, kitchen manager at The Great Lost Bear.

Proceeds from the Tap Takeover will benefit social service programs at the Preble Street Resource Center in downtown Portland, such as soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters and supported housing.

At 37 Exchange St. The Thirsty Pig will have all Maine-made IPA’s on tap throughout Maine Beer Week, in addition to serving their signature hand-crafted sausages. Like a fine wine, beer can be matched with multiple dishes including seafood, meat and desserts.

“We pair hoppy and bitter beer with our sweet and savory sausages. They really go great together,” said Allison Stevens co-owner of The Thirsty Pig. “Maine Beer Week is a great way to bring awareness to Maine craft beer. When it comes down to it, it’s all about supporting the state of Maine.”

The craft beer movement has cultivated an open source marketplace where brewers can take advantage of each others’ knowledge. The ability to share ideas with the beer community paves the way for future brewers, all while encouraging growth and economic stimulation for the state of Maine.

Masland couldn’t agree more. ”Half the time we’re in the woods making beer, and the other half we’re out there meeting some great people. I absolutely love it. I love how supportive the midcoast community is as well as the rest of the state.”

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