On a humid day in June, Tim Adams squinted through black Ray Bans at the stout Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse in South Portland and explained how he became inspired to host the world’s largest pilsner festival.
“This will be the most pilsners ever brought together in one place,” said Adams, owner of and head brewer for Oxbow Brewing Co.
“Ever?” I asked.
He turned from the iconic lighthouse: “Ever.”
On Saturday at Spring Point Ledge behind Southern Maine Community College, Oxbow Brewing and Italy’s Birrificio Italiano will bring together over 50 pilsners from around the world at the Pils & Love beer festival.
In a craft beer world dominated by palate-crushing IPAs and raucous brewfests, Adams is placing the delicate, aromatic pilsner center stage in a restrained beer festival.
“We’re taking a different approach to Pils & Love. We don’t want anything to distract from what’s in the glass and the natural beauty of the setting. We want to cut down all the extra noise and focus on the pilsner. The festival will be simple, just like a pilsner,” Adams explained.
Consequently, Pils & Love won’t feature all day live music, cornhole tournaments or breweries slinging an array of beer styles. What it will feature is plenty of elegant pilsners from Italy, Germany, Canada, Maine and some of America’s best breweries, including Hill Farmstead Brewery of Vermont and California’s Russian River and Firestone Walker brewing companies.
As Adams and I walked the beautiful Spring Point Ledge shoreline where Pils & Love will take place, he explained that beer lovers hoping to try Russian River’s famed Pliny the Elder or Hill Farmstead’s Abner Double IPA will be disappointed.
“Those breweries will be here, but they will only be pouring their pilsners,” he said.
Adams, whose Oxbow Brewing Co. has never been one to follow trends, isn’t deterred that some beer fans will be turned off by the lack of IPAs and other beer styles. He’s all in with the pilsner.
In the distance, a ferryboat inched past Fort Gorges on Casco Bay as Adams, best known for his signature farmhouse ales and barrel-aged beers, laid out his longtime love affair with pilsners that led to the ambitious undertaking of Pils & Love.
Adams spent his high school years in Japan. Though far from the pilsner’s Czech Republic birthplace, pilsners are the most commonly brewed beer in Japan. Some of the first beers he fell in love with were Japan’s golden pilsners.
Later, while living in Washington, D.C., Adams had access to Pennsylvania’s excellent pilsners, like Prima Pils from Victory Brewing and Pikeland Pils from Sly Fox Brewing. (Both will be pouring on Saturday.)
The final region of the world that solidified Adams’ devotion to the pilsner was Italy, where he has traveled for the past three years and where he met Agostino Arioli, founder of Birrificio Italiano. Arioli is credited with founding Italy’s modern craft beer movement.
“Agostino and the Italians have taken the pilsner to the next level. They’ve really brought out the hop character in pilsners through dry-hopping,” Adams said.
Oxbow’s Luppolo is an Italian-style pilsner inspired by Adams’ time in Italy.
For the past 12 years, Birrificio Italiano has hosted Pils Pride in its home country. With the blessing and assistance of Arioli, who will be on hand Saturday, Adams has put together America’s own version of this festival in Pils & Love.
Accept this Saturday’s invitation to sample the world’s best pilsners. These crisp, intricate pale lagers emanate refreshing floral and herbal hop notes that Adams describes as “quite sublime.” This is a once-in-a-lifetime event for America’s craft beer scene, and it’s right in Maine’s coastal backyard.
WHO: Hosted by Oxbow Brewing Co. and Birrificio Italiano, featuring pilsners from Germany, Italy, Canada and America
WHERE: Spring Point Ledge, South Portland
WHEN: 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday
ON TAP: Over 50 pilsners from Oxbow Brewing, Birrificio Italiano, Banded Horn Brewing, Bunker Brewing, Hill Farmstead Brewery, Russian River Brewing, Sly Fox Brewing, Victory Brewing and more
PURCHASE TICKETS: eventbrite.com
OTHER BEER HAPPENINGS
Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Boothbay Railway Village, Boothbay, $35. tickets
Craft beer fans can head up the midcoast on Saturday for a day of local beer, vintage cars and historic rail cars in a unique brewfest setting. Held at the Boothbay Railway Village, Rails, Tails, & Ales features beer tastings from 14 Maine breweries spread throughout museum buildings. Alna Hopyard and Farm, Maine Malt House and The Maine Brew Bus will also be on hand with demonstrations. Music provided by the Scott Davis Blues Band. Food vendors include Crust, Fahrenheit 225 and the Burgers & Freys food truck.
First session: 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., second session: 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Saturday, Dover, New Hampshire, $35. seacoastbrewfest.com
If you can’t make either Maine beer festival on Saturday, our kindly neighbors to the south will be hosting the Seacoast Microbrew Festival. This festival offers a great opportunity to sink your palate into New Hampshire’s seacoast beer scene with beer from Earth Eagle Brewing, Great Rhythm Brewing, Portsmouth Brewing, Stoneface Brewing and Throwback, among others. Representing Maine beer, SoMe Brewing, Tributary Brewing and Woodland Farms Brewery will also be on hand. Expect live music and food vendors, along with the local beer.