To my count, Maine hosted six major beer festivals in 2014. The highlight, of course, was Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Across America in August. If you count all the festivals throughout northern New England last year, the number of beer fests a Mainer could have attended in 2014 shoots to well over ten.
As the beer renaissance we’re experiencing continues to grow in 2015, expect the number of beer festivals in the area to grow as well. Microbreweries have wrangled coveted market share and shelf space from the big breweries, and as that happens, investors are eyeing the craft beer boom as a place to do business. And beer festivals are big business.
But the question arises: How many beer festivals can one state host before the market gets diluted and all festivals in the state suffer in attendance?
This Saturday, America On Tap starts the 2015 beer festival season in Maine early. With their brew fest we will start to see the answer to that question unfold.
America On Tap is a Saratoga, New York-based company that sprouted from one festival in 2009. As they spread throughout the northeast region, they were purchased by Town Square Media (a media company that owns a number of radio stations in the U.S. including four in Portland). With corporate backing, the festival spread throughout the country. In 2014 America On Tap ran 40 festivals, and in 2015 they have over 70 festivals planned. Each time they go to a location, they insert the city name into the title. Thus, this Saturday they will host Portland On Tap at the Portland Company Complex.
What’s pouring at Portland On Tap? Saturday’s festival will feature beers that are already licensed to be sold in Maine. A.J. Bodden, Vice President of Live Events at Town Square Media, explained that the purpose of the festival is for consumers to try new beers they can purchase at local beer stores, while giving the brewers a face-to-face connection with the customer.
In addition to some Maine favorites that will be pouring on Saturday, here’s a rundown of the out of state breweries that get my juices flowing.
Jolly Pumpkin out of Michigan brews world-class saisons and farmhouse ales – look for their Bam Biere Saison. The Czech Pilsner from Moat Mountain Brewing is becoming a go-to beer for me and this North Conway, New Hampshire brewery will be pulling taps on Saturday. Southern Tier Brewing out of Lakewood, New York has made a name for themselves with their hoppy ales, so expect some promising IPA offerings. From Nevada, Joseph James Brewing makes a Citra Rye Ale that has garnered some high praise on BeerAdvocate. And rounding out my list of must-visit booths on Saturday, the legendary Stone Brewing out of Escondido, California should have some tricks up their brewing sleeves, as we’ve come to rely on Stone for hop-forward, innovative American ales.
I’ve been told that all brewers on Saturday will be pouring their flagship beers along with special offerings for festival goers. Portland has made a reputation for itself as a city of beer drinkers with discerning palates. Hopefully that reputation will incite breweries to bring their A-list beers.
On Saturday, combat the cold, dark winter with a tasting glass filled with brews from Maine and beyond. And as 2015 rolls along with beer fest after beer fest, we’ll see just how many festivals can exist in Maine before we reach peak beer festival.
WHEN: 2:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: The Portland Co. Complex, 58 Fore St., Portland
COST: $35 in advance, $45 at the door
BEERS: For a complete list visit: americaontap.com/portland-on-tap
Baxter Brewing Company Celebrates Fourth Anniversary
Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St, Portland
Doors open at 7 p.m. Friday
Baxter Brewing appeared on the scene four years ago with their then unconventional cans of microbrew. Their Stowaway IPA quickly became a hit across New England, and four years later, the brewery is thriving with new brews and a large production line. Expect the party at Port City Music Hall to be a raucous good time with music from DJ Mosart212, Anna Lombard, and the funky, always soulful Model Airplane. Baxter beers will be pouring all night long.
Wild Beer Roundup
Allagash Brewing Company, 50 Industrial Way, Portland
Starting at 9 a.m. Saturday
Allagash continues to roll out their impressive line of sours and wild yeast beers, and on Saturday they will unleash Emotional Honey. This is a sour red ale aged in an oak foudre for two years, then finished in mead barrels for another 8 months. Emotional Honey is 6.8% alcohol. If you want to go sour in 2015, let Allagash take you there.