By the time this calendar year runs its course, Maine will have played host to nearly 20 beer festivals. I love a good beer fest as much as anyone else, but I wonder if we’re approaching capacity.
If there’s one way I can foresee the beer scene sustaining this high volume of brewfests, it’s not by festival organizers adding more live music or lawn games like cornhole (though these are great); rather, it’s by working tirelessly to get the best beer possible into tasting glasses. Frankly, I’ve attended a couple Maine brewfests this year that have had lackluster beer offerings. (Yeah, Beer Camp, I’m talking about you.)
That’s where Saturday’s brewfest at Thompson’s Point decidedly stands out. Summer Session: Maine Brewers’ Guild 2017 Beer Festival is, without question, the gold standard of Maine brewfests. All other beer festivals take note.
“Summer Session has more breweries attending than any festival in Maine (this might be a record-breaking fest in that regard, for Maine) with nearly every brewery in Maine attending. Many of our small brewers make this the one beer festival they attend all year,” said Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild.
Sixty Maine breweries will be pouring at Summer Session. Since the festival is run by the Maine Brewers’ Guild, many brewers will be slinging their choicest beers beyond the flagship brews we already know and love.
At this year’s Summer Session, Maine breweries have also invited out-of-state brewers to pour beer. Attendees will have access to great beer that doesn’t normally get distributed to the state, like Vermont’s Burlington Beer Co. and Lawson’s Finest Liquids, as well as Jester King Brewery of Austin, Texas. The list of 19 guest breweries is worth the price of admission alone.
As if Maine’s best beer and select U.S. breweries weren’t enough, the pièce de résistance of Summer Session is the addition of Icelandic beer via the Maine Beer Box. Earlier this summer, the Maine Beer Box (a 40-foot Eimskip shipping container that the Maine Brewers’ Guild fashioned into the world’s largest kegerator) brought Maine beer to Iceland’s biggest beer fest. The Maine Beer Box has made the return voyage across the North Atlantic, filled with Icelandic beer to be poured on Saturday.
“We’ll begin pouring from the Maine Beer Box during the VIP session but expect to have enough Icelandic beer for general admission folks to get a chance to the try the beer as well,” Sullivan said.
Let’s take a moment to collect ourselves from the vertigo-inducing list of beer at Summer Session. This brewfest is a craft beer mecca with nearly 80 beers on draft. Even the most hard-to-please beer aficionados will find something to swoon over at Summer Session.
Beyond the beer, the Maine Brewers’ Guild is also highlighting ingredients Maine brewers use from local malt houses and hop farms. Maine Malt House of Mapleton, Blue Ox Malthouse of Lisbon Falls and the Hop Yard of Gorham will label beers at the festival that use their ingredients. Expect to be blown away by the number of Maine beers brewed with grains and hops grown and processed right here.
Beer drinkers looking for a deep dive into the brewing techniques used by talented local brewers can attend Beer School classes during the festival. These free, 10- to 20-minute mini-courses offer brewing tips from professionals and time to chat with brewers.
Summer Session is a beer fest done right, because at its core, it offers world-class local, national and international beer. As the beer world continues to roar on into the bright future, let’s demand that all beer festivals hold as high a standard as the Maine Brewers’ Guild has established with Summer Session.
WHEN: 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, VIP session begins at noon
WHERE: Thompson’s Point, Portland
ON DRAFT: Beer from 60 Maine breweries, 19 select U.S. breweries and 11 Icelandic breweries via the Maine Beer Box
ENTERTAINMENT: Beer School Classes on brewing techniques taught by Maine brewers, plenty of room to spread out and relax at Thompson’s Point (bring lawn chairs and lawn games), food trucks and live music
COST: $49 General Admission, $60 VIP ticket (this event will most likely sell out, buy tickets in advance)
OTHER BEER HAPPENINGS
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, 37 Exchange St., Portland
Here’s the most important question I ask myself the morning after a brewfest: Where am I getting brunch? The best way to recover from all that brewfest carousing is greasy food and some hair of the dog. The Thirsty Pig has you covered the morning after Summer Session. Its Brewers Brunch features food specials including corned pork hash, barbecue pork and grits, and breakfast sausage sliders. In addition to its great lineup of Maine beer, the Pig will also be pouring mimosas and Bloody Marys.
6:15 to 8 p.m. Monday, 219 Anderson St., Portland
After a weekend of brewfests and beer brunches, it’s time to get back to the healthy life. Ease into the week with a run hosted by Thick Quad Squad and Lone Pine Brewing. Runners will meet at the Anderson Street brewery then head out for a 3- to 4-mile run around Portland’s East End, followed by some well deserved beer drinking at Lone Pine. Events like this add to the growing trend of beer being coupled with healthy life activities like yoga and running.