There are a lot of fantastic things about being involved in the rise of craft beer. The incredible growth in this state is creating jobs, bringing people to the state to try Maine beer, and beer events are quickly becoming a part of our life in this state and in Portland. As the interest in craft beer grows, there is one thing that is occurring that can sometimes be challenging. Starting in the beginning of June, beer-related festivals and events begin to fill the calendar.
In an attempt to keep you apprised of the beer festival landscape – here are summaries of some upcoming fests in Portland and the differences between them. I know I like to have a little bit of a plan for my summer – and dreaming about the beer that will be at these fests is a fun activity on an early summer evening. I will share a bit more about other events in the state and in the region next week.
Portland Summer Beer Festivals
For Portland, there are three “big” festivals going on in town this summer.
June 21-22nd – “The Festival”
This festival might have the most generic name, it is probably the most unforgettable opportunity on the list. The Festival is put on by Shelton Brothers and 12% Imports – companies responsible for bringing most of the amazing Belgian beer (among others) into the U.S. for craft beer enthusiasts.
There are three sessions between Friday and Saturday, and you can purchase tickets for one or three of the sessions (though I don’t know how your liver would come out on the other end if you did all three). The tickets range from $65-150 and include 24 two ounce pours per session. But considering that this is usually high-test, rare and interesting beer, this is not a festival to attend if you’re looking to go through tons of beer quickly. Additionally, the brewers of this fabulous beer will be there, so this is a beer geek’s dream. There will be more than 70 breweries represented with more than 200 beers pouring. The beer list is full of international delights as well as some national and regional representatives in the mix.
Location: Portland Yacht Services Building, 58 Fore Street
Tickets/More info: Shelton Brothers Festival
July 13th – Craft Beer Comes to Portland
If you are looking to get a taste of Maine beer all in one place, this is the festival for you. Put on by the Maine Brewer’s Guild, the proceeds go towards supporting craft beer in Maine. For the past two years this festival has been in Boothbay, and was well-attended by nearly all of the state’s breweries. This year it has moved to the Maine State Pier which should make for an interesting venue.
If it is anything like previous years (and all indications are that it will be) the focus will be on the local, with brewers bringing one-offs and beers brewed especially for the fest, in addition to their regular lineups. As a special treat, Charlie Papazian, president of the national Brewers Association and author of “The Complete Joy of Home Brewing” will also be in attendance. Tickets ($50/regular $75/VIP) include beer samples, tasting glass and food. This is outdoors and will be held “rain or shine.” I hope that the weather holds out, because this is an outstanding opportunity to get to know our state’s beer and the great people that make it.
Location: Maine State Pier
Tickets/More info: Maine Brewer’s Guild
August 30-31st – Portland Brew Festival
This beer fest has a little for everyone. A combination of the accessible and familiar with the special and rare, this fest will feature 35+ brewers and more than 90 different beers are already anticipated. $35 tickets include a tasting glass and access to all of the beer. The list is already well-rounded (and growing) and includes Allagash, Sebago, Baxter, Gritty’s and some new faces from Maine, too, including Infidel Brewing. From around the region we’ll also get Brooklyn, Clown Shoes, and White Birch, among others.
This is the kind of fest you can bring your friends to – whether they are beer geeks or not. The atmosphere of this festival is fun – usually people are friendly and I enjoy that it’s a little bit smaller than some of the mind-blowingly huge ones that get thrown in Boston. With sessions on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon and evening, it’s also easy to fit it into busy Labor Day weekend plans.
Location: 58 Fore Street
Tickets/More info: Portland Brew Festival
Looking at these fests side-by-side, they seem to speak to the different types of craft beer people in Maine. If you want the rare, the funky, the international and the renowned, The Festival is for you. If you’re really looking to get an intimate knowledge of Maine’s craft beer landscape – then Craft Beer Comes to Portland is where you can get a taste of everything Maine has to offer all in one place. And if you’re looking to taste some great beer from the state and around the region in an atmosphere welcoming to all levels of beer geekery, then the Portland Brew Festival would fit the bill.
In my case, I’m a little of each of those people. I’ll see you there.