Dann Paquette, brewer and co-owner of Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project in Massachusetts, created a stir in Boston last month when he took to Twitter to complain that his brewery had been shut out of bars because tap handles were committed to breweries that had illegally paid for the privilege.
Since Paquette’s Twitter rant on dirty taps, the Portland scene has been humming with whispers – but no evidence – that the practice happens here. Portland has an abundance of local beer options that isn’t typical in bigger cities or in cities with less savvy beer drinkers. But the practice of buying taps has some national brewers associations concerned.
Tap buying – in which a brewery or distributor gives money or gifts to an establishment in exchange for keeping its beer on tap – is illegal because it stifles open competition between breweries. In a market where taps can be purchased, the breweries with the deepest pockets win. A new brewer operating on tight margins doesn’t stand a chance. A market full of committed taps stifles growth and works against the laws of supply and demand.
Are brewers, distributors and bars in Maine engaged in the illegal practice of buying taps? While there are whispers, there’s no proof. In any event, I like to frequent establishments that I believe choose their tap lines based on the love of great Maine beer.
Here are three of my favorites:
The tap handles at Outliers Eatery on York Street in Portland read like a who’s who of Maine brewing. It consistently boasts taps by Bissell Brothers, Oxbow, Maine Beer Co. and hard-to-find Allagash offerings.
With the opening of Tod Mott’s Tributary Brewing, Kittery is becoming a beer lover’s destination, and The Black Birch Restaurant on Government Street is sure to add to Kittery’s trending beer appeal. The extensive tap lineup of Maine brews and hard-to-get national beers at this cozy establishment is a labor of love.
Frontier on Maine Street in Brunswick not only serves up brilliant local music on their listening room stage, it also serve some of Maine’s best beers on tap. Look for an ever-changing selection from Rising Tide, Banded Horn and Marshall Wharf, among others. Under the rotating tap section on the menu, Frontier explains, “Changing selection of beers we are passionate about.” Tap handles chosen by passion, what an idea!
In the words of Bob Dylan, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody.” This is true for all drinking establishments. Pardon me while I take liberties with Dylan’s song:
It might be a brewer or it might be your greed
It might be a distributor or what beer drinkers need
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Yes indeed, you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Cheers to all the establishments serving great brews from clean tap lines. Please know that in the process, you’re also serving the greater good of beer in Maine.
231 York St., Portland | outlierseatery.com
Draft Highlight: Bissell Brothers Baby Genius (Blond Ale)
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 5-11 p.m.; Sunday Brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
2 Government St., Kittery | www.theblackbirch.com
Draft Highlight: Smuttynose Big A (Double IPA)
Hours: Tuesday to Thursday, 3:30-10 p.m.; Friday to Saturday 3:30-11 p.m.
14 Maine St., Mill 3 Fort Andross, Brunswick | www.explorefrontier.com
Draft Highlight: Allagash Curieux (Tripel Aged in Bourbon Barrels)
Hours: Tuesday to Thursday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday to Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.