As legend goes, in 1995, a young brewer schlepped kegs of a new Belgian witbier from bar to bar, trying to get the beer on draft.
But 20 years ago, people didn’t know what a witbier was. Bar owners complained that the beer was cloudy. And what was that spice? Coriander? That’s not a beer ingredient!
At a time when “Gangsta’s Paradise” topped the charts and “Friends” was is in its stone-washed heyday, this Belgian witbier confused many palates and caused some beer drinkers to prophesize that the beer and the young brewer were doomed.
The beer, of course, was Allagash White, and the young brewer was the now elder statesman of craft brewing, Rob Tod.
Hindsight being what it is, it’s difficult to fathom that Belgian beers were a hard sell in the not too distant past. Belgian-style beers are ubiquitous these days. From farmhouse ales to tripels, wild ales, dubbels and Trappist ales, beer stores and pubs are slinging Belgian-style beers at a record pace.
On Saturday, what may be the best Belgian beer festival on the planet is coming to Portland in the form of Beer Advocate’s Return of the Belgian Beer Fest, hosted by our very own Allagash Brewing Co.
“If you had predicted the fest 21 years ago, we probably wouldn’t have believed you. We’re proud to sponsor an event like this with such an awesome lineup of both Belgian and American breweries,” said Allagash Brewing marketing specialist Brett Willis.
This beer festival is the ultimate homage to all things Belgian beer, featuring over 70 breweries from around the world and over 250 Belgian-inspired beers.
What’s remarkable about this beer fest is the staggering number of Belgian breweries that will be on hand. Belgium has a brewing tradition dating back to the Crusades. The Belgian breweries that have kept that flame alive will be pouring Saturday.
A few notables include Brasserie de la Senne of Brussels, Brasserie Fantôme of Soy and Brasserie Dupont of Tourpes, a brewery largely credited with keeping the saison from going extinct in the 1970s. And that’s just the tip of the tap handle.
In addition to breweries from across the country and around world, a handful of Belgian-minded Maine breweries will be on hand, including Foundation Brewing, Oxbow Brewing, Blank Canvas Brewing, Foulmouthed Brewing and the host, Allagash. I reached out to some of these breweries to get their thoughts on this Saturday’s event.
“We are really excited to be part of this festival, just look at the lineup. So many great breweries and the chance to try, in one place, a wide range of original and traditional Belgian beers side by side with all these other beers they inspired, is going to be incredible,” said John Bonney, co-owner of Foundation Brewing Co.
“The lineup for the Return of the Belgian Beer Fest is top-notch, and I’m certainly honored to be among the breweries included. Some of my all time favorite Belgian beers will be poured at the festival,” said Tim Adams, brewmaster and owner of Oxbow Brewing Co.
It sufficeth to say, those Courtney Cox-loving, crimped hair-wearing witbier haters back in the ’90s were wrong about Belgian beers. Return of the Belgian Beer Fest will be a master class in Belgian brewing not to be missed by beer fanatics or curious beer drinkers alike.
WHEN: Saturday (1 to 4:30 p.m. day session, 6 to 9:30 p.m. night session)
WHERE: 58 Fore St., Portland
WHO: Over 70 breweries from around the world pouring 250 Belgian-inspired beers
MORE INFO: beeradvocate.com/belgian
Other Beer Happenings
Funky Bow Brewing Presents The Third Annual Funky Fest
1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, 21 Ledgewood Lane, Lyman. $45 per ticket. funkyfest2016.brownpapertickets.com
If there’s one thing Maine craft beer lovers know, it’s that Funky Bow Brewing Co. knows how to throw a party at its farm. This beer festival will feature some of the best beer being brewed in York County. In addition to Funky Bow, participating breweries include Barreled Souls, Banded Horn, Hidden Cove, SoMe and Tributary. As always at the Lyman Farm, expect great music, food an an inviting agrarian vibe for this brew fest. If you want the full experience, participate in the Funky Bow Trail Hop run through the woods, starting at 9 a.m.
“Yes on 5” Campaign Hosts Beer Elections at Local Breweries
Throughout September at various Maine breweries. For details, visit rcvmaine.com/beerelection
An intriguing initiative for Ranked Choice Voting will be on the ballot this November, and the “Yes on 5” group is teaming up with Maine breweries to get the word out. The group is holding events at tasting rooms where patrons can vote for their favorite Maine beers to see how Ranked Choice Voting works. You get to drink beer and get informed. Win-win. There are a number of upcoming events at Banded Horn Brewing, Bear Bones Beer and Foundation Brewing, among others. Check the website for more details.