Faithful readers, I have some good news and some bad news. Good news first. I recently sold my novel to a publisher in New York. It’s the fulfillment of a lifetime dream. Now, for the bad news: With all that comes with getting a novel published, I can no longer handle the weekly responsibilities of this column. Breaks my hop-loving heart.
In over 200 columns for MaineToday, I have been astounded by the seemingly endless growth of Maine’s virile beer scene. When I first took over this column in the summer of 2014, my editor at the time warned that the hardest part of writing a weekly column is coming up with engaging material each week. I never, not once, struggled for weekly stories.
And that is not so much a credit to my incisive journalistic skills, but largely due to the passion and innovation of the brewing community in this state.
In my tenure of writing this column, over 30 new breweries have opened in Maine, making some of the best beer Mainers now imbibe. Every time I walked into a new brewery, I was inspired by the unique vision of each brewer. When I thought my palate could no longer be dazzled, someone like Mast Landing would open up with Gunner’s Daughter, a peanut butter stout, or Lone Pine Brewing with Portland Pale Ale, a near perfect take on the American pale ale.
And the already established brewers continued to innovate during my time writing this column: Maine Beer Company concocted Dinner double IPA, Foundation crafted Epiphany and Allagash Brewing released, among many others, Sixteen Counties, brewed strictly with Maine-grown and -malted grains.
In addition to the mind-bending amount of great beer that has been released over the past three and a half years, the brewing community has truly come into its own. Each fall, Portland Beer Week boasts scores of events and beer releases, and the thriving beer scene to the north flexes its muscles with Bangor Beer Week.
After covering this beer scene so closely over the years, I am still astonished by the authentic growth that can be sustained. We haven’t neared the crest of the wave on this craft-beer revolution. I truly believe that.
Here’s why I have great hope that the scene will continue to grow as this weekly column gets a new voice.
In the coming weeks, Sebago Brewing opens the doors to their new 30,000-square-foot brewery in Gorham, featuring a 9,000-square-foot tasting room. This move will result in more one-off and seasonal beers from the Sebago.
With Sebago moving into its new brewery, Lone Pine Brewing purchased Sebago’s former facility in Gorham, which will lead to more cans from Lone Pine on shelves.
In Freeport, Maine Beer Co. is finalizing a brewery expansion that increases its brewing capacity from a 15-barrel system to a 60-barrel system. And by fall, the tasting room expansion will allow patrons to stretch out and enjoy the offerings.
Up north, Orono Brewing Co. has purchased Maine Beer Co.’s former brewing tanks for its own expansion. That means that southern Maine should finally get the injection of Ozone IPA and other brilliant OBC beers we’ve been salivating for.
And that’s just some of what’s to come on the near horizon. Expect more expansions and more new breweries all around the state. As long as breweries grow in a slow, calculated manner, the market can hold all these great beers.
The big sign for me that I’m leaving this column in the halcyon days of Maine beer is the reopening of Lake St. George Brewing by Danny McGovern and family in Liberty. The brewery closed in the ’90s, but the brewing renaissance has brought back this iconic brand. We’re not losing breweries; we’re reviving old ones like Lazarus from the cave.
Thanks to all those who have spent time with me in the precious inches of this column. It’s been a righteous ride. I’ll catch you in tasting rooms all over this glorious state.
OTHER BEER HAPPENINGS
Noon to 9 p.m. Friday, 11 Atlantic Ave, Brunswick. On Facebook.
To keep us from going mad with cabin fever in February, Flight Deck Brewing is releasing a new pilot beer every Friday of the month. The first release is a Cranberry Honey Pale Ale with a flavor profile of both sweet and tart notes. This pilot-beer-release series is a great excuse to head up to one of Maine’s most striking tasting rooms. Set on Brunswick Landing, Flight Deck’s brewery and tasting room are housed in a former Naval shooting range. Imbibe the hip vibe along with its latest small-batch limited-release beers.
Tasting room hours: 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. 34 Abbott St., Brewer
According to Lisa Sturgeon, communications and resource manager at Geaghan Brothers Brewing, the Bangor-area brewery came within 28 cans of breaking the record of most cans simultaneously opened. The record of 1,149 was set in Japan. During the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce annual awards gathering on Jan. 26, 1,122 cans of Geaghan Brothers Beer, along with some non-alcoholic offerings, were cracked concurrently, just missing the previous Guinness mark. With this attempt, Geaghan Brothers embodies what I’ve seen from Maine brewers for years: the drive to elevate Maine beer to the world stage. Be sure to visit Geaghan Brothers’s new and spacious tasting room in Brewer to congratulate them on their valiant attempt.