There’s a lot to look forward to in Maine beer this spring. As the season begins, breweries are getting ready for the uptick in visitors and beer drinkers from near and far that descend upon their tasting rooms. They’re dusting off their outdoor tables and making plans for ramping up production to meet the demand of the summer crowds. In other spaces, the final coats of paint and first batches of beer are being readied as the next wave of breweries prepares to open over the coming months.
In good news for midcoast beer drinkers, Boothbay will add a new brewery by the end of spring. Footbridge Brewery has been making steady progress toward its targeted opening on Memorial Day weekend, with a live countdown on its website ticking down the days and hours until its launch. Unlike some other Boothbay-area businesses that close during the winter, Footbridge plans to be open all year.
A bit later, in the fall (with no specific date yet announced), Bath Ale Works will be coming to the midcoast, providing yet another off-season opportunity to relax and have a beer if you’re local to that area.
Farther inland, Fluvial Brewing in Harrison is making its final preparations, with plans to open sometime in April. Its tasting room construction has made great progress over the winter, and the location of the brewery will provide stunning mountain views to pair with their brews.
The much-anticipated Brewery Extrava planned for Portland’s busy beer neighborhood of “Yeast” Bayside is still anticipating a June opening date. It was recently granted a permit from the city for both indoor and outdoor seating areas, so it has the potential to fit in perfectly with the other hang-out spots in that neighborhood.
If you can’t wait for the new places to open, you could cure your cabin fever by swinging through some of the new breweries that opened this winter. York Beach Beer Co., the sister brewery to SoME Brewery in York, cleared all of its regulatory hurdles presented by this winter’s government shutdown and opened its doors at the beginning of the month to thirsty locals.
Keep traveling up the coast from there, and you can hit Batson River Brewing & Distilling in Kennebunkport. Maine’s second brewery-and-distillery combo, after Portland’s Liquid Riot, Batson River boasts a beautiful tasting room and a broad selection of drinks, including cocktails made with its house-distilled spirits. The beer and spirit crossover potentials are huge – the Riparian Gin even includes hops as one of its botanicals.
Things are ramping up for the season at Sasanoa Brewery, which opened in Westport late last year. The beers from Sasanoa are brewed with 100 percent Maine-grown organic ingredients. Located on an organic farm, it’s the first brewery that’s certified organic by Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. It has begun selling its beer at the Bath farmers market and other local purveyors.
In Winthrop, van der Brew has become a hotspot not just for beer, but for music as well. The brewery’s event calendar is filling up with local musicians of many styles and regular open-mic nights. Stop by frequently enough and you might one day be telling other people that you were sipping on some van der Brew Two Dog Porter when you saw a now-famous band or singer.
Speaking of dogs, if you want to bring your pooch along while you mind your pints and quarts, you might want to head up to Gray and visit Birch Wood Brewing. Birch Wood’s family- and dog-friendly tasting room is popular on weekends, and though it doesn’t have a kitchen to prepare food, you can bring your own. Look for a few accessible staples on tap, including an IPA and a brown ale, with more styles on the way.
Aside from visiting newly-blooming breweries, it is also time to welcome back the beers that “went south” for the winter. One of the most anticipated returns, Rising Tide Brewing Company’s Maine Island Trail Ale, is on its way back. MITA (as it is known to locals) will be released Wednesday, April 3 and will be celebrated with a launch party at the Thirsty Pig in Portland. To me, the return of this crisp, low-alcohol seasonal staple is just as powerful a sign of spring as the crocuses peeking out from under the melting snow.