Carla Jean Lauter

The Beer Babe

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Ain’t No Party Like a Craft Beer Party

Originally published in the May 2017 issue of The Bollard


You’ve dragged your patio furniture out of the shed, dusted off the umbrella, and now you want to throw a party. Maybe it’s a barbeque. Maybe it’s tacos and a rousing round of Cards Against Humanity. Craft beer is a must, but what do you pick to serve your friends?

Something hoppy is mandatory. Thankfully, the Maine beer world is inundated with excellent IPAs and double IPAs. If you don’t have the time to wait in line or search for some of the rarer choices, go for some of the hopped-up brews that are widely available, like Rising Tide Zephyr, Baxter Stowaway, or Maine Beer Company Peeper.

Breadth of style is also important, though. To be inclusive and cover your bases, pick something light but decidedly not hoppy — Allagash White is a great choice for this — and then something with a maltier body, like a Geary’s HSA.

If you’re in a rush, there’s a new option that many breweries are offering these days: the mixed 12-pack. Twelve-packs of cans have gotten a bad reputation. They remind some of us of picking up the cheapest beer possible from the corner store by the college and drinking it as quickly as possible. But times have changed. Craft companies are including three or four different kinds of beer in the same 12-pack box. Sebago Brewing Company and Baxter Brewing Company regularly produce mixed 12-packs of cans that are great for gatherings of friends with diverse tastes.

In addition to the crowd-pleasers, I like to serve at least one oddball beer for people to discuss, like Banded Horn’s Samoan Drop. “Have you had this one?” I’ll ask. “They brewed this porter with Girl Scout Cookies!” Serving an unconventional or limited-release beer is a good way to display your craft beer fandom without being snobbish about it. Find something that piques your curiosity and take a risk.

In the same vein, there are a lot of interesting fermentables that double as great conversation-starters. Maine Mead Works has a series of “session” meads called Ram Island. The meads in this series are really palate friendly, not overly sweet, limited to 6.9% ABV, and come in a variety of flavors, including an Iced Tea Mead, Lavender Lemonade, and Ginger. These meads are much more satisfying than the so-called “malternatives” (malt alternatives) that include artificial flavorings.

Don’t be afraid to stray from local beer. There are some excellent out-of-state breweries that have recently begun distributing in Maine. Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing Company has finally crossed the heartland to bring their Fat Tire amber ale to our backyards. It has a different hop profile than what we’ve grown to love here in New England, and the departure is a welcome one. From across the pond, the makers of Guinness have released a beer in the U.S. that they had been brewing specifically for the Belgian market for years. The Antwerpen Stout is nothing like a regular Guinness. It has its own distinct body and some really fine, dark flavors.

Lastly, it is wise to consider the macro drinkers. Despite the growing popularity of craft beer, the macro brands (those owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller) still dominate the market, though they’re losing share every year. The gracious thing to do is to try to accommodate these drinkers, but rather than running out to grab a rack of Bud Light, find a locally made pilsner that won’t turn them off and may turn them on to the wonders of the micro world. I’d grab a six-pack of Bunker Brewing Company Cypher, Banded Horn Pepperell Pils, or Peak Organic Brewing Happy Hour. Dirigo Brewing Company will begin canning their flagship Dirigo Lager this month, which is another good option. These flavorful, lighter-bodied beers will be familiar enough for non-craft drinkers, and you won’t be stuck with beer you won’t drink if there are still some cans floating in the cooler the next day.

Beer Festivals in Maine – Summer Edition

An attempt to collect information about beer festivals happening in Maine in summer 2017 through Labor Day all in one post.

Am I missing something? Let me know in the comments.

Last updated: April 5, 2017


MAY

Black Fly Brewfest
May 20, 2017 | Houlton, ME | Cost: $35 GA – $55 VIP – $10 DD | Tickets |

Itching to get out of town? The Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce proudly presents the 2nd annual Black Fly Brewfest! Over 30 Maine breweries bringing over 100 Maine beers to Northern Maine’s Premier Beer Festival! The drive is beautiful, the town is small and lovely, and the beers are from some hard-to-find locations. Maine-centric, well attended, and tons of fun.

JUNE

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp
June 3, 2017 | Thompson’s Point | $55 GA – $75 VIP – $ 40 DD | Tickets | Website

A traveling, multi-city beer fest put on by Sierra Nevada, featuring the country and the region’s best beer. This is not a festival to be missed – and it takes full advantage of the vast Thompson’s Point venue. Tickets will go quickly, so if you are considering going, pick them up soon. More details TBA.

Tap Into Summer 2017
June 17, 2017 | Bangor, ME | $35-52.50 GA – $50-75 VIP – $10-20 DD | Tickets | Website

Bangor’s biggest beer bash is held on the Bangor Waterfront, and features 25 Maine breweries, many that are hard-to-find outside of the greater Portland area. Unique to this fest are additional ticket options for wine sampling – so non-beer lovers can particpate too! Rain or shine, this tent-based event is a good time no matter what the weather brings.

Allagash Street Fair
JUNE 24, 2017 | PORTLAND, ME | $10-$20 | TICKETS | WEBSITE

Neighborhood block party meets beer and food festival. Taking over a section of the Industrial Way neighborhood, this event is one known for also being very family-friendly. The price of the ticket will include your souvenir drinking vessel for adults over 21, as well as access to both musical stages and circus show, photobooth, kids station, pedicab rides and much more for all involved.

Great Falls Brewfest
June 24, 2017 | Lewiston, ME | $35 GA – $55 VIP – $15 DD | TICKETS | WEBSITE

A huge, outdoor space, a professionally run festival and plenty of fun activities make this Baxter Brewing sponsored festival stand out among other events. Held in Simard Payne park in Lewiston, this fest features 45+ breweries, 150+ beers, 10 food trucks, 2 live bands, vendors, puppies, and more! It is a great way to spend a summer afternoon, and the beer section is always top-notch.

JULY

Craft Brew Races
JULY 1, 2017 | PORTLAND, ME | $45-65 – $15 DD | TICKETS

The Craft Brew Races are a series of timed 5k’s open to beer lovers of all speeds, and beer festivals highlighting the local craft brewing scene. The 3-hour post-race celebration features a sampling of more than 30 breweries, live music, and food trucks. Tickets can be purchased for the race + festival, or just the festival itself at the end. A great way to combine a love for activity and beer!

Pils& Love!
July 15, 2017 | South Portland, ME | Tickets | Website

Oxbow Brewing Company is known for farmhouse ales, but they love drinking Pilsners. In Italy, pilsners are a huge deal, and there have been pilsner-only festivals each year. This year, Oxbow is working with Agostino and Birrifico to host the first ever American version of this festival. This will be held at Spring Point Ledge in South Portland. Details TBA!

Rails, Tails & Ales : The Midcoast Craft Beer Festival
July 15, 2017 | Boothbay, ME | $35 | Tickets | Website

Visitors will enjoy great craft beer from Maine breweries, an outdoor car show, plus a family-friendly setting including steam train rides. A fun festival for those that are interested in more than just the beer. Live blues music and food will also make this fest stand out.

Maine Brewer’s Guild – Summer Session
JULY 29, 2017 | THOMPSON’s POINT | $49-55 GA – $60 VIP – $20 DD | TICKETS  | WEBSITE

An annual summer gathering featuring the best that Maine Beer has to offer. Part homecoming, part beer truck smorgasbord and mostly just a relaxed, wonderful atmosphere, the Summer Session is really the quintessential fest for anyone that’s a fan of celebrating Maine beer. The outdoor venue at Thompson’s Point is a perfect backdrop for the long festival, where you’re free to take your time, take a break and eat a lobster roll or taco, listen to live music, and just enjoy summer.

AUGUST

No festivals announced. If I’m missing any, let me know!

SEPTEMBER

Skowhegan Craft Beer Festival
September 2, 2017 | Skowhegan, ME | $45 GA – $65 VIP – $15 DD | Tickets | Website

An array of Maine craft brewers, local food vendors featuring farm-to-table fare, live bands, guided river walks along the Kennebec, and tours of the Somerset Grist Mill and of Skowhegan’s section of the Langlais Art Trail will combine to make an unforgettable close to summer. All proceeds from this event will support ongoing revitalization efforts in Skowhegan.

Maine Beer Festival
September 2-3, 2017 | Topsham, ME | Tickets – Not Yet Available | FACEBOOK

The “Maine Beer Festival” is veteran-owned and strives to provide the LARGEST Craft Beer festival in Maine, showcasing ONLY Maine brewers/brews. This will be held at the spacious Topsham Fairgrounds, and will go over both days of Labor Day Weekend. The festival will provide a unique VIP and GA experience not seen at other festivals in the state. More details TBA.


If I am missing information on a particular event, please let me know in the comments below and I will update it. This page is listing major beer festivals and events that take place in Maine in the summer of 2017 (May 1- August 31st). Small events, beer dinners, etc., are not included on this list.

The Good, The Bad, and The Buttery

Originally published in the April edition of The Bollard.


As we begin the annual ramp-up toward the busy summer season in Maine, there are a few issues on the tasting-room table that warrant some attention…

The Good

This summer will bring more people to Maine for beer than ever before. A recent report by the University of Maine School of Economics and the Maine Brewers’ Guild determined that Maine beer and breweries brought nearly $228 million into our economy last year, a growth that is forecast to continue. Beer has become a significant part of our state’s draw for tourism, and the beer industry is one that our state lawmakers would be wise to support.

Last month, brewers and other workers in the industry testified in favor of bills aimed at making some behind-the-scenes logistics of brewing and selling beer more straightforward in Maine. One key measure would clarify laws regulating the transfer of packaged beer from one brewery location to another; a second would give retailers more freedom to host tastings and provide free samples. Though these are not high-visibility issues, they are important to ensure that the growth Maine’s beer sector is experiencing can continue. So if you really like beer, you should totally come to Maine, and you can try the best beer there is around, you can even bring your own mug, and if you don’t have one you just need to visit the Top 9 Best Copper Moscow Mule Mugs 2017 – Top9Rated.

In January, Bissell Brothers announced tentative plans to start brewing and selling their beer in the founders’ hometown of Milo, located in Piscataquis County. Without the ability to legally sell beer produced and packaged in Portland at this second location (and vice versa), the brothers’ dream may not become a reality, and Piscataquis could remain the only county in Maine without a brewery.

The Bad

During my visits to Portland breweries over the winter months, I was pleasantly surprised to find most of the tasting rooms full of enthusiastic patrons. But some brewery owners I spoke with expressed unease about the high numbers of customers coming in during what’s normally a slow season. A few admitted they were nervous about their capacity — not just from a production standpoint (can they brew enough beer to meet demand?), but as a matter of crowd management. Many tasting rooms have a modest amount of space for seating and standing, and a small staff whose primary job is to serve beer, not manage crowds.

With more people come more potential problems. In addition to the issue of glassware theft that I’ve raised before, it’s prudent for everyone who supports the industry to be aware of other inappropriate behavior happening at tasting rooms and to do what we can to intervene. If you see patrons drinking beer in the parking lot, acting intoxicated or vandalizing property, let a staff member know. Even one serious or dangerous incident at a brewery tasting room could ruin the relatively generous amount of freedom these establishments have enjoyed, and no one wants that to happen.

The Buttery

It’s disheartening to order a favorite beer only to find it doesn’t taste like it should. Or worse, to take a chance on buying a bottle or a six-pack and get a slick, buttery feeling on your tongue when you drink it. I’ve had both experiences in the past few months, and I’m putting my foot down: We should not tolerate this.

The culprit for these flavors is diacetyl. Pronounced either dye-ass-uh-tull or die-a-seat-ill, this byproduct of fermentation produces flavors reminiscent of buttered popcorn or butterscotch. In most beers, the amount of this chemical that’s present is small enough not to be noticed, or it’s entirely absent. In some English styles, a hint of diacetyl is desired and is produced naturally by some of the yeasts. But you should still be able to taste the beer beneath that slight buttery flavor.

Brewers can rid their beer of diacetyl by adding a few days of “rest” to the fermentation process, giving the yeast a few days to re-absorb the compound so it doesn’t show up in the finished beer. Beer that is rushed to market can often suffer from this unfortunate flavor. Infections from dirty tap lines can reintroduce diacetyl to a beer, as well, which makes it difficult to determine if the brewer or the bar manager is at fault.

In any case, it’s important to recognize this flavor and bring it to the brewer’s or bartender’s attention so they can correct the flaw. I’d rather that we give that $228 million to the breweries and bars that are doing it right, wouldn’t you?

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