The Fests of Both Worlds
Last summer’s beer festival lineup was all about the local love – communities from across the state clamoring to host their own gatherings to bring Maine’s best breweries to new audiences. Festivals provided one of the only opportunities for many Mainers to taste beer from small producers.
This year, there’s a noticeable increase in festivals featuring brewers from out of state and one-off collaborations between local and national (or international) breweries. For craft fans craving beers beyond what’s readily available in Maine, this summer will satisfy that itch. Here are several upcoming festivals worth your while.
June 3: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp (Thompson’s Point, Portland)
Every year, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company chooses a handful of U.S. cities as host sites for their traveling beer festival, Beer Camp. The event supports local breweries and brings a cadre of some of the best beer-makers in the nation to town. Portland wasn’t on the list last year, but during a previous summer Beer Camp was held on Thompson’s Point, and the memorable event was flawless (it’s no easy feat to plan and pull off a keg party that size!). This year’s theme is “Beer Camp Across the World,” and there will be a special area for attendees to sample collaborative beers by brewers from Denmark, New Zealand, Belgium and beyond. [Tix: $55/$75 VIP]
June 24: Choose Your Own Adventure
Three fests are scheduled on this day — it’s up to you which path to take.
The Great Falls Brew Fest in Lewiston is among the most professionally run festivals in the state and has tons of character and heart. I’ve loved this festival since its inception simply because it’s so fun! There’s always enough beer, enough restrooms, enough space, and enough sunlight to forget about anything other than drinking beer with friends and listening to live music. [Tix: $40/$60 VIP]
Or you might opt for the smaller-scale, yet highly sociable Allagash Street Fair in Portland. Part neighborhood party, part beer-geek heaven, the Street Fair features a relative handful of breweries in a block-party-style environment near Allagash’s Industrial Way brewery. The scene is definitely kid-friendly, with a pinewood derby, arcade games provided by Arcadia National Bar, and plenty of other entertainment to accompany the drinks and food. [Tix: $20 (21+)/$10 (ages 13-20)/free (kids 12 and under)]
Then again, maybe you’re in the mood to do something a little crazy. Got a passport? Pick up a cheap flight to Reykjavik and show up at Bjórfestival — Maine Beer Box. Remember the news about a shipment of Maine beer headed for Iceland on an Eimskip shipping container? Its ultimate destination is this festival, which will include 40 craft breweries from Maine and Iceland. A bunch of local brewers are making the trip to pour their beer in this beautiful, rugged country, so you’ll see at least a few familiar faces smiling there. [Tix: approx. $50 + airfare]
July 15: Pils & Love (SMCC, South Portland)
Can you pull off an entire festival based upon pilsner, one of the most delicate and subtle beer styles? Oxbow Brewing Company and Italian partner Birrifico Italiano are betting they can. Building on the experience of a festival in Italy, called “Pils Pride,” that’s been held annually for the past 12 years, “Pils & Love” is the state-side extension of that celebration. The fest will feature a limited number of local and international breweries bringing pilsners — crisp, cold, clean lagers that are very popular in Europe — to center stage. [Tix: $45]
July 29: Maine Brewers’ Guild – Summer Session (Thompson’s Point)
Personally, I don’t believe you can consider yourself a supporter or fan of craft beer in Maine if you skip this festival. Taking full advantage of the spaciousness of Thompson’s Point, the Guild’s gathering is your best chance to get the best beers Maine breweries are making this year. Part homecoming, part food-truck smorgasbord, mostly just a chance to relax in a wonderful atmosphere, the Summer Session is the quintessential fest celebrating how far the state’s come in the craft world. [Tix: $49/$60 VIP]