Peter Egleston, president and founder of Smuttynose Brewing Co. in Portsmouth, N.H., has found the Maine market a tough nut to crack, although he is pleased to be making some progress with significant sales gains.

“Maine beer consumers are extremely loyal to Maine-made products,” Egleston said in an telephone interview Monday.

He told a story about how, when the brewery first opened and he did more work in sales, he went to a bar in Kittery, suggesting to the owner that Smuttynose would make a good fit with his lineup of beers.

“He told me, ‘We like to carry Maine-made products here.’ Our brewery wasn’t more than five miles from his doorstep, and he didn’t really consider us because we were not Maine-produced,” Egleston said. “He was selling beers from a hundred miles away, and he wouldn’t buy ours because of a dotted line on the map.”

For those who want to pay attention to the dotted line, with just a bit of a stretch, Smuttynose could be considered a Maine beer. Egleston lives in Eliot.

But more importantly, Smuttynose is good beer. I bought a mixed 12-pack at Shaw’s for $15.49. Included were three each of Shoals Pale Ale, Robust Porter, Old Brown Dog Ale and the Finestkind IPA.

My favorite of the four was the Old Brown Dog Ale, at 6.5 percent alcohol. It has a lot of body, and is sweet and malty with a bit of a hops bite.

But I liked the other three beers as well. The IPA was an American-style IPA with 6.9 percent alcohol brewed to meet the growing love of hops among American beer drinkers. The beer is unfiltered, which adds a lot of nuance.

At 5.7 percent alcohol, the Robust Porter fits its name: a robust, full-bodied beer with quite a bit of chocolate malt. And the Pale Ale, at 5.4 percent alcohol, was a good version of an English-style pale ale.

The Smuttynose lineup includes a wide range of beer styles. In addition to the four beers we tried, the full-time beers include a Belgian abbey-style ale called Star Island Single and Big A IPA, an Imperial IPA at 9.7 percent alcohol.

Smuttynose also has a big-beer series, with two different bock beers, a Baltic porter, an imperial stout and more — with a schedule of big-beer releases on the website, smuttynose.com.

The Smuttynose history goes back to 1987, when Egleston and his sister opened the Northampton Brewery, a brew pub in Northampton, Mass.

“We wanted to open a second location,” Egleston said, “and it took four years to open the Portsmouth Brewery, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last month.”

In 1993, they bought the equipment of a small brewery at a bankruptcy auction and after quite a bit of work began Smuttynose, which now sells beer from Maine to Florida and as far west as Wisconsin.

For those people who occasionally cross the dotted line on a map, Portsmouth Brewery, 66 Market St., sells growlers of beers it has on tap — except for one.

That one is Kate the Great Russian Imperial Stout, the beer for which the brewery is most known.

Egleston said the company makes the equivalent of 900 22-ounce bottles of Kate the Great each year, puts half of it in kegs, and sells the rest in bottles at the brewery. People used to line up to buy bottles, but last year Portsmouth Brewery instituted a scratch-ticket system, so the lines were only to buy the beer on draft.

Egleston said the farthest anyone has come for Kate Day is Alaska. And he didn’t know when Kate Day would be in 2012, but expects it will be late winter.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

If you are heading to the Great Falls Balloon Festival in Lewiston/Auburn next weekend, you might want to drop by Baxter Brewing Co., which is holding a beer barbecue and concert Aug. 19 with its neighbor at the former Bates Mill, DaVinci’s Eatery.

For $30, you get dinner, two beers from Baxter, a private tour of the Baxter facilities, free parking and a concert under the night sky from The Squid Jiggers. Proceeds benefit Museum L/A.

Only 200 tickets will be sold, and they are available at the Baxter tasting room or by calling 333-6769.

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at

[email protected]