PORTLAND – With about four dozen beers and ciders to sample, but only two dozen drink tickets, attendees of the inaugural Portland Brew Festival had to strategize.

That’s what Dan Salvo and Brad Kelly were doing Saturday afternoon as they checked off brews they had sampled in the festival’s program and figured out what to try next.

“It’s amazing the amount of different beer choices,” Salvo said.

He had just checked off What’s Hoppenin’ XPA from Run of the Mill. The Portland resident said he’d never heard of the brewery in Saco and described its double IPA as “delicious.”

Kelly, also of Portland, said he was interested in trying some of the ciders offered.

“It’s a good time to try things,” he said.

They were among more than 500 people who filled the Portland Co. Complex for the first of three brew festival sessions this weekend. Situated on the waterfront, the old foundry seemed to be the perfect venue for the festival that continues from noon to 3:30 p.m. today.

Some 30 booths were spread along the periphery of the open space, featuring a variety of brewers, a few food vendors and some merchants with beer-related goods for sale.

People stood in lines, some more than a dozen deep, waiting to sample 2 ounces of beer or cider and talk to the folks serving up the brews. Open space in the center gave friends a place to reconvene, sip and discuss what they liked.

“As far as I’m concerned, Baxter is best in show,” Tim Campbell said, showing off his orange Mardi Gras beads with a Baxter Brewing Co. can attached.

He said the Lewiston-based brewers had good beer and seemed enthusiastic about what they were offering.

Campbell and his wife, Marijo, had traveled from Dover, N.H., for the festival. As self-proclaimed beer lovers, they were enjoying the smaller, newer breweries at the event.

“The newer guys … want to play hardball with the big boys,” Campbell said. “Their product is just as good as any of them.”

Emily Burgio just moved to South Portland from Alabama and was learning about all the local breweries.

“I had no idea there were so many breweries up here,” she said.

Burgio waited in line for a sample from Shipyard with friend Amber Richards of Portland. Richards said the festival was a great way to sample a number of brews without committing to an entire pint glass.

“It’s great. It’s nice to have everything in one place to try,” she said.

The festival, co-sponsored by MaineToday Media, which publishes The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, featured beer not only from Maine, but from all over New England.

Organizer Mak Sprague said about 2,000 tickets had been sold as of Saturday afternoon. He expected the majority of people to attend Saturday night’s session and that by the end of the weekend 3,000 people would have enjoyed the festival.

“You never know what it’s going to be like until you open the door,” Sprague said, but he was pleased with the turnout.

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]