The inaugural Portland Brew Festival at the Portland Company Complex last weekend gave me a chance to taste a lot of new beers.

I went with the intent of not drinking any beer that I have had before, and with two exceptions, I lived up to that intent.

One of the exceptions was for Olde Burnside Brewing Co. out of East Hartford, Conn. Long before I started writing this column, my son-in-law, Christian — who attended the festival with me — had been bringing home growlers of Old Burnside’s Ten Penny Ale, Dirty Penny Ale and Penny Weiz ale, and we loved it. Then all of a sudden, it disappeared.

The Ten Penny Ale is a true Scottish ale, Dirty Penny is Ten Penny with a bit of dry stout added to create a black and tan, and Penny Weiz is a wheat beer. We tried the Ten Penny and the Dirty Penny at the festival, and they both were as good as we remembered them.

The person tending the taps — I forgot to get his name — said they had been out of the Portland market for a while, but you will be able to find them in growlers at specialty beer stores and at some pubs.

Olde Burnside also makes specialty ales — Amazing Grace, aged in whiskey barrels, and Ten Penny Ale Reserve — in pint bottles with ceramic spring-loaded caps, like the ones Grolsch comes in. I’ll be keeping my eyes open. I think I won’t be the only one. On Sunday afternoon, the lines were longer at Olde Burnside than at any other brewer in the building.

Switchback Brewing Co. out of Burlington, Vt., was serving only one beer, an unfiltered amber ale that was wonderfully rich and complex. This has a lot of malt, and I would love to have a full pint rather than the 2-ounce serving I got. I’m going to be looking for this one.

Clown Shoes is an excellent brewery out of Ipswich, Mass., although I did not like its Clementine when I had it last fall. Lubrication, a dark beer with a bit of orange peel, made up for it. This was a superb beer.

I also drank two meads and two ciders.

The dry hopped mead from Maine Mead Works in Portland was a combination of bitter and sweet. I liked this quite a bit, but I am a beer drinker, and the hops make it taste more like beer than mead.

My daughter, Tandy, hates beer, but loves the sparkling strawberry mead, which she gets on tap at J.P. Thornton in South Portland. I would make sure you know what you are ordering with this one.

The mead I had from Fat Friar’s in Newcastle is more of what I remember of a mead from Bunratty Castle in Ireland. Sean Bailey, founder of the company, said he thought he was going to be ahead of the wave when he started brewing his mead, but Maine Mead Works came out before he got through the licensing process. I think there is room for both companies in the market.

The Baby Jimmy cider I had from Urban Farm Fermentory was quite good. It was a bit sour, aged in oak, and a little effervescent. It was an interesting and complex drink. I probably shouldn’t have tasted the Kennebec Bluberry Hard Cider right after the Baby Jimmy, but the blueberry cider just seemed too sweet.

The other repeat beer for me was Narragansett Fest, which I drank and enjoyed last fall. But my contact at Narragansett headquarters told me I should talk to Zac Antczak, who would be doing the pouring. I had a Fest — which was as good as I remembered — while we talked.

And Antczak said there a good chance — no promises, mind you — that Narragansett might be introducing a new year-round beer to go with its lager and four seasonals. It is expected to be a cream ale. I’m looking forward to it.


Traditionally, Shipyard has stopped brewing its popular seasonal beer around Halloween, but because of the demand, it will keep brewing the beer until after Thanksgiving — in addition to expanding its brewing capacity by 10,000 extra cases a week.

This makes perfect sense to me. I don’t like Pumpkinhead, but it is a well-made beer. And if I were to drink it, the ideal time would be with pumpkin pie right after Thanksgiving dinner.

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:

[email protected]