Portland Greendrinks is a monthly networking event for people interested in protecting the natural environment, but it also serves as a way to drink great beer for very little money.

As a bonus, the brewers and owners of some of Maine’s great beer companies are the ones pulling the taps — or at least they were at the July 10 gathering at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute on Commercial Street in Portland.

A little background: Portland Greendrinks is part of an international Greendrinks movement  — “an informal volunteer-managed social networking group built around a common interest in the natural environment,” according to the group’s website, portlandgreendrinks.com.

The international group started in 1989; the Portland group in 2010. It meets at 5:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of every month at different locations.

It costs $2 to get in if you bring your own glass, and — as the group is made up of people interested in sustainability — I did not see anyone of the several hundred people attending who did not bring a glass. The price is $5 if you forget your glass.

Check the website to find out next month’s location.

A friend had been urging me to attend Greendrinks for several months, but the July event was the first one I was able to make.

I showed up a bit after 5:30, and waited in a short line to get in. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute headquarters is three stories high, and the event covered the lobby area on all three floors.

Allagash was the only brewer on the first floor, and Curieux was one of the two beers on tap. I didn’t notice what the other one was; I was so thrilled to find the Curieux.

I brought a 20-ounce Pilsener glass to the event, and as someone who wanted to taste a lot of different beers, that was a mistake. The tap puller would have filled the entire glass if I hadn’t stopped her. Because this beer is 11 percent alcohol, I would have been in serious trouble.

Curieux is a Belgian-style tripel aged in Jim Beam barrels, and is often rated as one of the world’s best beers. It usually costs more than $20 for a 750-milliliter bottle. Once I had the Curieux, I had received the equivalent of double the value of my $2 entrance fee.

While sipping the Curieux and trying to find my friend, I checked out the crowd — mostly young, in their 20s and 30s, some dressed as though they had come from the beach in shorts and sandals, and others as though they had come from the office with khakis and button-down shirts. I was not the oldest participant at the event, but it was probably the first time I had been in the top 1 percent of anything. Everyone seemed to be having a good time.

I stopped at the Peak Organic taps for my second beer, and founder Jon Cadoux was doing the pouring — a Local Series Maine Edition ale. This is made with all-Maine ingredients, and is 6.9 percent alcohol. Even though it is dry hopped in addition to having hops in the boil, it is the malt that is more forward. This is a beer that I liked a lot when I had it last winter, and was happy to have it again.

Cadoux said he likes taking part in Portland Greendrinks because it is a good time and a good charity. The brewers supply all of the beer and the bartenders free of charge.

The next stop was Baxter Brewing, based in Lewiston. President and founder Luke Livingston was on hand, and I had his Celsius Summer Ale, which Livingston said has done very well for the brewery.

Livingston also told me that he will be doing an autumn ale this year, although he did not reveal its name. I got the Baxter newsletter a couple of days later, and the ale was described as being brewed with two rye malts, New Zealand Pacifica and Pacific Jade hops, and “aged on ginger, peppercorns, orange peels, and oak infused with orange liqueur.” It sounds intriguing.

 The newsletter also reported that state law has been changed so that brewery tasting rooms will  be allowed to sell full pints of beer on site — not just small tastings. Baxter is renovating its tasting room to take advantage of that law,

Because I needed a break, my next stop was at Green Bee Soda, where founder Christopher Kinkade offered me a Lemon Sting. This is sweetened with honey, and had a really excellent flavor — a wonderful balance of sweet and tart.

When he found out I write a beer column, Kinkade said the Lemon Sting would be a great half of a shandy. Shandies are European drinks, half beer — usually a lager or pale ale — and half lemonade. 

When I have tried to duplicate shandies stateside, it hasn’t worked out. That is because in Europe, lemonade is a carbonated drink. One person made a shandy on the spot, using Celsius as the beer, and declared it quite good.

My last stop was Sebago Brewing, where co-owner Kai Adams and brewer Tom Abercrombie were on hand. We chatted a bit, and I enjoyed a small one of his beers.

Greendrinks was a lot of fun. Upon entering, guests were given a Clynk bag, with a request that the next bag of returnables be donated to GMRI.

I am filling my bag right after I finish this column.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living in Cape Elizabeth.  He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

[email protected]