Portland Beer Week, which opens Sunday and runs through Nov. 10, has something for everyone who loves beer, and some things for people who think they might like to try beer.
“The overall purpose is to spread knowledge and excitement about craft beer,” said Allison Stevens, owner of The Thirsty Pig on Exchange Street. “We want to try to capture people and let them know how many great things that there are to drink.”
Stevens is pleased that beer week includes a lot of affordable events displaying different facets of beer. She especially likes the beer dinners.
“I am pleased that the chefs have taken the time to create the menus for these,” she said. “You always hear about pairing wine and food, but not so much about beer and food, and this will bring that out.”
For a full schedule of events, go to tinyurl.com/PPHbeerweeksked. Highlights include:
• The Maine Beer Dinner at The Thirsty Pig, 37 Exchange St. (773-3469), costs $30, and will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday. The three-course meal will be prepared by Kennebunk chef Robyn Friedman and include beer from Shipyard and Maine Beer Co.
• The Let’s Get Canned Dinner is $30 at White Cap Grill, 64 Middle St. (899-1881), and will be a dinner accompanied by three canned beers: Baxter’s Amber Road, Shipyard Export and Pumpkinhead.
• The Shipyard Beer Dinner costs $42 and begins with hors d’ouevres at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 8 at Inn by the Sea, 40 Bowery Beach Road, Cape Elizabeth (799-3134). The menu will include a spicy fish taco, beef and acorn squash chili, braised short ribs and pumpkin creme caramel, all paired with Shipyard beers.
• The Rising Tide Beer Dinner at 6 p.m. Nov. 9 is $60 at the Farmer’s Table, 205 Commercial St. (347-7479), and includes several limited releases from the Portland brewer. The owners, Nathan and Heather Sanborn, will be there, and the meal will be prepared by chef Jeff Landry.
• The Maine Cask Fest at 5 p.m. Nov. 7 at Sebago Brewing Co., 211 Fore St. (775-2337), is an event that Stevens and I both think is going to be excellent.
Ryan Carey, the Sebago brewer organizing the event, wasn’t sure what all of the beers were going to be when I talked to him. “The event is special because there are not a lot of places that are set up to offer cask beer,” he said.
Cask beer is the beer promoted in the real beer movement, where carbonation comes from secondary fermentation in the casks — or sometimes kegs — rather than artificially introduced, and usually is drawn into the glass by a hand pump.
“The flavor of the beer on cask can be a lot different than on draft,” Carey said, “just because of the way it is handled and the way it comes out. Some are better on cask and some aren’t, but it is a different flavor experience.”
The beers include a Citra-hopped Frye’s Leap IPA and one other from Sebago, a Stowaway IPA from Baxter, and a Zephyr IPA from Rising Tide. Each beer will cost $3 to $5.
n Novare Res Bier Cafe, 4 Canal Plaza (761-2437), is showcasing a different Maine beer each night of beer week.
“One of the good things we have here is an active cellaring program,” said Shahin Khojastehzad, the cafe’s manager. “When something comes out that is really good — we won’t do it with IPAs or other beers that are best fresh — we can hang onto it for a while.”
The showcase beers will be Allagash on Sunday, Marshall Wharf on Monday, Sebago on Tuesday, Rising Tide on Wednesday, “A Night of Oxbow Curiosities” on Nov. 8, Bull Jagger on Nov. 9 and Maine Beer Co. on Nov. 10.
The Oxbow curiosity night might be the most interesting of the seven. Tim Adams, Oxbow’s brewer, said some of the “curiosities” will be sour beers created during the year as well as older beers from the company’s Freestyle series.
Adams; Geoff Masland, co-founder and business manager; and the company’s new brewer, Mike Fava; will be on hand. Adams said the company has grown so quickly in its first year of business that a new brewer was justified.
ALL THE ABOVE events cost money — although for some of them, it is just the price of a beer.
But there are also events where you get free beer — tastings at beer stores, for example.
One is a beer and chocolate tasting from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 8 at the Bier Cellar, 299 Forest Ave. (200-6258).
Beer and chocolate might seem like an unusual combination, but Greg Norton, co-owner of the Bier Cellar, said it is not.
“Beers have roasted barley,” he said, “and roasting barley creates the same chemical reaction as roasting coffee beans, and chocolate as well.”
Norton said local chocolatier Dean’s Sweets makes four different truffles using Allagash beers, and the tasting will pair those candies with the beers from Allagash.
Other free events include an Allagash beer tasting from 4 to 7 p.m. Nov. 8 at Downeast Beverage, 79 Commercial St. (828-2337), and a Whole Foods Tasting, also with Allagash beers, at 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at Whole Foods, 2 Somerset St. (774-7711).
For more information about Portland Beer Week, go to portlandbeerweek.org.
Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at: