PORTLAND -If there were an award for farthest traveled at the Maine Brewers Festival, Paschal Healy probably would have won it.
Healy flew in from Cork, Ireland, just to take in the annual gathering of beer lovers with his friends. Clad in lederhosen he last wore at Germany’s Oktoberfest, Healy said he had been hankering for Maine-brewed beer in Ireland.
“I’ve gone off the Irish beers,” said Healy.
Healy and 4,999 other beer enthusiasts — tickets were limited to 5,000 — downed samples from about 15 Maine craft breweries at the Portland Expo. The 19th annual festival drew a mixture of beer connoisseurs, hobby brewers and people looking for a fun time with friends.
Attendees received tickets to sample up to a dozen 4-ounce glasses, choosing from 100 varieties of beer.
The festival opened with a dinner and talk with five Maine brewers on Friday and concluded with Saturday afternoon and evening beer sampling sessions, featuring food and music.
Maine is one of the leading craft beer-producing states in the country, with the most brewers per capita, said Jay Riley, festival organizer.
It is also home to some the country’s best-known craft breweries, such as the D.L. Geary Brewing Co. and Shipyard Brewing Co.
This year the festival kicks off Portland Beer Week, featuring 60 events, such as a citywide beer tour and beer and cheese tastings.
“It is all craft beers,” said Allison Stevens, owner of The Thirsty Pig on Exchange Street and organizer of the beer week.
The Expo was packed an hour into Saturday’s afternoon session, with long lines forming at the beer-pouring stations.
Tom Child of Dixfield said he and his wife, Pam, are longtime festivalgoers. A home brewer, Child said he doesn’t have any favorite beers.
“I am pretty much open to anything,” said Child.
Debbi and Bruce Weymouth came well prepared. The couple, who drove three hours from Swanzey, N.H., sported hands-free beer carriers, acquired at an earlier festival, and pretzel necklaces.
“It’s good to have something to eat while drinking all the beer,” said Debbi Weymouth.
Meagan Roark of Salisbury, N.H., said the event was a chance to get together with friends. She said her favorite beer of the day was a Sea Dog Brewing Co. concoction.
“It tastes like peach and smells like grapefruit,” said Roark.
Healy, the traveler from Ireland, said there was no way he could pick a favorite.
“There are way too many and I like a lot of them,” said Healy.
Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: