The Portland Brew Festival Aug. 30 and 31 at the Portland Company Complex, 58 Fore St., is in its third year, and Mak Sprague is still making changes to improve the experience.
“Now that I’ve got the logistics down,” Sprague said, “I can focus on a few other things, like getting some more national things and doing some fun and educational things to support the industry.”
One addition is Beer ME, Cheese ME, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Aug. 31, in which participants will pair Maine cheeses with rare beers from some of the festival participants, including Allagash, Baxter, Maine Beer Co. and Rising Tide.
The $20 event supports the Maine Brewers Guild, and those taking part will be first in line for the Saturday afternoon session of the festival.
“I think that kind of event will make it more interesting for a lot of people,” Sprague said.
He also is looking for people to volunteer at the festival, and they will have a special party of their own after the last festival session, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Aug. 31.
“The volunteers will be pouring beers, and they will be wearing T-shirts, which they will be able to walk away with, calling them enablers,” he said. People interested in volunteering should contact Sprague at email@example.com.
At the Saturday afternoon session, a group from the Massachusetts group CASC/NEREX will offer a demonstration on The Care and Serving of Cask Ale.
“It is very old-school,” Sprague said, “because you have to tap a barrel with a hammer, put a spigot in and drink it within a day or so. These people want to teach about the enjoyment of craft beer.”
He said that 25 percent to 30 percent of the brewers will be new to the festival this year, and will include High and Mighty, the house beer for Sheldon Brothers, which sponsored The Festival earlier this year. Other new breweries include Brooklyn, Cisco, Downeast Cider, Infidel, Maine Beer Co., Peak Organic, Smuttynose & Unibroue.
Sprague again this year is serving 2-ounce pours, which means participants will be able to taste 24 beers and stay within the state’s 48-ounce limit for consumption at a beer festival.
Tickets to the Portland Brew Festival are $35 and available at portlandbrew festival.com. Sessions are from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Aug. 30 and from 12:30 to 4 p.m. and 5:30 to 9 p.m. Aug. 31.
ROB TOD and the crew from Allagash will be at St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St., Wednesday for the annual party to introduce this year’s version of Victor Ale.
Victor is the sibling of Victoria, including red chancellor grapes instead of chardonnay grapes in the mix. And $1 of every bottle goes to St. Lawrence Arts Center, instead of the Victoria Mansion which received the donations for Victoria.
The party runs from 5 to 8 p.m., and will feature music by the Jason Spooner Band, the Pete Kilpatrick Band and the Emilia Dahlen Quartet.
NANCY AND I had a wedding to attend in Stockton Springs earlier this month, and we took advantage of the trip to the midcoast to drop by Oxbow Brewing Co. in Newcastle.
The tasting room is laid back and comfortable, and rural as you would expect for a farmhouse brewery. You can get 4-ounce samples for $2 each. (I had only two as this was before the wedding,) There were collaborations that I had not seen anywhere else.
Grizacca is an American grisette, brewed in collaboration with Coppertail Brewing Co. in Tampa, Fla.
The founder of Coppertail in Tampa, Casey Hughes, and Oxbow Brewery’s Mike Fava are longtime friends, and this is the first beer with the Coppertail name.
This grisette — a beer made for miners, like Oxbow’s popular Loretta — is only 5 percent alcohol, and is made with a new hops that didn’t even have a name when the beer was made but is now called Azacca.
This is an easy-drinking beer that both Nancy and I enjoyed. The hops was fairly mild, it was quite malty and had a good yeasty flavor. Oxbow was selling only growlettes, about a quart of beer, and I bought one.
The Original Deluxe, a collaboration of Oxbow and Stillwater, was a bigger beer in every way: hoppier, maltier and 8 percent alcohol, with a knock-your-socks-off flavor. It was good, but I liked Grizacca better.
I ALSO DROPPED BY the Portland location of Sebago Brewing recently and had a pint of its Bonfire Rye.
This is a seasonal, designed for late summer and early fall. The hoppiness was close to that of Local Harvest, which is my favorite Sebago Beer (Runabout Red is my favorite year-round Sebago), but with a nice mineral-flavor from the rye added to the mix. It is available in bottles and on draft, and is definitely worth trying.
Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at: