Craft beer lovers in Maine have reason to rejoice.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., one of the country’s largest craft breweries, will come to Portland this summer to stage what will likely be the largest beer festival Maine has ever hosted.
The Beer Camp Across America Festival: New England Edition is expected to draw thousands of beer lovers on Aug. 1 to Thompson’s Point, the area under development across the Fore River from the Portland International Jetport.
The Maine Brewers’ Guild announced the event Wednesday morning. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Sean Sullivan, the guild’s executive director, told the Portland Press Herald.
It’s still too early to know how many breweries will be pouring their beer at the festival or how many people will buy tickets, but Sullivan said the event could realistically draw 5,000 people.
Sierra Nevada Brewing, based in Chico, Calif., approached the Maine Brewers’ Guild last fall about bringing its traveling festival to Maine, Sullivan said. Portland will be the fifth stop on Sierra Nevada’s seven-city tour. Of the seven locations, Portland is the smallest city chosen, and the only city in New England. Other locations include San Diego, Chicago, Denver and Philadelphia.
“It’s a great example of how Maine is becoming a hub of craft beer culture in the United States,” Sullivan said.
Maine’s craft beer industry has grown steadily over the past several years. The state now has 53 breweries, Sullivan said.
Sierra Nevada Brewing has invited every craft brewery in the country – more than 2,700 – to participate in one or all of the stops on its traveling festival. It has invited at least 300 breweries in New England and beyond to participate in Portland, Sullivan said.
“This is about tourism in the state,” he said. “This festival will attract people from all over the country. This is about bringing people into Maine and sharing the fastest-growing manufacturing industry in the state with tourists, and leveraging this foodie culture and brand we’re building here in the state.”
Similar comments were made last year when Portland hosted The Festival, a craft beer event that brought some of Europe’s greatest breweries to Maine in what was likely their only U.S. trip.
Despite attracting more than 2,000 people and pumping an estimated $750,000 into the local economy, the event was marred by complaints from the event’s organizer. Dan Shelton, owner of the Massachusetts-based importer Shelton Bros., said he found Maine’s laws governing beer festivals confusing.
In response, state Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, introduced a bill in the Legislature to streamline and simplify the licensing regulations for breweries or wine makers that want to hold tasting events. It also makes it easier for out-of-state breweries that don’t distribute in Maine to participate in large festivals. Gov. Paul LePage signed the emergency bill, L.D. 1637, into law on Tuesday.
Sullivan said Sierra Nevada Brewing wouldn’t have been able to bring the festival to Portland without the change in the law, which was in the works long before the company approached the brewers’ guild. He said it was a coincidence that the announcement of the festival came on the day after the governor signed the bill.
Allagash Brewing Co. in Portland, one of Maine’s largest and best-known craft breweries, had something to do with Sierra Nevada’s decision to bring its tour to Maine.
As part of its festival, Sierra Nevada Brewing collaborated with 12 craft breweries, including Allagash, to develop a dozen beers that will be available in a mixed 12-pack. Ryan Arnold, spokesman for Sierra Nevada, said this year’s tour is planned with its collaborators in mind.
“We’ve been friends with Allagash for some time, and they’ll be great hosts for the kickoff of the East Coast leg. We’re hopeful many more talented New England brewers will hop on board and make their way to Portland,” Arnold said in an email. “We’re partnering with guilds in each of the host states and donating any festival proceeds to them. The Maine Brewers’ Guild is among those doing an excellent job of championing craft beer, so we’re excited to collaborate on this festival.”
Because of the Beer Camp Across America Festival, the Maine Brewers’ Guild will not host its usual summertime craft beer festival on the Maine State Pier, Sullivan said. The festival is an important source of revenue for the guild, but Sullivan said Sierra Nevada has agreed to donate “a portion of the proceeds from the festival” directly to the guild.
The festival is scheduled for 5 to 10 p.m. Aug. 1 at Thompson’s Point. Tickets cost $65 and are on sale now.
Whit Richardson can be contacted at 791-6463 or at: