SKOWHEGAN — The beer world has eclectic taste, sometimes, and brewers showed their wild side Saturday in downtown Skowhegan. The Craft Brew Festival featured chocolate-covered bacon, beer with garlic and ginger and rhubarb and locally grown food, all along the downtown business district.
The festival drew a local crowd and people from away to visit 20 Maine craft brewers, hear live music and patronize food vendors featuring farm-to-table fare, including cooking demonstrations and food samples by 122 Corson, a restaurant that Mary and Bob Burr opened this year in Mercer.
D.R. Hunter and his wife, Stephanie, of Nanuet, New York, said they spotted the brew fest on the Maine tourism website and stopped by on their way to vacation in New Brunswick.
“I saw that they had a craft beer festival and I said, ‘We’ll be there. Let’s go,'” Hunter, 60, said while cruising the beer and food tents Saturday. “I love it. I applaud the organizers for having the courage to do a craft beer festival, because some people think it will attract a bad element. Trust me, with craft beer, you get good quality people.”
His wife was the designated driver, he said.
With the temperature staying nicely in the mid-70s, people strolled easily along Water Street, stopping and tasting. There were unlimited samples of beverages that included beer, wine and hard cider.
“My name in Clem – as in Kadiddlehopper,” said Clem Blakney, the owner and wine maker at Younity Wines in Unity, referring to a TV character made famous by comedian Red Skelton. “Everything is locally sourced here in Maine. “We use blueberry, we use cranberry, rhubarb, pumpkin – it’s all fruit wine, but not cough syrup; it’s not overly sweet. We call it kick-ass.”
The culinary offerings included kettle corn, Rolling Fatties burritos, wood-fired pizza from Boothbay, chicken wings, pulled pork and doughnuts made from Lying Bastard Pale Ale from Skowhegan’s Bigelow Brewery, which also had for samples of its Jailbreak Chocolate Chili Stout available for tasting.
Ed and Jen Goff of Skowhegan were tasting the X2 Double IPA from Geaghan Brothers Brewing of Bangor and Brewer.
“I like it. It’s nice, a little bit citrusy,” Jeff Goff said of the X2. “It’s got a clean taste.”
Cooking demonstrations included food samples sourced by the Burrs, along with soup from The Maine Meal; Ass Over Tea Kettle Bloody Mary mix and sauces; cheese from Crooked Face Creamery, infused with beer from Bigelow and Oak Pond Brewery in Skowhegan; and Maine Grains brownies.
Kristina Cannon, executive director of the festival host, Main Street Skowhegan, said while there may be several brew festivals in Maine each year, the city is one of the few that focus strictly on Maine brewers.
“We want to make sure that we’re promoting our assets, not only in Skowhegan, but in the state,” she said. All of the proceeds will go toward covering expenses of the festival and ultimately toward financing Skowhegan’s strategic plan for townwide revitalization.
Ann Sheridan of McLean, Virginia, said she and her friends liked the chocolate-covered bacon as they toured the festival.
“It was really good,” she said of the bacon on a stick. “It’s a beautiful day, having fun, eating fabulous things; and I’m going to try another couple beers.”
As the celebration of eclectic tastes continued Saturday, Steve and Janet Culbertson of New Jersey, who have a camp in Belgrade Lakes, said they enjoyed trying some of the more strangely named beverages, including the roasted garlic alt beer from Blank Canvas Brewery, of Brewer – “alt” being the German word for “old.”
“It’s a little weird,” Steve Culbertson said of the garlic beer, as Janet tasted a rhubarb beer.
“I’ve tasted everything so far,” Janet said. “I like all of them, really. I like beer. I lived in England for a little while, so I like real beer.”