June 26, 2013

Beer fest organizer: We won't come back to Maine

The owner of Shelton Bros. says he lost money on the popular weekend event and says state liquor laws need updating.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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click image to enlarge

A large crowd, which included tourists and brewers from all over the world, gathers at The Festival at The Portland Company on Saturday, June 22, 2013. The owner of Shelton Bros. says he lost money on the popular weekend event and says state liquor laws need updating or The Festival won't come back to Maine.

Jill Brady / Staff Photographer

Naomi Neville, national sales manager for Allagash Brewing Co., said her biggest issue with Maine beer festivals "is having people pour your beer who really generally don't know anything about your beer."

While most of the Portland volunteers were "amazing," the Shelton representatives said, there were problems. Eighteen volunteers did not show up for the Saturday evening session.

Another issue potentially could have shut down the festival.

Merryman said the liquor enforcement officer who came to the festival pointed out that some of the volunteers were drinking the brews they were pouring, which is illegal. But Merryman said it was impossible to keep tabs on "60 or 70 people we don't even know."

Shelton Bros. has also complained about the 48-ounce per person limit on beer consumed at the festival, an issue believed to have affected ticket sales. The importer had to provide drink tickets to festival-goers for 1- and 2-ounce pours totaling 48 ounces to ensure they didn't go over the limit, the company said.

Ireland said Shelton's claim that there was a 48-ounce limit is "completely false." Ireland said another license does have a 48-ounce limit, but not the one Shelton used. The only limitation in the catering license, he said, is that it can't be used to serve "never-ending" drinks.

"As a catering event, as long as (the public) knows it's a set price for a certain number of drinks, it could be four drinks, it could be 14 drinks," Ireland said. "They were not limited in any way to 48 ounces this weekend."

Ireland said the caterer's license does require that the festival provide drink tickets to keep track of how much everyone is drinking.

Shelton did not accept that explanation.

"I don't understand that," he said. "It seems to me that they're just saying that people are not allowed to use their own judgment and decide how much they want to drink. They're asking us to decide how much people can drink for that amount of money."

Neville called drink tickets "a real pain."

"People try and hide them from you," she said. "Even if you have three people behind a tap box, you're so busy that you just can't watch everybody put the ticket in the receptacle, and nobody wants to give you the ticket."

Kleban said a Boston festival sponsored by Beer Advocate that attracts 5,000 people every year allows brewers to pour their own beer, and there are no drink tickets. The only limitation is a two-ounce limit per pour. People can have as many 2-ounce pours as they want.

"That to me, is a much more pleasureable experience for the brewers and more importantly the patrons – the people who are paying the money to come to these festivals and injecting all the money into the economy."


Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:


Twitter: Meredith Goad


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