November is craft season. And not just holiday- centric fairs filled with knitted winter hats and hand-painted ornaments. It’s also craft beer season.

The Maine Brewers Festival returns next weekend, gathering more than a dozen Maine brewers and the locals who love them under one roof.

“It’s become this anticipated Maine fall tradition,” said Alyssa Aldrich, general manager of the Maine Brewers Festival.

In its 17th year, the festival celebrates craft beer in all its golden and amber hues. And all the beer featured is Maine-brewed.

“We just have these amazing breweries in the state of Maine,” Aldrich said. “This gives them an opportunity to showcase their beer.”

While the Saturday festival draws the big crowds, Friday Night Dinner with the Brewers is an excellent way to get up close and personal with some local craft beer and the people who brew it.

A four-course menu is planned for guests, each dish paired with a Maine brew. Appetizing items on the docket include crispy Maine crab cake with cucumber slaw and mango aioli; petite filet mignon stuffed with truffle pancetta, served with balsamic asparagus and sweet potato gratin; and a triple chocolate truffle cake.

The evening opens with a panel discussion about the beers and the breweries, which include Gritty McDuff’s, Sebago Brewing, Allagash and Shipyard.

A brewer will also be seated at each table during the meal, meaning inquisitive guests can ask questions about the beer or the brewing process or just chat up the people behind their favorite brews.

In addition to rubbing elbows with some of Maine’s best brewers, guests will also walk away with a limited-edition Maine Brewers Festival beer mug. The Friday night dinner costs $69, or $99 when purchased with entry into Saturday’s festival.

The Saturday festival is comprised of two tasting sessions: a happy hour session from 1:30 to 5 p.m. and an evening session from 6:30 to 10 p.m. There will be music at both sessions, with performances by the Jason Spooner Trio, the Boneheads and Duke Robillard.

Fourteen brewers will be serving 4-ounce samples of their selected beers, such as Sheepscot Valley’s Oysterman Stout and Sebago Brewing’s Hell Awaits Imperial Porter. This year’s brewers also include Allagash, Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Federal Jack’s, Geary’s, Gritty’s, Kennebec River, Peak Organic, Run of the Mill, Sea Dog, Shipyard and Sunday River.

With an array of brewers in attendance, the festival is a good place to venture out of your beer comfort zone. One the goals of the event, according to Aldrich, is providing “an opportunity for craft beer drinkers to try new beers and converting beer drinkers to craft beer drinkers.”

With the 4-ounce sample sizes, there’s no worry about being stuck with a full beer you don’t fancy, which means attendees have the freedom to taste an array of brews they’ve never tried — or one that few people have ever tried.

“Brewers bring beers to these festivals that are sometimes a limited product,” Aldrich said. “They might not be readily available.”

It’s a potential boon for a beer connoisseur and an adventure for the craft beer novice. And judging by the festival selection, attendees are at risk of falling in love with a new Maine brew.

 

Staff Writer Shannon Bryan can be contacted at 791-6333 or at: [email protected]