Southern Maine’s biggest beer bash arrives in three versions this weekend.

For beer geeks, the opening day of the Maine Brewers Festival on Friday is a chance to taste most of the beers made in Maine in one location and talk with some of the people who make that beer.

But those who just want to have fun while drinking beer can listen to blues guitarist Duke Robillard, the Jason Spooner Trio and The Boneheads while hanging out with a bunch of like-minded people. And they have a chance to do it in the afternoon or evening Saturday.

Dinner with the Brewers will begin at 6 p.m. Friday at the Wyndham Hotel in South Portland. “It is really neat,” said Alyssa Aldrich, general manager of the Maine and New Hampshire brewers festivals. “We start with appetizers, and people mingle with the brewers and then have a panel discussion.”

The four breweries featured at the dinner this year are Allagash, Sebago, Gritty’s and Shipyard. Each brewer will tell a little bit about their brewery and provide some behind-the-scenes information. Once the dinner begins, each table will have one of the brewers sitting at it.

“Who gets face time with their local brewer?” Aldrich asked.

Aldrich said the dinners have attracted a variety of people in the past, from true beer geeks to couples who just want a pleasant and informative night out together. The cost of the dinner is $69 per person.

The taps open for the Saturday sessions at the Portland Expo at 1:30 and 6:30 p.m., with the doors opening 30 minutes earlier.

“There’s a huge countdown, with the entire 2,400 people yelling until they open the taps. It is a really fun experience,” Aldrich said.

Each person gets a festival beer glass stuffed with 12 beer tickets, and the hard part could be figuring out which beers to try — there are 14 breweries represented, and you know they are going to have more than one beer each. My recommendation would be to go with friends and you could have a couple of sips of everything you haven’t had before, but that might get confusing.

The brewers present will be Allagash Brewing, Atlantic Brewing, Bar Harbor Brewing, Geary’s, Federal Jack’s, Gritty McDuff’s, Kennebec River Brewery, Peak Organic Brewing, Sea Dog Brewing, Sebago Brewing, Sheepscot Valley Brewing, Sunday River Brewing, Shipyard Brewing and Run of the Mill Pub.

Each of the musical groups will play an hour at each session, with the Jason Spooner Trio playing at 1 and 6 p.m., The Boneheads at 2:25 and 7:25 p.m., and Robillard at 3:45 and 8:45 p.m. In between the sets, festival employees will be tossing plastic golf balls from the stage. They can be turned in for a variety of items — glasses, shirts and hats from the brewers, food at the festival or Portland Pirates tickets.

Despite all the entertainment, Aldrich said the goal is to help people learn more about beer and local brewers.

Tickets for each Saturday session are $32. Tickets for one of the Saturday sessions and the Friday dinner are $99. They can be purchased at the website for the festival, www.learnyourbeer.com, at RSVP on Forest Avenue in Portland, and at all Sebago Brewing sites. 

IF YOU WANT perhaps a bit more culture with your beer, try the Taming of the Brew, presented by the Freeport Shakespeare Festival at 7 p.m. Monday at Gritty’s, 187 Lower Main St., Freeport.

For $25, you get a sampling of beers, some Gritty’s food and a chance to, according to the festival website, see festival actors and others engage in “swordfighting, rabble-rousing and cursing in a language you don’t quite understand.”

Tickets are available at tamingofthebrew.eventbrite.com

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at [email protected]

 

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