Mak Sprague likes beer — both brewing it and drinking it — and he has access to a huge indoor space. Put them together, and you have the Portland Brew Festival this weekend at the Portland Company Complex.

“My folks have owned this wonderful old complex of buildings at the edge of the Old Port for most of my life,” Sprague said. “They use it as a boat yard, so it is empty during the summer. They have been doing a boat show for 25 years and a flower show for almost as many, so we’ve got all this experience doing shows.

“So I thought I could put on a brew festival.”

There will be sessions from noon to 3:30 p.m. and 5 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, and from noon to 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $30 per session. MaineToday Media, which publishes GO, is a co-sponsor.

Sprague is putting his own stamp on the festival. First, the brews will be coming from all over New England, not just Maine. Second, the brews will include cider, mead and even kombucha, a kind of fizzy fermented tea, in addition to beer. Third, attendees will be able to watch people brew beer and make cider. And fourth, Sprague is not planning to bring in live bands as entertainment.

The expansion of brews from out of state makes sense on many levels, he said.

“I love Maine beers,” he said. “This building is right next to Shipyard, and it was my brewery when I grew up. When I was in a high school, I wanted to have a party, and went over and said I wanted a keg of your root beer.”

Sprague now lives in Boston and has found a lot of other beers that he likes, so he wants to bring them here for people in Maine to try. Overall, there are 17 brewers scheduled to appear, and seven of them are from outside Maine.

“A Maine beer festival doesn’t have to be just Maine beer,” he said. “The Maine boat show isn’t only boats from Maine. Some have come all the way from Washington state. But Maine is about the artistry and skill that goes into making something, whether it is beer or boats.”

And because he has 75,000 square feet of space to open up for booths, Sprague wanted to get as many brewers participating as possible. “I could fit 50 booths on the first floor,” he said. “We have lots of room to grow.”

Sprague will be giving people coupons at the festival so they can get 24 samples of beer.

“We have 3-ounce glasses and are going to be doing 2-ounce pours,” he said, “which will give people 48 ounces of beer over three hours.”

He wanted to go with the smaller sample size so people can get to try as many different beers as possible. It’s part of the educational aspect of the event.

As a home brewer, Sprague wanted to have information about home brewing. Maine Brewing Supply is going to be on hand with some brewing equipment, and members of three home-brew clubs will be in attendance. He also hopes to have some of the cider-making companies press some cider as well.

“When your family owns the building, you have a lot more flexibility in what you can do,” he said. “One of the reasons a lot of people don’t do this is because you can’t have open flame, and the folks at Mainer Brewer Supply have an electric heater that gets around that.”

Sprague made a conscious decision against having live music at the tasting.

“If you’re talking with a friend about the beer you’re drinking,” he said, “you don’t want to have to do it while shouting over the competition.”

However, radio stations WBLM (102.9 FM) and WCYY (94.3 FM) have plans to broadcast during certain sessions of the festival, so there will be music at times.

The booths dispensing brews will probably include a mix of owners, brewers and marketing people.

“With the smaller companies, they don’t have a marketing guy, so you are going to be talking to the owner or the brewer.” Sprague said. “But that is not to say that the marketing people don’t have a true passion for the product. Most of them are at the brewery two or three days a week, and they know what is going on.”

Food will be provided by New England Brisketeers, which started as a competitive barbecue team and now comes to a wide variety of events, and other local food vendors.

“Everything will be something you can hold in one hand,” Sprague said. “The beer in one hand and the food in the other.”

As of last Thursday, Sprague had sold about 1,000 tickets, and the pace of the sales has been rising quickly. He said the maximum he can sell is 6,000, or 2,000 per session. Tickets are available at portlandbrew and at the door.

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at

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