The advantage to an event like the Maine Brewers Festival held last Saturday at the Portland Expo is that you get to enjoy a lot of beers at one spot.

The disadvantage is that there is no place to sit and quietly contemplate what you are drinking. It’s a huge party with live music, lots of people and no place for sitting and thinking.

But I did love the beer, all of it fashioned by Maine brewers. And the mix does show that the beer brewed in Maine covers a wide range of offerings with roots in Belgium, Germany, the Pacific coast and many other locales. The joke that Portland is covered in a cloud of Ringwood yeast — the British yeast favored by Alan Pugsley when he assisted in the creation of Geary’s, Gritty McDuff’s and Shipyard — is no longer true.

But the beer I was most looking forward to, Geary’s Cooledge Oatmeal Stout, is deeply rooted in Britain. This is a flavorful beer rich in flavors of malt and toffee, and absolutely black. It had a bit more carbonation than I had expected, but it still was a warm and complex beer. Although it was brewed as part of Geary’s 25th anniversary celebration, I hereby urge David Geary to bring it back, at least as a seasonal.

No single beer stood out as a favorite during the festival. I did not have a beer that I disliked, however.

I was surprised by the complexity of the Honey Rye from Kennebec River Brewing Co. in The Forks. When I have had their beers, both at their pub while on fishing trips and in bottles, they have been good middle-of-the-road brews. But the Honey Rye had a wonderful sweetness upfront from the honey and an absolutely dry finish. I could see this as a superb beer for warm days.


I also liked the Damariscotta Double Brown from Sheepscot Brewing Co., a fine representative of what a brown ale should be. I have not had a lot of Sheepscot’s brews, and this was good, rich and tasty.

The Smoked Chocolate Stout from Oxbow was full-flavored and a bit of a switch from the saison styles I had tasted earlier. At the start of the session, Oxbow had the longest lines of any booth at the show, so people were anxious to test this new brewery that has been putting out some consistently good beers.

By the time I made it to the Baxter Brewing Co. booth, I had already tasted about six beers, many of them strong and flavorful. The new Amber Road seemed malty, easy drinking and flavorful, but I am sure I missed many of the beer’s finer nuances.

And by the time I got to Sebago, the Barleywine and Slick Nick were already gone. I should get to their pub early before the Barleywine is gone, but the Slick Nick — the winter ale that is my second-favorite Sebago beer next to Local Harvest — will be around for a couple more months.

Once Jonathan Edwards, a folk singer I like a lot, started performing, I confined myself to Peak Organic and Allagash. They both produce some of the best beers in Maine, and they were closest to the stage.

Jon Cadoux of Peak made sure I tried the Weiss Principal, a mix of a Belgian and a West Coast IPA, that I have had before and liked. I also had their Continually Hopped IPA and Pomegranate Wheat, which I liked, but I know my palate was shot by that time.


The Interlude and Bourbon Barrel Black at Allagash were good, but I had a sip of the Mattina Rossa that one of my drinking companions had, and that stood out even after 10 previous samplings. The complexity of raspberries added to a wine cask-aged ale was absolutely heavenly. 

THE INITIAL Maine Beer Week begins today and runs through Nov. 17, and it is an event that should be a lot of fun, with restaurants around the state participating. Go to, or check out Meredith Goad’s coverage at

The prime event for beer geeks will be Nov. 17, when 21 Maine brewers will take over every tap at the Great Lost Bear on Forest Avenue in Portland. It will be like a repeat of the Brewers Festival, but you will get full beers and be able to sit down.

I HAVEN’T TASTED this beer, but I like the idea of it. A lager called 50 Back, the Brew of the Brave, will be available at some bars and specialty beer stores beginning this week in honor of Veterans Day. Half of the profits will go to charities benefitting veterans, active-duty military members and their families. It’s brewed in Pepperell, Mass.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer who lives in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:

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