The second Portland Brew Festival will be held Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 at the Portland Company Complex at 58 Fore St., and Mak Sprague, organizer of the event, promises some improvements.

“Last year was the first year, and you learn a lot that first time,” Sprague said. “I had a whole lot of feedback from the people who attended last year, and I am using that to make it better.”

One big difference is that more of Maine’s mainstay breweries, including Allagash, Gritty McDuff’s and Geary’s, will be participating this year.

“Last year, we had trouble getting those guys because it was so last-minute and they are so popular,” Sprague said. “This year, we got to them early.”

The festival will offer three sessions: 5:30 to 9 p.m. Aug. 31, and 12:30 to 4 p.m. and 5:30 to 9 p.m. Sept. 1. Tickets cost $35 at portlandbrewfestival.com.

“It’s kind of funny the way it’s working out,” Sprague said. “Last year, we had two afternoon sessions and one evening session, and the afternoon sessions were not as popular. So this year, we switched it, and now it looks like there is more demand for the afternoon session.”

The event includes more than 30 brewers — some of whom will offer mead or cider instead of beer — and more than 75 different drinks, up by about 50 percent in both categories from last year. And while Sprague is offering 24 tickets for 2-ounce pours of beer, attendees are still going to have to make some choices as they wander through the building.

“The way Maine state law works is that drink tickets can’t exceed 48 ounces over the length of the festival,” Sprague said. He thinks allowing 24 tickets for 2 ounces each allows people to be more adventurous than with 4-ounce pours.

“People might not want to try something if they fear they will be pouring out a twelfth of all my beer by pouring out a beer they don’t like,” he said.

Sprague is a home brewer, so the festival will also be including home-brewing demonstrations.

And while the festival does have more Maine beers, there will also be a contingent of beers from around New England.

Olde Burnside Brewing Co. out of East Hartford, Conn., was one of the hits of last year’s festival, and it will be back. I absolutely love their Ten Penny and Dirty Penny ales, and they can be hard to find.

Sprague is pleased to have Moonlight Meadery, a small company in New Hampshire started by a home brewer.

White Birch Brewing Co. from Hooksett, N.H., will also be on hand. White Birch is owned by Bill Herlicka, who used to work in Portland and makes some wonderfully intense beers.

Food will be available from Pizza on the Fly and New England Brisketeers, if you get hungry.

And there will be no live bands, so it will be quiet enough to talk about what you are drinking.

RISING TIDE came out with a new beer last week, and I had been a bit worried. I have enjoyed all of the company’s beer, but Zephyr is an India Pale Ale, and many brewers have been trying to outdo each other with how many hops they can jam into their IPAs.

I should have trusted Nathan Sanborn, co-owner and head brewer at Rising Tide. Zephyr is a very good beer, with enough hops that you know it is an IPA, but still balanced. There is a lot of caramel in the malt — which was created with locally grown barley — and a lot of fruity complexity. It is brewed with Cascade, Centennial and Calypso hops.

The beer cost $6.79 for a 22-ounce bottle at RSVP, and is 7.2 percent alcohol. I have heard Zephyr is going to be in short supply, so if you see it, get some. Rising Tide will be at the Portland Brew Festival — but I don’t promise they will have Zephyr.

A zephyr is a westerly wind, considered the fairest wind direction, according to the Rising Tide website. And this beer is a refreshing break in the trend of IPAs: A superb and pleasing drink and not just an obstacle course designed to show off the brewer’s skill.

WHILE AT RSVP, I saw a wall of Shipyard Pumpkinhead, and the staff was getting ready to create a display of Gritty McDuff’s Halloween Ale. Maybe fall is not far away, and the people who love these beers are coming into their season.

Regular readers will know that I love the Halloween Ale and am not a fan of the Pumpkinhead. But as far as the Pumpkinhead goes, I am beginning to think that I am in the minority. A lot of our visiting relatives are big fans.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living in Cape Elizabeth.  He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

[email protected]