As tourist destinations go, the scene at 1 Industrial Way in Portland is unlikely to make it onto any postcards.

The building is a nondescript industrial center with car repair shops and breweries. A sour-smelling pile of wet grains sat in the parking lot Saturday after they had outlived their usefulness in a brew pot at one of the breweries.

Still, about 200 people lined up outside the Bissell Brothers Brewing Co. for the final limited biweekly release of Swish, a beer that was first released in January and won’t be released again until October. There was a mother-daughter tandem from Long Island, New York, in line. A pair of women from Boston traded beer with a guy from New Jersey. And Debbie Hedin of Massachusetts was showing off a tattoo on her leg of the White Birch Brewing logo.

“I met a lot of people here in lines like this,” Hedin said. “A lot of us are Facebook friends. … The beer community is what draws a lot of people to events like this.”

Swish is a big deal in no small part because of the online beer community. Beer Advocate, a website and magazine devoted to beer, ranks Swish as a world-class beer. It’s an 8 percent alcohol double IPA. While beers in that style are typically very hoppy and complex, Swish is light and citrusy in a way that has won fans across the country, even though it is only sold in cans at the brewery and has limited tap distribution. A four-pack of cans costs $17 and – because it is a limited-edition beer – sales were capped at 24 cans per person Saturday. Fans buy the beer at the brewery and ship it around the country in exchange for other hard-to-find beers.

While his brother and co-owner, Peter Bissell, was setting out free doughnuts in the parking lot Saturday, Noah Bissell finished mopping the floor and joined his friends and co-workers at the counter to get ready for the influx of fans. Meanwhile, the Locally Sauced burrito cart was grilling up items in the parking lot for fans who wanted to buy a snack. The brewery had the windows open and music was pumping out the windows.

The brothers grew up in Milo before moving to Portland and opening Bissell Brothers a year and a half ago. The brewery has at least tripled its fermentation capacity in the short time it has been open.

While the Bissells scurried around to set up for the noon sale of Swish on Saturday, Noah shook his head.

“It stresses us out,” he said, expressing hope that the customers in line wouldn’t have to wait too long to buy their beer. “People are good enough to come out and wait in line, we don’t want to make them suffer.”

Swish is just one of a growing number of beers that fans are willing to suffer a little for.

Maine Beer Co.’s Dinner is ranked 28th on Beer Advocate and draws huge lines whenever it is released. A crowd lined up recently at Allagash Brewing Co. in Portland for a release of Resurgam, one of the rare beers the brewery releases from time to time.

Richard Bolduc of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was one of those in line at Bissell Brothers on Saturday. He said he was also at last weekend’s Dinner release in Freeport, where he got in line at 7 a.m. The doors opened at 7:30 a.m. and after 45 minutes he was only halfway to the front door. It took him five more hours to cover the remaining distance and buy his beer. The line stretched well past the brewery and south down Route 1.

His wife, Bolduc said, is still mad at him. But she took his two kids with her on a trip this weekend, leaving Bolduc to his own devices. He says he’s new to waiting in line for beer but even his six-hour experience at Maine Beer Co. didn’t leave him with a bad taste. It is, after all, considered to be great beer.

Bolduc got hooked on The Alchemist’s Heady Topper – a Vermont brew that is the top-rated beer on Beer Advocate – a few years ago and now he’s on the hunt for new beer.

“I drank a Heady Topper a few years ago and it changed everything for me,” Bolduc said. “There’s a lot of great beer out there and I want to check it out.”


Visitors like Bolduc have become common at some Maine breweries as their beers receive more national recognition.

Christina Aceto of Maine Beer Co. said she’s worked all five Dinner releases and has watched the anticipation – and the lines – grow. At the second release last summer, there were a few hundred people in line and it took less than two hours to get to the counters.

“Over the course of the releases, the line has continued to grow as the beer has gained traction,” Aceto said. “From our limited experience, we’ve found that a majority of people enjoy waiting in line … as you’re able to converse with a lot of like-minded people who share similar interests. Although we’re aiming to cut that wait down in the future, we hope to continue drawing a crowd while creating more of an atmosphere for those waiting in line.”

Tod Mott has seen it all before. He helped start the New England craft beer scene. He came up with the recipe for Harpoon IPA in the early 1990s. Then he moved to Portsmouth, where he brewed an imperial stout called Kate the Great, one of the first beers people stood in line to buy in New England. After an article went up on Beer Advocate lauding the beer in 2007, Mott remembers a line wrapped around the block to get into the brewery at the next release.

At Mott’s new Kittery brewery, Tributary, he recently launched his latest version of the imperial stout called Mott the Lesser.

And the line stretched down the highway.

“Mostly they are beer geeks that want that very coveted, limited-release beer,” Mott said. “The amazing thing at our place was the line was all the way down the street.”

Trescott Lambert is one of those people willing to line up for good beer. He meets people online and trades bottles and cans while they are waiting in line to buy more beer.

“Basically, I am up here from New Jersey for a funeral,” Lambert said at the Bissell Brothers event Saturday. “I have enjoyed my time in Maine a whole lot. When I go home, I want to bring a piece of Maine back with me.”

That is exactly what the Bissell Brothers want to hear.

“The beer scene is going off locally,” Peter Bissell said. “They’re buying beer faster than the brewers can make it. I think that’s great. These people get seen in the line and it gets the message out that the beer is something to be coveted.”

“We hope that people don’t just come for this beer and then take off,” Noah Bissell said. “We hope they see that this is a cool area and there’s a lot going on and that they see what else this area has to offer.”

As Noah Bissell said that, the line snaked through an empty parking lot and past the end of the building. Then the Bissells opened the front door and flung open the cargo bay loading door. Finally, it was noon.

James Patrick can be contacted at 791-6382 or at:

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