In case you missed it, more than 450 brewers from around the U.S. gathered Friday in Portland to soak up advice on business models, supply chains and quality control.

The day of learning was underscored by a sampling of craft brews from 11 a.m. to close – talk about a draw.

But at least one local brewery that attended Friday’s event is taking its brew to a much bigger stage.

Tim Adams, founder of Oxbow Brewing Co. of Newcastle, was the only non-Japanese brewer at that country’s annual Snow Monkey Beer Live festival in Nagano on March 19 and 20.

About five months earlier, Adams had played host to a contingent of Japanese beer executives who stayed in the Newcastle farmhouse brewery and visited the company’s blending and bottling facility in Portland. That group said it wanted to import Oxbow into Japan, and invited Adams to the festival and to brew a collaboration with the festival’s host brewery, Shiga Kogen.

“They did a version of our bourbon barrel-fermented sour ale, Arboreal, but used Japanese ingredients and Japanese whiskey barrels,” said Katie LeBel, office manager for the brewery, who attended Friday’s event. “Sour and barrel-aged beers are extremely new to Japan, so Tim was honored to be invited to lend his expertise and to share Maine craftsmanship and techniques with a country that has provided so much cultural and culinary inspiration throughout the world.”

Japan could be a big market for Maine brewers. In 2015, Japan imported $5.7 million of U.S.-made beer, but only $285,000 of it was from Maine, according to data compiled by research firm WISERtrade. In 2005, the country imported only $2.8 million in U.S. beer.

LeBel said Oxbow had been featured at events in Europe and brewed in Belgium and Italy, but “tapping into Japan is taking Maine beer to the next level.” To read about “special guest” Oxbow, and other breweries at the Snow Monkey Festival, go to http://snowmonkey.jp

DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

We’ve been running a lot of stories lately about the state’s low unemployment rate and how that’s both good news and bad. The good news is that more people who want work are finding it, but the bad news is a lot of employers are having a hard time filling open positions. A case in point: Matt Flynn, owner of Express Employment Professionals, a staffing agency in Portland, said his company surveyed 340 employers about how easy it is to fill positions. The survey, released March 31, showed that 49 percent were having a “somewhat difficult” time filling vacancies and 16 percent said “very difficult.” The combined 65 percent of employers having trouble making new hires is higher than the four previous surveys conducted in 2015.

“With the very low unemployment rate we have here in Maine, the hiring situation is very difficult and specialized positions such as Class A truck driver positions and certain tech jobs are approaching the impossible,” said Flynn in a news release about the survey results.

To round out the survey results, 3 percent of respondents said filling openings was “very easy” and 29 percent said “somewhat easy,” while 3 percent responded that they didn’t know.

PAPER PROSPECTS

News from Maine’s papermaking industry has been pretty grim over the past 18 months, with the loss of 1,500 jobs in the wake of downsizing and mill closures in Lincoln, Madison, Old Town and Bucksport. But organizers of the 66th annual Paper Days aren’t letting that deter their yearly showcase of what’s new in Maine’s pulp and paper industry. This year’s conference, scheduled for April 13 and 14 at the University of Maine’s Wells Conference Center, focuses a lot on the packaging industry.

Mark Kowlzan, CEO of Packaging Corporation of America, is a keynote speaker. Also chairman of the board of the American Forest and Paper Association, Kowlzan intends to talk about the future of the paper industry in a “Message to Future Engineers.”

Other presenters under the banner of “Packaging Maine for the Future” are Dan McNally, chief procurement officer for WestRock, a corrugated packaging company, and Doug Hall, founder of Eureka! Ranch and a guru of innovation, who has taught innovation engineering at UMaine for two years. Paper Days is hosted every year by UMaine’s Pulp and Paper Foundation.

One bright spot was noted on the event’s website: UMaine has had a substantial increase in the number of students majoring in chemical engineering. That means they’ll need more co-op and internship opportunities to get hands-on experience. If you think a chemical engineering student could bring some value to your company, contact Jennifer Ireland, the co-op program manager at 581-2297 or [email protected]

Business Editor Carol Coultas can be contacted at 7921-6460 or at:

[email protected]


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