As Portland becomes ever more of a food destination, ever more events centered around eating and drinking are heating up the fall.

And the festivals that have been around for a while are becoming more popular from year to year. Maine continues to grow as a beer destination, according to Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild, with beer festivals showing a steady increase in attendance each year. “I definitely think this is going to be a breakout year for Portland Beer Week,” now in its seventh year, he said.

In the wake of Portland being named Bon Appetit’s Restaurant City of the Year in August, will more tourists come to Maine this fall to sample its food culture? The producers of the annual Harvest on the Harbor festival checked their Google analytics for us, and found that searches for information on the festival coming from Massachusetts jumped 11 percent in the days following the City of the Year announcement. Searches from New York were up by 10 percent, and Maine searches jumped 30 percent.

Whatever brings people here this fall, once they get here they’ll find plenty to do, from sampling Maine cheeses and British beers that have crossed the pond in the Maine Beer Box to touring oyster aquaculture sites and fancy Cape Elizabeth kitchens. Oyster lovers in particular have a lot to look forward to – since oysters are at their best (and plumpest) in the fall.

Here’s a look at the lineup of some of our favorite fall events that celebrate food and drink:



WHEN: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, rain or shine. No pets.

WHERE: Wolfe’s Neck Farm, 184 Burnett Road, Freeport

HOW MUCH: $15 online or $18 at the gate (if it is not sold out). Children under 12 free.

WHY GO: Two words: Cheese fairies. Volunteers wearing flower garlands and wings will pass out cheese samples so you don’t get hungry waiting in line to sample or buy cheese from the 30 Maine cheesemakers who will be at this event, which benefits the Maine Cheese Guild. Other activities: Attend workshops on making ricotta or building a better cheese plate, or buy tickets (six for $10 and 12 for $15) to the beer garden, where you can sample Maine beer and wine. Food trucks will be selling everything from poutine to popsicles.


A cheeseplate from Appleton Creamery at the 2017 Maine Cheese Festival.



WHEN: 5 to 10 p.m. Sept. 20

WHERE: Boothbay Railway Village, 586 Wiscasset Road, Boothbay

HOW MUCH: $100 for 5 p.m. VIP entry, which includes a glass of sparkling wine, two drink tickets, a gift, and an extra hour of eating lobster; or $70 for 6 p.m. regular admission, which includes two drink tickets. Lobster tasting goes until 8:30 p.m., followed by live music until 10 p.m.

WHY GO: I had the privilege of judging this contest a few years ago, and let me just say it wasn’t exactly a hardship. You’ll watch 10 Maine chefs compete to make the tastiest lobster bites to be judged by both the audience and a panel of experts. The winner (chosen through blind judging) goes on to compete in the Maine Lobster Chef of the Year contest Oct. 19 at the Harvest on the Harbor festival in Portland. Last year, 15 chefs competed using 500 pounds of local lobster. Nathaniel Adam, chef at the Boothbay Harbor Country Club, was the judge’s pick last year for his sweet corn and candied thyme brown butter emulsion, butter poached lobster, tarragon seafoam, sea salt tuile and red tobiko. People’s Choice winner was Dick Reid of The Thistle Inn with his Truffle Lobster Newburg with crispy saffron risotto cake, micro greens, port wine reduction, butter poached lobster and shaved black truffle. This year, the executive chef of the Newagen Seaside Inn, Theron Thomas, will be one of the competitors. Thomas is from Jamaica – perhaps he’ll put a Caribbean twist on the event? How about a Jamaican lobster patty?




WHEN: 1 to 6 p.m. Sept. 22

WHERE: Sebago Brewing Co. Destination Brewery, 616 Main St., Gorham

HOW MUCH: The $25 ticket includes two 16-ounce pours of a special Oktoberfest Lager or other Sebago Brewing beer and traditional German food. The $35 ticket includes all of that, plus a souvenir Sebago stein.

WHY GO: This Oktoberfest is one big party, featuring hearty German fare, a stein-holding contest, a best stein contest, a best-dressed contest, live music, lawn games, silly fake moustaches, and a photo booth so you can take a picture of yourself in your fake moustache and lederhosen. What’s a stein-holding contest, you say? In German, it’s known as a Masskrugstemmen. Contestants hold a full stein of beer in front of them – at shoulder level – for as long as they can. No spilling. Pfui.

Enjoy grilled bratwurst, sauerkraut and onions, German potato salad, homemade jumbo pickles and whoopie pies, which aren’t German but may add a little, shall we say, Bavarian heft to your waistline. Jumbo wood-fired Bavarian pretzels will be sold separately. Wash it all down with the Oktoberfest Lager, which Sebago’s head brewer, Tom Abercrombie, described as a traditional Märzen beer, a tribute to the classic style served in Germany. It’s deep auburn, malty and smooth. The Oktoberfest Lager was brewed about two months ago and lagered (aged) for 8 weeks.




WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 22

WHERE: Register and pick up your tour catalog at CSalt Gourmet Market, 349 Ocean House Road (Route 77), Cape Elizabeth. Registration begins at 9 a.m.

HOW MUCH: $25 in advance, $30 on Sept. 22

WHY GO: This tour is for people (like us) who enjoy kitchen porn. Check out how the other half cooks before heading home to your pathetic electric oven with only three working burners (kidding). A dozen kitchens are featured on this self-guided driving tour that benefits the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation. We’re told that people hoping for kitchens with ocean views won’t be disappointed, and there will be a mix of the old and new and just-remodeled. One kitchen has been designed around art. Tour goers will see the latest in kitchen design (hint: a “revolutionary sink”), as well as trendy, sustainability-minded kitchens constructed with reclaimed materials. This year, for the first time, the tour includes a “bonus property” in South Portland.




WHEN: Noon to dusk Sept. 30

WHERE: Schooner Landing Restaurant and Marina, 40 Main St., Damariscotta

HOW MUCH: Free admission, but bring money to spend on oysters and other food and drink, boat rides, etc.

WHY GO: If you can go to only one oyster festival this fall, this one has been around the longest – this is its 18th year – and draws the biggest crowds. Watch the Maine Champion Oyster Shucking Contest – the winner goes on to the nationals in Maryland – or take a boat tour of oyster farms through Damariscotta River Cruises. Local environmental groups also exhibit at this festival; many of them have received grants from the Ed Myers Marine Conservation Fund, which is the primary beneficiary of the event.




WHEN: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 7

WHERE: Rí Rá Irish Pub and Restaurant, 72 Commercial St., Portland, Maine

HOW MUCH: Free admission, but bring money for seafood specials, an oyster bar and pints of Guinness. A full brunch and dinner menu will also be available throughout the day.

WHY GO: The restaurant – a true Irish pub with interiors salvaged and restored from Ireland – will once again be giving away one Guinness glass per customer for as long as they last, and you can have it engraved on site. A representative of Guinness will be on hand to make sure you use that glass properly: He or she will give lessons on how to pour the perfect pint. Then enjoy that pint of Guinness while watching local chefs compete in the oyster shucking competition. The challenge? How many oysters can each chef shuck in two minutes? Also look for the live auction, raffles and prizes. The event is a benefit for Full Plates Full Potential.



Lobster and corn chowder served Portugese style – a creation of Chef David Squillante of Shipyard Brew Pub in Eliot – during the Lobster Chef of the Year contest at Harvest on the Harbor in 2017.


WHEN: Oct. 16-21

WHERE: Most of the events will be held in the Harvest Festival Tent at Portland Yacht Services, 100 West Commercial St., Portland, Maine. Three-course dinners featuring secret menus are scheduled for Oct. 16 or 17 at a half-dozen local restaurants – Izakaya Minato, Five Fifty-Five, Opus 10, Sur Lie, Solo Italiano and Bolster, Snow & Co. (see website for more details). Five Fifty-Five and Bolster, Snow & Co. are also planning eight-course luncheons – limited to 12 people – for Oct. 19. The traditional closing marketplace, Market on the Harbor, will be at the Brick South Building, 8 Thompson’s Point, Portland.

HOW MUCH: Ticket prices range from $35 to $135. Most are in the $40-65 range.

WHY GO: Harvest on the Harbor is several smaller food events under one big umbrella, so there are a lot of choices. On Oct. 19, for example, nine chefs will vie for the title Maine Lobster Chef of the Year. On Oct. 20, start the day at Hair of the Dog, a “morning after party” featuring a menu of bloody marys and pig roast tacos. End the day at the Maine Oysterfest, where oyster growers will be shucking at least a dozen different types of oysters from places such as Birch Point in Casco Bay, Dingley Cove in New Meadows, and Mount Desert Island in Bar Harbor.




WHEN: Nov. 4-10

WHERE: Various bars, breweries, restaurants and other venues around Portland

HOW MUCH: Costs vary, depending on the event, and there are some pay-as-you-go options.

WHY GO: Soak in Portland’s thriving craft beer scene at events such as tap take-overs, beer dinners, and food-and-beer pairings (such as last year’s cookie-and-beer pairing featuring Allagash brews). Allison Stevens, founder of Portland Beer Week and owner of The Thirsty Pig in the Old Port, says she’s expecting 50-80 events this year; a complete list will be on the beer week website on Oct. 11. So far, this year’s events include a “Taco Tip Toe” in which you visit 10 different restaurant and bar locations for 10 taco-and-beer pairings. You’ll get a badge at each location. On Nov. 6, Rising Tide Brewing Co. will host an election night pig roast. And on Nov. 10, The Thirsty Pig will serve an English Beer Breakfast to welcome the brewers visiting from the United Kingdom for the Maine Brewers’ Guild International Beer Festival.




WHEN: 1 to 4 p.m. Nov. 10

WHERE: Brick South Building, 8 Thompson’s Point, Portland

HOW MUCH: Limited tickets are available, and ticket holders must be 21 or older. There are three options: VIP, which allows early admission at noon, for $60, or $65 the day of the event; general admission, which allows admission at 1 p.m. for $49, or $55 the day of the event; and designated driver, which costs $20.

WHY GO: The Guild’s summer beer festival is widely considered Maine’s largest and most popular beer festival. This year, the group decided to piggyback on the end of Portland Beer Week to add a “winter session” that will highlight the return of the Maine Beer Box from the United Kingdom. The beer box, a custom-made shipping container, arrived in the UK a little over a week ago filled with Maine beer to be served at the four-day Leeds International Beer Festival, which begins tomorrow and usually attracts about 12,000 people. The beer box will return to the States filled with 40-plus U.K. craft beers, most of which have never been poured in the U.S. before, according to Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild. To add to the atmosphere, the guild has hired a DJ to play British music, and cheese and crisps (that’s potato chips to all you Yanks) from different regions of the U.K. will be served.


Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad

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