The Bier Cellar has locations in Portland and Gorham. Photo by Catie Joyce-Bulay

With travel restrictions and safety precautions, it’s been a tough year to explore beer styles and breweries. Luckily, Maine has an abundance of great little bottle shops staffed with experts to keep you up-to-date on new releases and satiate armchair travel.

Whether searching for your favorite Maine releases, international styles or just something different (like a pickle juice beer), you can find it at the Bier Cellar. Owner Greg Norton opened the original Portland location in 2012, which offers around 1,000 different beers, and another Gorham location in 2018, offering up almost 700. In addition to a large national and international selection, you’ll find about 50 Maine breweries to choose from.

“The New England-style IPA is still king, so excellent versions of that style always sell well,” he said of his most popular beers. “But 2020 definitely saw an increase in the popularity of a well-brewed lager.”

That was a sentiment echoed by Josh Sullivan co-owner of Meridians. “Recently, it’s a slow wheel-turn to German styles like pilsners and kolsches, and Belgian styles.” He sees a trend back to more traditional beers in general, like the classic ambers, stouts and porters, which he’s happy about.

Meridians in is located in a historic building in downtown Fairfield. Photo by Catie Joyce-Bulay

Sullivan opened Meridians in a historic building in downtown Fairfield seven years ago with co-owner David Gulak, then opened their accompanying farm-to-table restaurant down the street, Meridians Bar + Kitchen, in 2019. With close ties to Maine agriculture and focus on brews using local ingredients, you’ll also find Maine cheeses and meats in the shop.

If you’re heading up to Sunday River this ski season, stop into Bethel Beverage Company. Jessica and Brent Badone, longtime ski bums and owners of Pine Tree Glass, a high-end glass pipe shop and now a medical marijuana dispensary, saw the opportunity to dive deeper into their craft beer passion when the building next door became available. They opened Bethel Beverage in 2018 with a focus on Maine breweries – about two-thirds of their stock is devoted to it.

“The beer industry is a great asset to the state of Maine,” said Jessica. “It’s a great community and everyone helps each other out. We’re loving all of the collaborations happening, which just makes each new beer even more special.”

The Badones have been following the changing beer scene since the mid-1990s, “trying everything we could get our hands on,” which was pretty limited back then.

“Now it’s all about the four-pack 16-ounce cans,” she said. “Cloudy and double IPAs are the focus, but there are plenty of people who are looking for sours and darker beers … We are humbled by the amazing products we are able to carry. None of this would have been possible 15 or even 10 years ago.”

If you’re a Sugarloafer, stop into the new Maine Beer Shed in Kingfield on your way to the mountain. They sell only Maine beer, along with local farm and artisan products and pre-made meals, with plans for a beer garden and café in the works.

The business plan for Perk’s Beer and Beverage in Scarborough sat written for at least 10 years, before a need for a career change hit Jason Perkins when he opened in 2019. A New Hampshire native, he’s been in Maine for the last 25 years, watching the beer scene grow. “Now our role is to communicate new breweries to our customers,” he said. “That’s the fun part.”

About half of Perk’s’ 10-door cooler is devoted to Maine suds. You can browse most of their 400 beers online and in the app Untappd.

Others worth checking out are Cobbossee Beverage Shop in Farmingdale, Tully’s Beer & Wine in Wells, Black Sheep Wine & Beer Shop in Harpswell, and Bangor Wine and Cheese. Oak Hill Beverage in Scarborough has a large selection of cider, mead and sake, in addition to their beer and wine. And the beer cave in Portland’s Bow Street Beverage is worth a stroll through.

Catie Joyce-Bulay is a Winslow-based freelance writer who recently moved back to her home state. Find her writing on beer, travel and people pursuing their passion at catiejoycebulay.com or Twitter: @catiejoycebulay.

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