Part of the proceeds from Rising Tide’s Cheers to Love benefit Equality Maine. Photo courtesy of Rising Tide

It’s been two years since Portland’s last Pride parade, perhaps the city’s most joyful annual event. Although the cancellation of the celebration during the pandemic may have dampened some of the spirit of Pride month, some breweries are trying to compensate for its loss.

Pride month, every June, marks the 1969 uprising at the Stonewall Inn, a bar in New York’s Greenwich Village. Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, police regularly raided gay clubs like Stonewall, humiliating and arresting patrons, but on June 28, 1969, the bar’s transgender, lesbian and gay patrons fought back, sparking many days of protest on the streets. Today, the uprising symbolizes the fight for LGBTQ rights.

Much progress has been made since 1969, of course, though not as much as many deserve. A number of Maine breweries hope to change that by honoring the spirit of Stonewall, partnering with local nonprofits and creating spaces more welcoming to a fuller spectrum of people.

One of those is Rising Tide. Kailey Partin, director of branding and hospitality, says that this is a goal for the brewery. “We have a long way to go,” she notes, “but it makes me so happy to actually see our diverse community coming together on the Rising Tide tar patio. It is not uncommon to stop in and see friends, couples, and families that are representative of the wider whole – gay, lesbian, trans, mixed race, differently abled, young and old – all enjoying the music, cold beer, and hot pizza.”

In June, some of those under the tent will be drinking Cheers to Love, an ale inspired by rosé wine. In developing the recipe, Rising Tide’s brewers hoped to create something that would bring together different types of drinkers. The beer’s winey characteristics come from dry-hopping with Hallertau Blanc and Nelson Sauvin, as well as additions of pinot noir and cabernet grape must. It pours a pinkish, light amber. Strawberry on the nose, subtly sweet, but with a nicely balanced finish – it is a refreshing pairing for warm weather on the “tar patio,” drinking lighter than its ABV (6.7%).

For years the brewery has been selling “Cheers to Love” T-shirts – a phrase that is “meant to be a toast to Pride and LGBTQA+ folx … to self-love, queer love, to community love, to love not hate,” according to Partin. This year’s version was printed by Portland’s queer-owned Little Chair Printing. A portion of the sales proceeds (20-25%) from shirts, stickers and four-packs will be donated to EqualityMaine.

Banded Brewing calls Here a New England pale ale but it is reminiscent of an English bitter. Photo courtesy of Banded Brewing

The can itself features a festive crowd waving an array of rainbow flags – a symbolic stand-in for the annual Pride Parade. The label of Banded Brewing’s Here – another local beer brewed for Pride – captures a similar spirit, expressing community and diversity. Victoria Gordon, brand manager and designer at Banded, says that the black hand holding the flag aloft acknowledges “how important the BIPOC community has been in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights,” referencing the Civil Rights movement as well as Marsha P. Johnson, a black trans woman centrally involved in the Stonewall uprising.

Banded Brewing’s Here. Photo by Ben Lisle

Here is a pale ale (5.6% ABV) brewed with jasmine, hibiscus and lavender. “All three of these flowers are known for their resilience,” Gordon explains, “a characteristic that we feel well-represents the LGBTQ+ community.” While the label calls this a New England pale, I found it more reminiscent of an English bitter – restrained and malty, tea-like, with some floral aromas.

Ten percent of sales of Here in June go to support the programming of Equality Maine.

Other Maine breweries are supporting LGBTQ+ organizations as well. Definitive Brewing is selling stickers, buttons and bracelets with proceeds going to OUT Maine. Allagash has made Trans Youth Equality Foundation its charitable partner for June, sending all tasting room tips to that organization; it is also selling Pride-themed koozies, whose proceeds go to the foundation. And Fogtown Brewing hosted The Curbside Queens and Geo Neptune to kick off Bar Harbor Pride, turning its Ellsworth beer garden into a drag runway.

Craft beer is dominated by straight white men, and its spaces – physical and metaphorical – often reflect that. Many are trying to change that, risking their own careers to call out sexual assault and harassment, racism and misogyny in the industry – essential but thankless work being done by those most affected by these problems. We might also get a vision of what craft beer could be in spaces that reflect the complex diversity of our actual community, capturing even just a bit of the unbridled love of the Pride parade and the exhilarating joy that comes with it.

Ben Lisle is an assistant professor of American Studies at Colby College. He lives among the breweries in Portland’s East Bayside, where he writes about cultural history, urban geography, and craft beer culture. Reach him on Twitter at @bdlisle.

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