The Maine Brewers’ Guild had to skip its annual New England Craft Brew Summit last year because of the pandemic. Well, raise a glass: The conference for brewers, brewery owners and others in the craft beer industry is planning a return next year.

The sixth summit is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 31 at the Holiday Inn By the Bay in Portland, and the theme will be “Standing Out in a Crowded Marketplace.” Brewers will hear from legal experts, hop farmers, bankers and other professionals who work with the industry, and get practical advice on topics such as supply chain challenges, taxes and marketing. Daniel Kleban, co-founder and owner of Maine Beer Co. and chair of the Brewers Association board of directors, is to be the keynote speaker.

A past Maine Brewers Guild Winter Session brewfest. Photo by Whitney J. Fox Photography/Courtesy of Maine Brewers Guild

The last summit, held in February 2020, drew more than 500 people from 13 states.

The Maine Brewers’ Guild recently conducted a survey of its members that showed 43 percent had better-than-expected business over the summer, and 87 percent expressed optimism about the future.

“Despite cost increases and ongoing supply chain challenges, collaboration amongst craft brewers continues to flourish and the market for craft beer continues to grow,” Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild, said in a news release. “The strong community around craft beer has been the key to the resiliency of our industry in the past 18 months, and the new business models that have been developed position craft beer well for the future.”

The summit costs $119 for Maine Brewers’ Guild members and $149 for non-members. All proceeds, after expenses, will go to the Maine Brewers’ Guild.

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Follow summit developments at nebrewsummit.com

Cocktail bar requires proof of vaccination

The Jewel Box, a quirky and creative cocktail bar at 644 Congress St. in Portland, now requires proof of vaccination, backed up with identification, for entry. A phone photo of your vaccination card is acceptable. Masks are required when not sitting at a table. The Portland Hunt & Alpine Club has a similar policy.

Turkey Lurkey BBQ chips at Bow Street Market. Photo courtesy of Vintage Maine Kitchen

Potato chips gone wild

Adventurous snackers, check out Vintage Maine Kitchen’s Turkey Lurkey BBQ chips, the second in a series of collaborations planned by Vintage Maine Kitchen owner Kelly Brodeur.

The Turkey Lurkey BBQ chips are seasoned with DennyMike’s limited edition Turkey Lurkey blend, which Brodeur describes as poultry seasoning with notes of hickory and a little heat. DennyMike’s is a Westbrook-based company that makes sauces and spice rubs.

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The first collaborative chip appeared in early summer, when Brodeur partnered with the High Roller Lobster Co. on potato chips flavored with the restaurant’s signature Casco Bay seasoning blend. Up next month: A chocolate bark with shards of Vintage Maine Kitchen potato chips, a partnership with Robin’s Confections in Biddeford.

Brodeur said she is working on collaborations with other Maine restaurants, but declined to name them for now.

A small bag of chips costs $2.99. Find them in local, independent markets such as Bow Street Market in Freeport or on the Vintage Maine Kitchen website, where you can mix and match them in 5-pack up to 30-pack sizes.

Goodfire goes it alone

I reported last week that Mr. Tuna and Goodfire Brewing had parted ways and would no longer be teaming up on a tasting room/brewery/restaurant location in Freeport. I have since spoken with David Redding, who owns the brewery with his wife, Julia, and he confirmed that the brewery part of the project is still on. (Mr. Tuna, aka Jordan Rubin, is negotiating a new spot of his own in Portland’s Old Port.)

The old Conundrum Wine Bistro, along with its neighbor, the former El Jefe Taco Bar, are being redeveloped into Goodfire Brewing. Mr. Tuna will go elsewhere. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Redding said that instead of two separate spaces at 117 Route 1 (the former home of El Jefe Taco Bar and Conundrum Wine Bistro), the brewery’s tasting room kitchen will offer one menu, prepared by a yet-to-be-hired Goodfire chef. The new configuration means “there won’t be an identity crisis about two different places,” Redding said. He said the decision to part ways with Mr. Tuna was mutual.

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“We were trying to create this concept to have two businesses work together so seamlessly,” Redding said. “When you try to hammer that out, the details, it gets really tough. I still love their food so much. I’m disappointed to not have Mr. Tuna in Freeport myself.”

Redding said he hopes to open the Freeport location in late April.

Just our cup of tea 

The Little Red Cup Tea Co. in Brunswick has started a monthly tea box subscription that delivers two organic, Fair Trade teas per month, picked and processed in China, including varieties that the company hasn’t yet offered to the general public. Mike’s Special Tea Club, named after founder Mike Connelly, costs $25 per month, with free shipping. Go to littleredcuptea.com.

The “lobster dust” in the candle is made from crushed lobster shells. Photo courtesy of Get Maine Lobster

Scent of the sea-son?

Ah, scented candles – balsam fir, peppermint, winter spruce and … lobster?

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Get Maine Lobster has partnered with Seawicks, a Boothbay-based candle company, to create a soy candle with a surprising scent: that of lobster and drawn butter. The “Drawn Butter with Maine Lobster Dust” candle, which sells for $24.99, gets its “flavor” from crushed lobster shells – or, as the makers call it, “lobster dust.” To order, go to getmainelobster.com. (Just don’t give it to anyone with a shellfish allergy.)

If burning it makes you hungry, scan the QR code on the candle and you’ll get recipes for lobster.

It’s a wrap

This is my final Wrap before retiring and leaving Maine. It has been a pleasure over the years filling you in on the fun, fascinating food and restaurant news around the state, and I’ve appreciated your many tips and comments. This column is not ending with my departure, however. Send any restaurant news to [email protected]

Cheers! Now I’m off to light a drawn butter and lobster dust candle (and pack).


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