Many new breweries have opened in remote corners of the state, some in small communities where there is not much opportunity to get to know fellow brewers or customers outside of their immediate area. And for craft beer lovers, it may be difficult to get to exposed to a newer brewery’s beer if it is not yet being distributed beyond its local area.
To celebrate the continuing growth of craft breweries (no matter their location), The Maine Brewers Guild created Freshman Orientation. At this event, breweries that have opened in the prior year are showcased at a mini beer festival with a unique “speed-dating” format. During Freshman Orientation, breweries pour from typical, fest-style booths, but, there’s a catch. After five minutes, participant groups are rotated, moving on to the next table. This ensures that each brewery gets equal time with participants, and that participants don’t spend all of their time at a particular brewery.
Historically, Freshman Orientation has been part of Portland Beer Week, a week-long celebration that includes many events throughout Portland and the state of Maine in early November. This year, however, the event will stand on its own and is happening from 3-5 p.m. Sunday at Bayside Bowl. Tickets are available for $35 through the Brewers Guild and include samples and a tasting glass. Tickets are intentionally limited so that small groups can go through the speed-dating round, so I encourage you to grab them as soon as possible.
In the spirit of the speed rounds of the event, here are the 14 breweries that will be in attendance, with a bit of information about each:
Ambition Brewing is Wilton’s first brewery, opened by a pair of former IT professionals who got into homebrewing. Their beers are numbered to refer to the “version” (i.e. batch) of beer.
Bateau Brewing is the latest to open in Maine’s capital region, located on the historic Dingley block on the Kennebec River in Gardiner.
The only combination brewery and distillery on the list, Batson River Brewing and Distilling has a beautiful tasting room space in Kennebunk. It is also a full service restaurant, which is a lot to take on, but the beers and food have been well-received.
The town of Gray is no longer without a brewery, thanks to Birchwood Brewing, which opened in the spring. Its brews are diverse in flavor; a blackberry chocolate porter was a recent special release.
Located on Route 1 in Brunswick, Black Pug Brewing offers a variety of creative brews often incorporating interesting ingredients, from blueberries to sweet potatoes.
The only new Portland brewery this year, Brewery Extrava is a purveyor of primarily Belgian-inspired beer. Some styles are brewed traditionally, to match the Belgian originals, and others, like the Belgian IPA, offer a twist.
For the best view, Fluvial Brewing Company in Harrison is the place to go. Just opened a few months ago, it has been using mostly Maine-processed grains in its beer.
A new entry into the midcoast scene is Footbridge Brewery, located at one end of the historical footbridge that connects the east and west parts of Boothbay Harbor.
NU Brewery in New Gloucester has brought clear, bright beers to the scene. With some of varieties targeted toward non-craft drinkers, it is hoping to bring in an audience of locals who are curious about craft beer but can still find familiar flavors.
Using local herbs and crops, Sasanoa on Westport Island is brewing up unique and memorable farmhouse-style ales with herbs and spices.
Side By Each, located in Auburn, maybe be the most unique new beer business. A combination brewery and cafe, Side By Each also has a poutine food truck embedded into its interior.
Veteran-owned Stars and Stripes Brewing just released a pumpkin beer, making the Freeport brewery one of the few to take on the fall flavor, in the shadow of Shipyard Pumpkinhead.
The name van der Brew comes from their brewmaster’s last name (Vandermeulen) which translates into “of the mill.” His homebrewing efforts over 30 years were nicknamed van der Brew by his kids, and the name just seemed to fit when Vandermeulen went pro.
Xota Brewing Co. makes a variety of beer styles, including an ever-changing experimental line called Tinker and a tasty oatmeal stout, Otis.
How does all of this new beer taste, though? Show up Sunday and see for yourself.
Carla Jean Lauter is a freelance beer writer and blogger who lives in Lisbon. Follow her beer adventures at: