Maine Micro-breweries Are Big News by John and Jennifer VerPlanck, The Black Sheep Wine and Beer Shop
Perhaps you’ve heard by now that Maine currently has more breweries per capita than any other state. The popularity of craft beer has propelled the rise in new breweries nationwide for the last decade. In 1983, when Geary Brewing opened in Portland, it was the first craft beer operation throughout New England. Currently, there are some 156 active Maine breweries and brewpubs in the state. In 2013, Maine had only 35 registered breweries. Maine saw 10 breweries open up in Maine in 2020, despite the pandemic. An economic impact study released in 2019, recorded the beer industry and related activities add $2 billion to Maine’s economy each year as well as nearly 16,000 jobs. We have a full- on beer culture now in America, and it’s a pretty welcoming one. You can find an interesting selection of Maine craft beers at stores like The Black Sheep Wine and Beer Shop in Harpswell, Maine.
The simple ingredients for making a beer are just water, hops, malt and yeast. Many Maine brewers use homegrown hops, barley and oats; some even utilize wild Maine yeast. They also may add homegrown fruit such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches for seasonal flavors and even wine, honey, seaweed, pumpkins, fresh oysters or pine needles for exceptional flavored handcrafted brews! Someone tell me there is a Maine beer made with lobster or potatoes and I’ll believe them!
It didn’t take long for a coalition of brewers to form the Maine Brewshed Alliance to ensure the quality and supply of the pure water from our lakes and aquafers. Sebago Lake is the source for all of Portland’s craft breweries, so clean it doesn’t need to be filtered and happens to have the mineral content of the water used by most Belgian beer brewers.
Maine has earned its beer mecca reputation, building over the last 30 years, with some Maine breweries internationally recognized for their quality and craftsmanship and other newcomers rising to the top fairy rapidly. The beer world is both a competitive and companionable industry. The fun for drinkers is in the exploration and on- site experiences. You can sample one- of- a -kind beers from any point in the state, many adding some food options varying from lobster and fried clams to wood-fired pizza and rotating food trucks. There is a Beer Trail as well as some micro-brewery tour busses in the major cities. Every brewery has its unique style and character. Cross brewery collaborative brews are not rare as well as small batch seasonal or limited release experimentation. The industry is always yielding new discoveries. There are over 400 types of beer. Which makes sense when you think that beer has been made for 7000 years.
A custom built 40 ft. refrigerated shipping container, The Maine Beer Box, with 78 taps for craft beer, was created and used as a kind of global marketing and goodwill initiative by the Maine Brewers’ Guild. It has been shipped to Iceland, England and Canada so far, with a return load of their counties beers for Maine drinkers to enjoy here. How cool is that?
Most people don’t know that marijuana and beer hops are from the same family of plants. Both cannabis and hops are members of the Cannabaceae family. A couple of new Maine brewing partnerships are also experimenting now with producing some cannabis-infused beers. The non-alcoholic craft beer is infused with THC oil and steeped using grains and hops. Because of a process called nano-emulsification, drinkers will feel the psychoactive effects in 15 or 20 minutes, with 5 mg of THC per bottle, having a stronger effect than that of a traditional cannabis edible or other product. Perhaps we have to make way for another new industry, Maine. It’s not your grandfather’s beer, that’s for sure.