With our headquarters in Washington DC and the bulk of our correspondents found near America’s top producing craft beer regions on the coasts, it only makes sense for us to start a new series giving all the states their due, featuring breweries large and small, plus the histories behind them.
For the sake of clarity and with an eye toward avoiding any bias, we’re doing this thing alphabetically. It’s time to tap our the nineteenth state on the list, The Pine Tree State, Maine. Also known as Vacationland, Maine is a tourist mecca with moderate summer temps, an immaculate shoreline, vast wilderness and high end resorts.
Maine ranks 42nd in total population (roughly 1.3 million) and houses 52 craft breweries as of2014 (roughly 60+ today) who are represented by the Maine Brewers Guild. The state ranks 20th in total breweries and 6th in breweries per capita as of 2014, according to the Brewers Association.
As whimsical as it may sound, Maine’s first connection to the brewing craft goes all the way back to the Pilgrims. We all know they landed in Plymouth, with their intended destination being Virginia, then Maine, yet they stopped in Mass because they were out of beer, among other staples. With the exception of homebrewed beers in 17th and 18th centuries, there’s little to no info on any early brewing in the state, for there was heavy trade with the West Indies – ergo, lots of rum.
In 1815, Maine saw the creation of the first Total Abstinence Society as the lumberjacks and dock workers of Portland and Bangor were wreaking havoc on the locals with their excessive rum consumption, reaching a peak in 1830. The first laws of prohibition in the nation were passed in the state in 1846, leading to the landmark Maine Law passed in 1851, crafted in part by Portland’s Mayor, Neal Dow, known as both the “Napoleon of Temperance” and the “Father of Prohibition.” Opposition to the law led to the Portland Rum Riot of 1855, the same year that 11 other states put in place similar laws.
While the “Bangor Plan” – a way by which owners of drinking establishments twice yearly paid fines to stay open despite illegally serving and used until national Prohibition, Maine was legally dry until 1934 and some towns still prohibit the sale of alcohol. In the end, the irony that the Pilgrims had a lack of beer problem, which led to The Rum Problem, it’s quite hilarious that beer consumption before and after prohibition was advertised as wholesome because those puritanical Pilgrims drank beer.
Established in 1983 by David Geary, D.L. Geary Brewing Company was not only the first production brewery to open in Maine, it was the first new brewery to open East of the Mississippi following Prohibition. Owning Sea Dog Brewing and Casco Bay Brewing is Shipyard Brewing, open since 1994 it’s the largest in the state and 15th largest in the nation.
Six More Maine Breweries We Like and You Should Check Out
Allagash Brewing (Portland) – Arguably Maine’s most celebrated brewer of Belgian styles, they’ve created over 130 varieties since 1994. Producing over a whopping 70,000 barrels per year, they’ve been lauded the world over not only as a champion of bottle conditioned beers, but also as the most GABF awarded brewery in the state, capturing 15 of the 18 awarded. These are possibly the best Belgian styles outside of Belgium.
Bissell Brothers Brewing (Portland) – Just over 2 years old, brothers Noah and Peter Bissell have quickly thrust themselves into the upper echelon of a brewing scene already considered one of the best in the country. Their flagship The Substance Ale, a current seasonal Swish DIPA and Reciprocal IPA are some of the most in demand in the Northeast today.
Baxter Brewing (Lewiston-Auburn) – Known as the first brewery in New England to can all of its beer, this environmentally conscious brewery (100% wind offsets, composting, recycling, etc.) was founded by Luke Livingston in 2010. The only brewer in the state other than Allagash to capture a GABF medal over the past decade, they annually brew roughly 12 releases, priding themselves in consistently well-crafted offerings.
Maine Beer Company (Freeport) – While difficult to obtain outside of the Eastern Seaboard, Maine Beer’s creations are topping the charts throughout the nation. Further bolstering the East Coast IPA style, MBC has been leading the pack with their amazingly balanced and complex Lunch IPA, Dinner DIPA and a 10 other one of a kind American Ale styles concocted annually.
Oxbow Brewing (Newcastle) – Self-described as “Loud Beer From a Quiet Place,” Oxbow has been specializing in Belgian-style ales with an American influence. Open since 2011, they also have a blending and bottling location in Portland. While harder to find outside of the Northeast and bar/restaurants down to the Mid-Atlantic cities, Oxbow has brewed up over 46 styles over the past 5 years.
Tributary Brewing (Kittery) – Founded in 2014 by Tod Mott, an experienced brewer for over 2 decades and the original creator of Harpoon IPA, Tributary’s focus lies in traditional European styles. Generally offering an abundance of IPAs and stouts, they’ve crafted some one of a kind offerings such as Mott the Lesser (Russian Imperial Stout), a Mocha Milk Stout and their seawater and Meyer Lemon Gose.