Maine Brewers Guild Summer Session ‘19: Post-Fest Thoughts

The Summer Session is the best beer fest in Maine every year, especially for Maine Brewers. It historically has had the most amount of breweries from Maine in attendance every year. The profits go back to the Maine Brewers Guild, who are a nonprofit organization who specializes in promoting and protecting the beer industry in Maine. This year’s Summer Session has changed a bit in structure, but I think it’s in a good direction.

Location

The biggest change this year has to be where the beer festival is being held. In previous years the fest was held at Thompsons Point in Portland, Maine. Both locations are on the ocean which couldn’t be any better for a beer fest that celebrates Maine beer. Both locations also had an incredible amount of space to roam around the festival grounds.

Thompson’s Point is certainly more convenient of a location, being in Portland. Some people could walk to the fest or take a very short Uber ride across town. One downside is the parking here. There is no free parking on-site, but you can keep adding time with the Passport Parking App while you’re enjoying the fest or working behind the booths.

One big upgrade we got in being in Fort Preble this year was the sightseeing. The festival was still right on the water, but the visuals were much better than at Thompson’s Point. You could walk out on the stones and see touch the lighthouse. You can walk to the top of the hill and overlook the entire festival as it was happening Not to mention Fort Preble itself was a neat place to hang out in as well. You also had a visual of Spring Point Marina while the sun was setting with all the sailboats going by. I would say in the sightseeing department, that’s a major upgrade from Thompson’s Point.

Time

This year Summer Session was split up into two separate sessions with each session being 40% less time than the normal single session in past years (if you chose VIP in previous years). In past years the festival was 4 hours long for general admission and 5 hours long for VIP, arriving an hour early (VIP will be explained in the next section). This year the two sessions were 3 hours long each with a 2 hour break in between.

For attendees it might seem like they’re being shorted in time. Although for the brewers behind their booths have to pour for an extra hour overall compared to previous years. I think the fest felt just a tad bit rushed with the less time offered, but not incredibly so. It’s hard to switch from a single session to a two-session festival without some criticism. Like I said before, you still had a ton of space to roam around with much better sightseeing.

VIP

The VIP experience was also changed this year. In previous years you paid for an extra hour of time and the possibility of a few breweries offering special beers during that time – your overall time going from 4 hours to 5 hours of festival enjoyment. This would give you an hour before the rest of the festival started where the crowds were far less and the lines were very short.

This year there was a special VIP tent that served special beers from Maine brewers, poured by the brewers themselves. These beers were only served at the top of every hour (there’s only 3 hours now, remember) and lasted until they were out. The selection was excellent and you had the overall environment that was intimate where you had enough time and space to chat with the brewers about what they were pouring you.

I’m not sure where I stand with the new VIP experience for Summer Session ‘19. I think it has its pros and cons and I enjoy the fact it took a different direction than what normal beer fests do with their VIP offerings. The beers offered were amazing in the VIP tent, but some didn’t know that they were only being poured at the top of the hour.

Attending Breweries

In previous years the Summer Session had a big list of guest brewers that were either from out-of-state or out-of-country. It brought the overall brewery count very high with a lot of choices for attendees. This year the guild decided to go with strictly Maine breweries for the Summer Session.

If you look back at previous Summer Sessions in the past, the invitation of non-Maine breweries was a somewhat recent event. The Summer Session was originally a celebration of Maine and Maine brewers that’s always raised money for the Maine Brewers Guild (that’s a lot of Maine in one sentence). I for one enjoy the throwback feeling I had this year. 2019 was a celebration of Maine brewers again and I’m a fan of that.

2018 was the first year that The Maine Brewers Guild introduced the Winter Session in November, which I highly suggest attending. This is the fest where the Maine Beer Box will most likely be completing it’s international exchange of beer goodness. Each year the box goes to a different country in the summertime, filled with Maine beer kegs. In exchange, that country sends the box back filled with their own kegs of beer. Those international beers are typically going to be served at the Winter Session.

The Beers

During the festival, and after, everyone asks you what was your personal favorite beers that you tried. Overall, the beer selection was phenomenal. I appreciated the fact that there were a lot of lighter beers for the beautiful warmer weather. Here are the 3 beers that stood out to me, not in any specific order.

Xota Brewing Company Sunfire Cream Ale was a breath of fresh air in the whole festival. This could have been the only cream ale in the entire festival, although I didn’t have every single beer available in Summer Session. It was a clean and crisp beer with a slight sweetness throughout that you would expect with a cream ale.

Fore River Brewing Company Preble Strawberry Rhubarb was an awesome combination of flavors on a warm Maine day. I’m also generally a sucker for a good sour ale, in most forms. I’m also a sucker for this beer because my grandmother used to make Strawberry Rhubarb pie for me when I was growing up.

Sebago Brewing Company On A Boat Kolsch was almost an Americanized version of a traditional German style of beer. This beer was brewed in collaboration with Crosby Hops that provided the new hop variety called Triumph. You had the sweet and light Kolsch backbone with an aggressive dry hopping. Triumph gave you a bit of bubblegum & peach flavors.

Overall I loved how this year was different. The guild continually tries to make the Summer Session better every year with new ideas and possibly new locations. I loved that this year went back to being a celebration of Maine and Maine breweries. I’m excited for next year!