Craft breweries have been popping up all over the state for the last ten years, so much so in fact that you would have to have been taking a Rip Van Winkle nap not to notice that there is practically a craft brewery on every neighborhood corner. Not only has Maine been experiencing a craft beer boom in the past several years, it has also been experiencing a continued boom in the quality of its’ craft beers. Up and down the state breweries are constantly challenging themselves to be heard amidst the continual buzz of new startups, forcing each brewery to develop its own signature style brew. You know the one. It’s the beer that makes you keep coming back for more. The beer that makes a brewery one of your local haunts and not just a check list on the Maine Beer Trail Map.
I have been incredibly lucky to come of drinking age in a time where quality beer seems to flow from every brewery and during a time that promises a new brew will soon appear in some refurbished warehouse where you least expect it. I am also incredibly lucky to get to say I work for one of the top breweries in the state at Maine Beer Company. Maine Beer Company (or MBC for short) is home to some of the top beers not only in Maine but the country. I have seen first hand how beer lovers are willing to make the pilgrimage to MBC for just a taste of the elusive Lunch IPA. Others are even willing to weather huge crowds for a bottle or draft pour of one of the most sought after beers the in the United States; Dinner. These beer connoisseurs share a passion that spills across the entire Maine craft beer scene.
What is so incredible about the public’s love of Maine’s craft beer, however, isn’t so much that it quenches thirst—all though it certainly does that—but the power of craft beer resides in its ability to unite us all in the pursuit of happiness and friendship through hops, malts, yeast, and water. In a state that is seemingly saturated with craft beer, you might expect there to be a high level of competition between breweries, but there is none save a healthy competition to continue to create and produce the highest quality beers possible. The level of community that is at the core of Maine’s craft beer industry is a model for businesses worldwide. Where some people may only see competition for a slice of the market, people in the craft beer industry see a community; a vibrant, healthy, collaborative community where one member can only prosper if all prosper.
The values of community and friendship clearly spill out beyond those who work in the craft beer industry, however, because people of all age, shape, color, and creed come together over a cold pint. The many things that seem to divide us melt away in the tasting rooms as complete strangers become friends.
I have experienced this myself. Earlier this summer I went to Allagash Brewery in Portland and was sipping on my taster flight when an older couple sat down near me at the table and asked if they could join me. At first, we kept to ourselves but very quickly our love for quality beer overcame the awkwardness strangers can feel and we started discussing the different styles of beers we tasted, our favorite beers and breweries, and eventually, our own personal stories. The couple I was talking to was originally from Massachusetts but had moved to Maine several years ago for the quality of life we have here. Generally I would not have shown a great deal of interest or felt that we had much in common, however, the power of Maine’s craft beer led us to a great conversation that left us both understanding each other better.
When our glasses were empty we shook hands and went our separate ways with no realistic intention of seeing each other again. I like to believe, though, that the hour we spent talking about our common interests and passions had a positive impact on each of us. Prior to this experience, I had always loved craft beer, but I had never imagined the way it can bring total strangers together. I see this daily now that I work in the tap room at Maine Beer Company, and it is a magical process to witness. So if you ever feel overwhelmed by politics or work, it is worth your time to take a trip to your local craft brewery’s tasting room to remember we are still one big community after all.