Bangor beer festival called a success, but organizers share Portland’s desire for law changes

Brewers and beer enthusiasts from across the state gathered to celebrate and taste the craft beers of Maine at the Bangor Beer Festival on Saturday, June 22.
Carter F. McCall | BDN
Brewers and beer enthusiasts from across the state gathered to celebrate and taste the craft beers of Maine at the Bangor Beer Festival on Saturday, June 22. Buy Photo
Posted June 26, 2013, at 4:01 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Bangor’s first Tap into Summer Beer Festival drew 1,100 brew fans to the waterfront on June 22, resulting in a small profit and securing a future for the event, according to the Greater Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau, which organized it.

“We’re 110 percent having it again next year,” Kerrie Tripp, the bureau’s executive director, said Wednesday, adding that she has received a lot of positive feedback from brewers and patrons.

The 15-vendor beer festival cost the visitors bureau $25,000, about $8,500 of which was spent on tents and equipment to shelter patrons and vendors, according to Tripp.

Tripp said the extra money for the tents was well spent because it allowed patrons to enjoy their 4-ounce beer samples with the Penobscot River as a backdrop.

“In Bangor, having things on the waterfront just makes the event that much better,” she said.

Bangor’s Tap into Summer didn’t experience the same controversy as a much larger international beer festival held in Portland on the same weekend.

The Portland event, The Festival, was reportedly delayed for at least a half hour because not enough volunteers showed up to pour beer samples. The event drew brewers from around the world. Under state law, brewers can’t pour their own beer samples at festivals, requiring these events to go out and pin down volunteers. They can, however, pour beer samples at their own venues.

Bangor didn’t suffer from those same volunteer shortages, staffing two, three and four volunteers at each booth. Portland’s event needed a minimum of 80 volunteers in order to post one person at each booth. Bangor had the advantage of being an entirely local event, which made it easier to recruit helpers, Tripp pointed out, whereas many of the Portland vendors and organizers came from out of state and didn’t have the same connections.

Despite the fact that Maine laws didn’t hurt the Bangor brew festival in its first year, future events could be improved by changing regulations and allowing brewers to take a more involved role, according to Tripp.

“I think any law is worth looking at again as an industry grows to the degree that brewing has,” Tripp said. “I think if you talk to any brewer, they would much rather pour their own beer while they talk to people at events like this.”

Gene Beck, owner of Nocturnem Draft Haus in Bangor, attended both sessions of the Portland festival and says the state should take a serious look at changes to these “very unnecessary laws” if events are going to grow and succeed in the future.

When brewers attend these events, they want to be able to interact with the people sampling their beers, explaining the nuances and the process behind each recipe. That element is lost when volunteers, many of whom don’t know the stories behind the beer, step into the mix, he said.

Laws also limit the amount of alcohol that can be consumed during a festival — 48 ounces in a four-hour stretch.

Organizers of the Portland festival took issue with that limit, arguing that attendees should be able to sample as many beers as they like as long as they don’t do anything illegal. Tripp said she is more comfortable with that regulation.

“As an organizer, I’m not sure these need to turn into a frat party,” Tripp said.

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