MARS HILL, Maine — Five-hundred people from near and far came to this central Aroostook community last Saturday to celebrate the Maine craft beer frontier.
More than 30 beers, ciders and wines from 15 Maine and New England breweries were on tap under the heated and packed tents at the Aroostook County Brew Fest, at the base of Mars Hill. A collaboration of Bigrock Mountain, the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce, Aroostook Hops and the Maine Malt House, the festival was the first large craft beer event in the region — and it happened to coincide with peak fall foliage and a couple inches of snow.
“To say that the first annual Aroostook County Brew Festival was a success would be an understatement,” said Theresa Fowler, the chamber’s executive director, noting that the event sold out.
Among the traditional and conventional craft beers were “wet hop” ales, made with fresh hops grown in Westfield by Aroostook Hops farmers Krista Delahunty and Jason Johnston; a rhubarb Kolsch by Blank Canvas Brewery of Brewer; a coffee porter by Tumbledown Brewery of Farmington; a blueberry ale by Atlantic Brewing of Bar Harbor; plus ciders, fruit wines and half-a-dozen variety of beers.
“I liked all of them,” said Josh Buck of the Buck Farms’ Maine Malt House, a Mapleton-based startup supplier whose malts were used by breweries including Geaghan Brothers in Bangor and Allagash and Gritty’s in Portland.
“We had a great response from the brewers,” Buck said. “That was positive for us to hear.”
The event was sponsored by the Northeastland Hotel, EDP Renewables, Farm Credit East and others, and it was a chance to feature northern Maine’s agricultural potential in the craft beer economy, Fowler said.
“Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce wanted to promote the business aspect of growing hops and malting grain,” she said. “There are a variety of agricultural products that can be developed in Aroostook County and malting is a value-added operation.”
Bigrock Mountain, Mars Hill’s ski slopes and lodge, also raised money for its Groomer’s Fund, selling 250 $100 raffle tickets, and awarding a $5,000 first place ticket, $2,000 second place, $1,000 third place, plus 22 $100 payouts.