Craft Beer in Maine
Maine is known for high-quality craftsmanship, and Maine’s craft beer is no exception. In just over 30 years, the number of craft breweries in Maine has exploded to more than seven dozen – from Portland to Penobscot Bay – and plenty of brewpubs and breweries in between. What’s behind this growing fermenting scene? It’s what goes into Maine’s craft brews—the passion of our brew masters and our crystal-clear water.
The Maine Ingredient
A good craft brew has four main ingredients. Malt. Hops. Yeast. Water. Ask any Maine brewer what makes Maine’s beer exceptional, and their answer will be water. Many of them will give you an even more specific answer: Sebago Lake. Located just northwest of Portland, over 300 feet deep and with a glacial sand bottom that acts like a natural filter, Sebago’s pristine water is widely viewed as some of the finest brewing water in the world.
The patriarch of Maine’s craft brewery scene, Dave Geary of D.L. Geary Brewing Company, calls Sebago Lake “a treasure, a jewel.” Sebago’s water is devoid of many of the iron and hardness that plagues other brewers, and just happens to match the mineral content of the water used by most Belgian beer brewers. That makes things easy for brewers like Rob Tod, whose Allagash Brewing Company specializes in Belgian-style brews.
Water, Water Everywhere… And Every Drop to Drink
Brewers outside the Portland area are just as proud of the quality of their water. Up in Newcastle, Oxbow Brewery—named for a bend in the Sheepscot River—gets their water from an aquifer beneath the brewery itself. That aquifer also waters the orchard where they grow the fruit that flavors many of their more untraditional Belgian-style farmhouse brews.
Luke Livingston, founder of Baxter Brewing Company is proud of the clean water his company sources from Lake Auburn. But he’s even more proud of the water he doesn’t use. Brewing is by nature environmentally taxing, normally taking seven gallons of water to make one gallon of beer. Because of Baxter Brewing’s green practices, they’ve got that down to four gallons.
Whether you’re enjoying one of the small batch brews Oxbow hand-delivers to a MidCoast tavern or you’re a thousand miles away in LA enjoying an Allagash White, sip slowly. That’s pure Maine you’re tasting.
For a bigger swig of what these and other Maine breweries are up to, visit mainequarterly.com/beer.