Brewery Name: Maine Beer Company
Type of Brewery: Retail Brewery
Location: 525 US-1, Freeport, ME 04032. Located just along the side of Route 1. Once you see the giant solar panels, you’re there.
Facebook: Maine Beer Company
Background: Maine Beer Company makes a lot of great beers, but the first thing that most people immediately think of is "Dinner." Dinner is one of the most popular double IPAs in the world--so popular that locals and beer tourists alike have been known to camp overnight on the side of the highway just for a chance to purchase a case. I love beer, and I love New England IPAs and DIPAs in particular, but just the thought of spending 6+ hours freezing my tail off on the side of the road in the dead of winter makes me feel like I need some hot chocolate. As luck would have it, though, Maine Beer Company recently decided to do something different. Dinner releases a few times a year, and for the most recent release they decided to test out a ticketing system. For a small fee (offset by some complimentary glassware), customers could purchase a ticket to the release online. They would then be given a pickup window when they could come and collect their case of Dinner. I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase a ticket, and made my way up to the brewery itself for the very first time.
Growlers: Nope. Maine Beer Company does not offer growlers or kegs from the brewery, but they do keep the fridge in the tasting room pretty well-stocked with their various beers.
The Beers: Where to even begin with these guys. At any given time, you’re likely to see a wide range of different Maine Beer Company beers on tap around Maine and New Hampshire, and finding bottles is rarely a problem (although, depending on which beer you’re looking for, there are varying degrees of difficulty--good luck finding Lunch or Another One on the shelf). Although I went to the brewery specifically for Dinner (which didn’t leave much time for sampling other beers), I’ve had more than a few of their brews lately. Here’s a brief overview of a few of their more recent/popular offerings.
Vibe: Since I went on the busiest of all possible days, it's hard for me to give you an accurate reading of the vibe at Maine Beer Company. Those of us who had been fortunate enough to score tickets lined up outside around the back of the building and were ushered in through the brewing area. The gorgeous, shining tanks towered over us as we verified our identities and were guided up the stairs and into the taproom itself.
The Maine Beer Company tasting area is an intimate little space, with a couple of tables set up and a handful of beers on tap. There is a cooler to the side of the room containing what feels like an endless supply of beers from the brewery's most recent bottling runs. Sadly, I didn’t have the chance to linger--it would have felt rude to crowd the room and delay other people from their beer. But I very much look forward to coming back and enjoying a beer or two in the tasting room.
There is also a small outside area in front of the building where you can hang out for a bit. Again, I wasn't able to make us of it during my visit (ostensibly because of the hectic nature of the Dinner release, but more importantly because it was too dang cold outside), but it looks like a really nice place to sip on a few of the brewery's outstanding offerings. Also outside, you'll see the giant solar panels that offset 100% of the brewery’s power consumption. Maine Beer Company's motto is "Do What’s Right," a mantra that extends far beyond making good beer.
"We deliver our spent grains and organic liquid waste to local farmers for compost, fertilizer and feed. We reduce our energy consumption and reliance on fossil fuels through radiant flooring, LED bulbs and the purchase of e-certified wind credits," Maine Beer Company proudly boasts on their website. The brewery is dedicated to environmental awareness, local causes, and to "sustainable, symbiotic relationship between our brewery and the planet." I'll drink to that!
I also want to take a moment to say that the Maine Beer Company staff was incredible. Major beer releases are always crowded, hectic affairs, and people often become restless when they feel like they're being unnecessarily delayed--especially in the Maine morning cold. But the staff at the brewery kept everything running extremely smoothly. The line never stagnated too long and everyone I interacted with was friendly and upbeat. My pickup window was 8:30-9:00am, and I’m sure most of the brewery's staff had been there for three or four hours by the time I arrived. Despite it being a long, crazy day for them, they were universally awesome.
Dogs: Hard to say for sure. There isn’t a ton of space in the tasting room itself, but there is plenty of room outside. My guess would be that dogs are fine, but you’re best served keeping them outside if possible.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$$. The bottles aren’t cheap--at $8 per bottle, a case of Dinner will run you almost a crisp Benjamin. Other beers are less expensive, with Lunch clocking in at $7 per bottle and their other offerings hovering around the $5 or $6 mark. When you consider the quality of the beer you’re getting, that’s really not too bad.
Food: No food, unfortunately. The Maine Beer Company tasting room is a pure tasting room. You can usually count on eight beers on tap, but for food you’ll have to go elsewhere.
Final Thoughts: I've always loved Maine Beer Company, and I’ve happily consumed their beers for years. I’m glad that I finally had the opportunity to visit the brewery itself, and even happier that I had the opportunity to sample the legendary Dinner. I greatly look forward to visiting the tasting room on a less hectic (not to mention warmer) day, when I have the chance to kick back and bit and interact with the brewery staff a little more.
As for the ticketing system, consider me a fan. I'm not sure I ever would have had the opportunity to try Dinner otherwise. Some beer lovers wear their willingness to brave the elements as a badge of honor, and while I'm not unsympathetic to that viewpoint, I appreciate the chance to get my hands on a legendary beer without losing half a dozen toes to frostbite. A major part of the reason that Maine Beer Company changed up the Dinner release process was out of respect for the town of Freeport, and, as much as some longtime patrons may protest any sort of change, it seems clear that the new system helped alleviate some of the town's safety and logistical concerns. I had no trouble finding parking, and was out the door, beer in hand, just ten minutes into my pickup window. Getting tickets can be a crapshoot (they sold out in about one second--hope you clicked at the right moment!), but the alternative had become unsustainable. In my opinion, the new system worked very smoothly, and the brewery should be very proud of how they handled it.
All I'll say in closing is that Maine Beer Company makes some of the best beer in Maine. That's really all there is to it. Dinner: delicious. Lunch: delicious. Another One: delicious. There isn't a beer in their lineup that I don’t crave from time to time, and I don’t think that will ever change. In fact, considering that the town of Freeport just approved a major expansion to the brewery, I think we can count on things getting even better!
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