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Allen Adams & Tim Bissell Allen Adams & Tim Bissell
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Three cheers for beer! A celebration of National Beer Day

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In recent years, Bangor and beer have become synonymous. The region has become a legitimate hotbed for interesting and talented beermakers. The craft beer explosion has been a remarkable thing to watch as more and more passionate brewers decide to try and bring their sudsy dreams to fruition.

Leaving aside the economic impact – which is undeniably significant – it’s just great to know that there are places all over where you can find and enjoy an exceptional beer. We’re up to our ears in options from breweries large and small. No matter what your taste might be, you’ll be able to find something to suit your particular palate at an area brewery.

And since National Beer Day is coming right up, we thought it might be nice to take a moment and celebrate beer in general and Bangor-area beer in particular.

What’s National Beer Day, you ask?

National Beer Day is what we like to call an “unofficial” holiday. Sure, it isn’t acknowledged on any federal calendar, but that doesn’t make it any less legitimate. Look at some of the other “holidays” that share the same month. April Fools’ Day? Not an official holiday, but who doesn’t love pulling a harmless prank or two? We sure do love it here at The Maine Edge. And what about Earth Day? Again, not official, but who would argue against its importance and/or legitimacy?

So it is with National Beer Day (and New Beer’s Eve, of course). Is it silly? Of course it is. Still, there’s something to be said for a day set aside to celebrate something that so many of us enjoy. Beer is a part of our national consciousness in a way that few other consumables are.

Think about the huge variety of beer you see when you go to the grocery store or visit your local watering hole. Think about the utter ubiquity of beer commercials on our television airwaves. Think about the rapidly-growing contingent of small craft breweries offering their own unique takes on the classic beverage. Think about the multitude of homebrewers making their own beers in their own homes – a throwback to those Prohibition days, only without the fear of reprisal and with the assistance of dedicated outlets such as our own Central Street Farmhouse.

Beer has become an American institution. So why not set aside a day to celebrate? Tip back a tall cold one on April 7, my friends. Heck, if I had my druthers, I’d make it a whole week, because really, is a single day enough? Let’s remember that there was a time, not so long ago, when you couldn’t just stroll into your favorite pub and order a pint. It’s a freedom that we’re privileged to have.

As for why it is April 7…

Prohibition’s End and the First Beer Day

The Prohibition era in the United States began in 1920 when the 18th Amendment to the Constitution was effected, outlawing the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol on a national level. The National Prohibition Act, passed in 1919 and popularly known as the Volstead Act, established the legal definition of intoxicating liquor and the assorted punishments for producing or selling it.

The Volstead Act proved exceedingly difficult to enforce, which led to a wildly popular underground economy, filled with bootleggers, rumrunners and speakeasy clubs. In many ways, Prohibition gave birth to the “organized crime” that remains with us to this day.

Prohibition soon lost what little true support it did have, with events like the Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929 serving as harsh reminders that like it or not, people were going to find ways to drink. Add to that the Great Depression, when people clearly needed something to take their minds off the dismal state of the nation, and Prohibition’s days were clearly numbered.

And so, on March 22, 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law an amendment to the Volstead Act known as the Cullen-Harrison Act. Cullen-Harrison legalized the sale of beers and wines with a sufficiently low alcohol content (3.2 percent or below by weight), effective when?

You guessed it - April 7.

People were once again allowed to legally buy beer. There were lines outside taverns and breweries all over the country as people swarmed for the opportunity to legally buy a beer for the first time in well over a decade. Of course, in December of that same year, the 21st Amendment was ratified, hence repealing the 18th Amendment and effectively bringing the Prohibition era to an end.

The cool, crisp, adult beverage-y taste of freedom. That’s what we’re celebrating. Happy National Beer Day, folks. Drink one for me.

Geaghan Bros. - Captain Kool IPA

Captain Kool is one of those IPAs that reminds me of how IPA used to taste. Forget juicy, the hop flavors in this beer are piney, resinous and floral. You may have your own favorite pairing, but to me, you won’t find a better beer to pair up with a pound of boneless wings - with reserve sauce, or course. Classic and delicious.

Orono Brewing Company – Kölsch

Sometimes you just need a ‘crispy boy’ and when that is the case, you really can’t do much better than this Kölsch-style ale from OBC. It has a lovely rich malt flavor balanced by just enough bitterness to round the whole experience out. This is definitely one of the beers you want to have when you are having more than one!

Marsh Island – PB You, Who?

So there is this style of beer being referred to as “pastry stout” that has come into favor as of late. In that vein, Marsh Island Brewing released their take on the mill stout with peanut butter added, and to be honest it’s really good. Not the kind of beer I would drink every day, but absolutely perfect as a sweet nightcap or something to break up all the hops every now and then. 

Black Bear – Gearhead Ale

There aren’t enough good Red Ales anymore and I’m not afraid to say it! Luckily, Black Bear is still producing one of the best out there. You’ll seriously be hard-pressed to find one better anywhere. When I need something that just has that little extra malt note than your average pale ale, Gearhead Ale is what I’m looking for every time!

2 Feet - Barn Burner

What do you call a farmhouse ale with a little kick to it? Barn Burner, of course! This dark saison is taken to the next level with the addition of jalapenos and ghost peppers which add a peppery fruitiness and a noticeable amount of heat. Even if you don’t think you are a fan of spicy beer, give this one a try – it’ll surprise you. It’s a mainstay on the 2 Feet board for a reason – it’s outstanding.

Bangor Beer Company – Killed By Death

I chose this beer for two reasons. One, it is a very good imperial stout, and two, the name is awesome and I will always choose a beer with an awesome name. Maybe choosing a beer simply because it has a cool name isn’t the best idea, but it has almost always served me well. And in the case of Killed By Death, well – it was a perfect strategy. Your mileage may vary.

Sea Dog – Blue Paw

Sometimes, you drink a beer not for how it tastes in the moment, but for the many moments in the past that are attached to that particular beer. For me, that’s why I go back to Blue Paw over and over again. It’s a classic blueberry beer, one reminiscent of Maine and that warrants its beloved status by beer drinkers statewide.

Mason’s – Double Hipster IIPA

Because Mason’s IPA, Hipster Apocalypse is so good, they made a DOUBLE Hipster! The brewers were able to pack this beer with even more of the great flavor found in regular Hipster, so I’d recommend buying two cases at once – doubling down, if you will. This one is a fantastic example of how beers can beget other beers.

Blank Canvas – Roasted Garlic Alt

When you go to Blank Canvas, don’t expect anything ordinary. The beers at Blank Canvas are truly one of a kind, and the Roasted Garlic Alt is a great representation of that very fact. Made in a similar fashion to your average Düsseldorf Altbier, the wrinkle here is, you guessed it, an addition of roasted garlic that actually accentuates some of the malt sweetness in the beer and lends a very interesting depth of flavor. If you are looking for something unique, this is the beer for you!

Friar’s Brewhouse - Whoopie Pie Porter

The Friar’s Brewhouse Taproom in Bucksport is always looking to serve up some of their delicious liquid bread! When you visit the tap room, look for the Whoopie Pie Porter, a robust American porter that has chocolaty and creamy notes evocative of the pastry for which it is named. It tastes great out of a bottle, but even better right from the tap!

Airline – Brown Porter

Is it a brown? Is it a porter? The answer to both questions is yes! This expertly designed English porter is not quite as dark as you’d expect from a modern-day porter, but that’s because this harkens back to a time when the lines between stout, porter and brown ales blurred but the results were rich, full bodied ales with mountains of malt flavor and a mild roasted flavor and a subtle bitterness at the finish. Served on cask is the best way to enjoy this one, like most all of Arline’s beers. 

Fogtown – Puckerbrush

There are a lot of good beers coming out of this Ellsworth brewery, but it’s hard to go wrong with the tart deliciousness of a well-crafted sour beer. That’s what this one – it’s got a great mouthfeel and depth of flavor, along with a beautiful color and tang drawn from the blackberries used in its creation. Spring is here, with summer to follow, and this is a great one to drink while sitting in the sun.

207 Beer Company - Fisherman’s Friend Ale

New to the Bangor/Brewer beer scene, 207 Beer Company’s got some wonderful things on tap. However, if you ask me, their Fisherman’s Friend Cream Ale is the best beer to start with, in my humble opinion. Crisp, clean and light, it’s a great beer to take out on the boat or to sip on as you tell fishing stories around the bar.


What about Maine Beer Day?

(A version of the following appeared in the April 4, 2018 edition of The Maine Edge as an entry in Tim Bissell’s Three Pint Stance column. We thought it was an idea that warranted repeating, particularly as we celebrate National Beer Day.)

As someone who fully embraces all that beer has to offer, I say enjoy National Beer Day. It is a celebration of both one of the best beverages the world has ever come to know and of the power of the people to shrug off burdensome governmental regulations. Two great tastes that taste great together. Cheers to all that, obviously.

There’s no question that celebrating the repeal of prohibition is great, but I wonder if a more localized beer holiday might be in order.

In short, National Beer Day is cool, but let’s talk about Maine Beer Day.

You see, beer was legal to produce in the States again after the Cullen-Harrison act came into effect, but the industry was so crippled from the decade-long prohibition of alcohol that it would take even more decades before some regions of the country saw a return to beer production.

Take Maine for example. It wasn’t until 1983, when D.L. and Karen Geary incorporated the D.L. Geary Brewing Company in Portland, that there was even a suggestion that beer production could return to New England. That’s over 50 years without any beer being made in all of New England! Half a century without any new local brews. All told, it wasn’t until December 10, 1986 that D.L. and Karen were ready to release their first pints of Geary’s Pale Ale … and aren’t we all glad they did?

It is in honor of that auspiciously sudsy occasion that I propose December 10 be recognized as Maine Beer Day; it’s the choice that highlights the intrepid entrepreneurial spirit that D.L and Karen exhibited when taking the leap to bring beer back to Maine in 1986. Without that move, who knows where the Maine beer scene would be today?

And there you have it. December 10: Maine Beer Day.

Look, I’ll be honest - I don’t know who controls the particular levers of government that could make this happen. I wouldn’t even know where to start. But you, dear reader? You might. If you are or know one of the powers that be that could make this happen, shoot me a text! After all, American beer gets a day, so why not give the best beer in America – Maine beer – a day of its own?


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