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Pint-size beer festival big fun in Bucksport

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Pint-size beer festival big fun in Bucksport (edge photo by Allen Adams)

BUCKSPORT – Bucksport’s Main Street played host to a few members of Maine’s burgeoning craft brewing scene last weekend, thanks to the efforts of everybody’s favorite beermaking friars.

The Friars’ Invitational Brewfest took place on July 21 as part of the Bucksport Bay Festival that took place all weekend. A number of local craft breweries set up tents and offered up samples of their delicious brews for a few hours one warm afternoon.

The participating breweries were: Friars’ Brewhouse (of course), Airline Brewing Company, Blank Canvas Brewery, Lake St. George Brewing Company, Penobscot Bay Brewery, 2 Feet Brewing and Waterville Brewing Company.

As someone with a deep and abiding love of craft beer, I obviously enjoy the brewfest experience, but I had never been to a festival of this size before. It was a different experience, to be sure, but also one well worth having.

Larger festivals can be overwhelming, with more options than one can reasonably consider. With this smaller (and more affordable) event, the discerning taster can easily try at least one offering from every participant. Not only that, but the relaxed nature of things allowed for a bit more interpersonal interaction between brewer and drinker – not to mention a remarkable absence of lines in which to stand.

Don’t get me wrong – big beer festivals are a lot of fun. Hell, I’m going to the Maine Brewers’ Guild Summer Session fest at Thompson’s Point in Portland this weekend. But it’s a very different kind of fun, a different sort of experience. Big can be great, but small can be as well.

The Friars’ Invitational was great.

One thing that caught me by surprise was that all the beers were good. Not that I mean to impugn the reputations of any of these breweries – quality operations, all – but the truth is that it’s rare to work your way through 10 or 12 pours at one of these things without landing on at least one dud. There was none of that here, though; even the beers that weren’t necessarily to my taste were undeniably good.

(I’ll go ahead and note here that I am a proponent of the IPA in general and Maine-made IPAs specifically. I mention this only because as near as I could tell, there was only one IPA on tap at this event. A good one, sure – the Lake St. George #96 – but just one. Yet even an unrepentant hophead such as myself was able to find a wealth of delightful beers to experience.)

I made a point to try a little something from everyone; the dearth of IPAs meant that I was much more inclined to experiment and try things that were a little farther outside my comfort zone. I had a delicious blonde ale from Waterville Brewing and an excellent golden ale courtesy of Airline. I tried both beers from Blank Canvas – a rhubarb kolsch and a dill cucumber pale ale – and found them both to be tasty and refreshing in surprising ways. I snagged the Humble B lager, which made for a lovely drink on a hot day. And my favorite of the day – the only one for which I went back for seconds – was the lime kolsch from 2 Feet; it was one of the best summer beers I think I’ve ever had.

But that’s the thing – they were ALL GOOD.

It’s funny to think that one of my best craft beer experiences of the summer would unfold on a sun-drenched afternoon in the parking lot of the Bucksport Post Office, but there you have it. The where doesn’t matter if you’ve got the who – passionate brewers who work hard at their craft and love what they do.

Bigger is often better, but sometimes small can be super. That was the case here – the Friars’ Invitational Brewfest offered big fun belied by its diminutive size. A fantastic afternoon courtesy of those suds-loving friars. Next time around, make sure you don’t miss it.

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