AUGUSTA — John Chapin, of Montville, sported a pretzel necklace Saturday as he sipped various India pale ales at the Central Maine Brew Fest.

“It’s great,” Chapin said as he took a bite of one of his pretzels. “I’m having a blast. These are good for munching on. It cleanses the palate between beers.”

Fourteen brewers — including three first-time exhibitors — offered samples of their brews at the fifth annual event, which was expected to draw 500 to 700 people, organizer Jon Laitin said. The chilly temperatures and cloudy sky proved to be a good combination for the indoor event at the Augusta State Armory.

“This is perfect weather,” Laitin said, “miserable, perfect weather.”

Black Bear Brewery of Orono, Geaghan’s Restaurant of Bangor and Rising Tide from Portland made their first appearances at the festival. All are hoping to spread the word in central Maine about what they have to offer.

Peter Geaghan, owner of the family restaurant started by his parents in 1975, said the restaurant added brewing to its operation just 18 months ago and it’s helped spark an uptick in business. The restaurant is on Main Street in Bangor near the civic center that’s under construction and Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway.

“It took us 35 years, but we finally have a good location,” he said.

Heather Sanborn, owner of Rising Tide, said her business has grown a lot in the last year by expanding its capacity to brew beer. She said those who visit Portland can visit the tasting room and get a tour of the brewery.

“We’re excited to have more folks in central Maine try our beers,” she said.

Black Bear Brewery owner Tim Gallon said he has a good relationship with Mainely Brews in Waterville, which helped him make the connection he needed to get a table at the festival.

“It’s nice to talk to people who drink our beer and talk to people who’ve just been exposed to it,” he said.

For beer fest participant Tom Wriggins, of Nobleboro, who enjoys a good stout, the beer festival was a chance to see what’s out there.

“This is my least favorite time of year because all the beer distributors are putting summer beer in stores,” he said. “I use this event to decide what the next beer in my kegerator is going to be.”

Susan Cover — 621-5643
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