SKOWHEGAN — Jeff and Pam Powers at Bigelow Brewing Co. have a special brew on tap for Saturday’s first-ever Skowhegan Craft Brew Festival. It’s a blueberry ale made from berries grown at Cayford Orchards, also in Skowhegan.
“We’ve made the beer and we’ll be kegging it tomorrow,” Jeff Powers said.
The festival, showcasing 20 Maine craft brewers and local food vendors featuring farm-to-table fare, also will include cooking demonstrations and food samples by 122 Corson, a restaurant opened this year in Mercer by Mary and Bob Burr. The cooking demonstration will include food samples sourced locally, along with soup from The Maine Meal, Ass Over Tea Kettle bloody Mary mix and sauces and cheese from Crooked Face Creamery, infused with beer from Bigelow and Oak Pond Brewery in Skowhegan.
On Tuesday, the Powerses were busy in their hop field getting this year’s starter crop ready to be strung via twine and cable to 67 utility poles sunk into the ground for harvest this time next year.
“The hops that we planted this year will establish a root system for next year,” Jeff Powers said. “Next year we’ll start the hops actually climbing. They’re grown at about 12 to 14 feet, and they say in the hight of the growing season they can grow a foot a day.”
The Powerses are growing Cascade and Centennial hops to be brewed wet next season. They said they are one of the few brewers in Maine — there are more than 80 of them — that grow their own hops for brewing.
Kristina Cannon, executive director of the festival host, Main Street Skowhegan, said while there may be several brew festivals in Maine each year, Skowhegan is one of the only ones that focuses strictly on Maine brewers.
“We want to make sure that we’re promoting our assets, not only in Skowhegan, but in the state,” she said Tuesday from the 1-acre Bigelow Brewery hop yard.
Main Street Skowhegan received a $5,000 tourism grant to pay for marketing for its first-ever festival on Saturday.
The Maine Office of Tourism awarded the nonprofit revitalization group $5,175 as part of its Tourist Enterprise Marketing Grant. The money has been used to help promote the local “field-to-glass” movement using broadcast, radio and website advertising. Local producers will include Bigelow Brewery, Oak Pond Brewery and Cayford’s Orchards, all of Skowhegan; along with Younity Winery in Unity and Tree Spirits winery and distillery in Oakland.
“There’s been a huge amount of interest for the brew fest,” Pam Powers said. “I put out a post and we’ve had over 10,000 views on Facebook. There’s a lot of positive about the brew fest.”
Cannon agreed, noting that a “growler bus” will be coming with visitors from Bangor and she’s gotten calls from as far away as New York from people on the Maine Office of Tourism email newsletter.
“Months and months of work has gone into this brew festival,” Cannon said. “Many many people have contributed, and we all are really excited to see what the turnout’s going to be.”
General admission for the 3-7 p.m. event is $40 per person in advance and $45 at the door at 3 p.m. There will be unlimited beer sampling and food for sale. There also is a $10 ticket for designated drivers to attend the festival and not drink, and $15 at the door.
By Tuesday, about 350 tickets had been sold for the event, but Cannon said she expects most of the tickets will be sold at the door. The festival also will feature three live bands, guided river walks along the Kennebec, and tours of the Somerset Grist Mill and of Skowhegan’s section of the Langlais Art Trail, according to Cannon.
Pam Powers said people “are pretty good” about the unlimited beer tasting, as is seen at other festivals in Maine.
Proceeds from the event will go toward financing Skowhegan’s strategic plan for townwide revitalization.
The festival opens with a event from 2 to 3 p.m. on the Water Street festival site. Tickets for the VIP hour cost $60 in advance or $65 at the door and will include locally grown food samples and craft brews not available during the general admission event.
Doug Harlow — 612-2367