Maine has become a prime location for brewing beer. While the Portland area is still our brewing headquarters, rural Maine has been a particularly popular place for microbreweries. We now have more than 100 breweries in our state.

You can learn a lot about our breweries on the website of the Maine Brewers Guild. They offer a map of all breweries, and there’s even a beer trail that will take you all over Maine enjoying our microbrews. I especially like the fact that our brewers help each other get established.

I love the idea that Derek Lovitch, a Freeport birding guide, came up with. In the summer, in Portland, Derek hosts “birds and beers” tours. They spend time watching birds and visiting breweries — two of my favorite activities.

A new brewery, Bateau Brewing, is opening in Gardiner with a nice view of the river. The Liberal Cup in Hallowell has long been a favorite of mine; the corner booth in the window was my Augusta-area office. My wife, Linda, and I did a travel column for Cushnoc Brewing, a fabulous place in downtown Augusta.

I especially love the varieties produced by Shipyard (a sponsor of my personal website). Their new project of a “brewtel” in Portland is a great idea.

And I loved the story of Bissell Brothers, who have a large brewery in Portland but also last year opened up a brewery in the small rural town of Milo, where the brothers/owners grew up. I’ve heard that the Milo brewery is busy, drawing people from all over the region.

My favorite story is about Gale White, a young nuclear physicist, who decided he wanted to do something else with his life and somehow chose Maine. He arrived in Bar Harbor and really didn’t like it there. A bartender put a map in front of him and said, “Gale, you should go to Lubec.”

Now, you probably know that my mom grew up in Lubec and my great-grandfather was lighthouse keeper there for 32 years. When I was a kid, we would visit my grandmother in Lubec, which was a busy town, including a big department store on Main Street. Sadly, today Lubec’s high school is closed and even its nursing home is closed. It’s busy in the summer but almost everything is closed in the winter — except Gale’s brewery.

When he arrived in Lubec, Gale loved it. He purchased the breakfast place, married a local lady, McGinley Jones, and opened a new brewery, which has become popular. It serves food on the weekends and offer live music. It’s a favorite hangout for Linda and me any time we’re in Lubec and Campobello. Gale has local farmers growing his hops, and his is the only place that stays open in the winter.

There’s a brewery in Farmington, not far from our house in Mount Vernon, and another nearby in Wilton.

I’ve got another funny story about the Wilton brewery. My friend Tom Saviello was a state senator who former Gov. Paul LePage called “repugnant.” Tom now has a T-shirt that says, “I am repugnant.”

But the best part of the story is that the Wilton brewery recently created a “Repugnant Beer” that has Tom’s photo on it. I predicted that this is going to be a big seller.

And then there is Geaghan’s, our favorite pub and restaurant in Bangor. We’d be regulars there just for their fantastic boneless chicken wings, but their beers are really good too. My favorite is Smiling Irish Bastard, which is named for the Geaghans’ uncle Bernie Welch, a former Bangor police officer.

A few years ago, the Geaghans opened a major brewery across the river in Brewer. They intended to produce seven or eight beers the first year, but Smiling Irish was so popular that’s about all they could do. You can now buy it all over the state.

I was writing this column in the morning when it occurred to me that I should be enjoying a beer while I’m writing. Unfortunately because of my illness, ALS, I don’t have much strength in my hands, so I can’t open beer myself. Linda has to open my beers for me and she did not think it was appropriate to drink a beer in the morning. Alas.

So perhaps later on this afternoon, you can grab a Maine microbrew and join me in a toast to all of our great breweries.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.


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