AUGUSTA — As incentives go, free beer is not a terrible one.

As the strategy to administer COVID-19 inoculations in Maine shifts from mass vaccination sites to smaller clinics and pop-up locations, some organizations are getting creative in their choice of locations, which will involve ice cream shops, farmers markets and, well, beer.

Cushnoc Brewing Co. is partnering with Waldo County General Hospital in the MaineHealth network for “Shot & a Beer” at the brewery’s Annex during which people will be able to receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“Don’t want to be vaccinated?” the brewery’s Facebook post reads. “That’s your choice and none of our business, but if you do want a shot and haven’t gotten around to it, we’ve got a deal for you! Come by the Annex June 4 between 5 pm and 7 pm, get a shot and we’ll buy you a beer.”

Steven Garhartt, interim director of operations for Pen Bay Medical Center and Waldo County General Hospital, said the recommendation to partner with the Augusta-based Cushnoc Brewing came from patients.

The Cushnoc Brewing Annex is located on North Belfast Avenue — an east-west artery that links Augusta with the midcoast region — not far from the organization’s Liberty Health Center.

“A member of our vaccine coordination team reached out to the owners to see if they would be interested in partnering,” Garhartt said via email Friday.

The challenge has been finding ways to connect with people who have not been vaccinated yet.

“This originated from us looking at how to best reach individuals in the 20-50 age group,” Garhartt said, “as this is the demographic most under-represented in the vaccination effort.”

Casey Hynes, a partner in Cushnoc Brewing, said the details came together pretty quickly on Monday after hospital officials first made contact.

“If it’s easy for (people) do that on their way home on a Friday night, then we’re there for them. We’ll make sure they are taken care of medically well, and then we’ll give them a beer,” Hynes said.

Offering incentives for vaccinations is not new, but it is a way to give the public health program a shot in the arm as demand for shots at mass vaccination sites starts to drop off.

Ohio officials are holding a lottery every week for five weeks to award randomly chosen residents $1 million if they’ve been vaccinated and five full-ride public college scholarships to teens who get vaccinated. New York is offering lottery tickets. New Jersey has embraced the shot and a beer concept, expanding to a glass of wine at participating wineries and offering “vax passes” to state parks.

The state of Maine, along with some private-sector partners, launched a program earlier this month that offers a range of rewards to anyone in the state 18 or older who gets either the first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine after May 11 but by May 31.

“Your Shot to get Outdoors” offers hunting and fishing licenses, passes to state parks and the Maine Wildlife Park, L.L. Bean gift cards, and tickets or passes to a Portland Sea Dogs game and the Oxford Plains Speedway.

On Friday, Robert Long, communications director for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said as of Wednesday, 1,739 Maine residents had qualified to receive an incentive. So far, the most attractive incentives have been L.L. Bean gift cards (734), fishing licenses (455), and Maine Wildlife Park passes (174).

The state has set aside funding to buy the incentives as they are claimed, Long said.

There is some downside risk for businesses partnering to put on vaccine clinics, and that’s pushback from those who are vaccine averse and some of that has shown up in comments on the Facebook post.

“I’ve got to be honest; we didn’t think about it,” Tobias Parkhurst, one of the partners in Cushnoc Brewing, said Friday. “We’ve all gone through a really tough pandemic as business owners, and we’ve all got our own reasons as an ownership team to get vaccinated. Most of them are related to getting our business back on track and turning the page to a brighter day.”

Parkhurst said he and his partners recognize that some younger people are hesitant to get vaccinated, and they felt it was important to offer an opportunity to get a vaccination.

“We’re not promoting the vaccine and we’re not a political entity,” he said. “When people talk about voting, we say vote for pizza and beer. But let’s be fair here. We gotta get people vaccinated so we can get this economy back on track and get people back to work.”

Garhartt said his organization has been encouraged to seek out creative partnerships with communities to meet their vaccination needs.

“This is an amazing effort championed by our community to ensure their friends and family members have easy access to vaccine,” he said. “We are very excited to see how this unfolds as we move through the summer.”

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