SKOWHEGAN — Downtown was abuzz Saturday afternoon as throngs of beer sippers flocked to imbibe by the riverside at Skowhegan’s annual craft brewing festival.

This year’s Skowhegan Craft Brew Festival drew in hundreds of attendees and featured a wide array of Maine-brewed beers, wines, ciders and more. The festivities this weekend were moved from their usual spot on Water Street to a new location beside the Kennebec River.

Festival organizers said the new location was selected as part of an initiative to redevelop Skowhegan’s riverfront. The festival was held at the planned site of the town’s long-awaited Run of River project as part of an effort to facilitate more community events in the space, according to Kristina Cannon, president and CEO of Main Street Skowhegan.

“The future home of the Skowhegan River Park is right here, and riverfront redevelopment will be happening over the next couple of years here,” Cannon said Saturday. “It’s exciting for us to be able to get people to utilize this beautiful space. We have this beautiful riverfront that people don’t really see a lot because when you drive by, you don’t always come out back here.”

Cannon also said that the new venue was also chosen to help increase foot traffic to downtown businesses on streets that used to be closed for the festival.

The brew fest is held each year on the Saturday before Labor Day, and is described by organizers as the “unofficial close of summer.” More than 25 brewers, distillers and drink-makers provided more than 100 different libations at the festival, Cannon said, all of which were made in Maine.


People gather along the Kennebec River behind Water Street businesses Saturday for the Skowhegan Craft Brew Festival in downtown Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The festival’s focus on local breweries is indicative of the overall craft beer market. Many small breweries throughout Maine and across the country have facilitated a friendly market that’s more focused on beer than it is on competition, according Bigelow Brewing Co. co-owner Jeff Powers.

“This just builds more community. It really does,” Powers said. “I mean, all of the brewers, we all get along. I mean, it’s not about us and them, it’s about doing what we love. That’s really the beauty of it. If more industries were like the brewing industry, it’d be a much happier world.”

“We don’t look at each other as competitors. We just look at each other,” he added. “We’re doing what we like to do. And we help each other make better beer.”

Many of the event’s vendors shared Powers’ view of the craft brewing community. The Skowhegan Craft Brew Festival in particular has helped local brewers and distillers foster relationships with customers and communities and with each other, said Jesse Lupo, co-owner of Mossy Ledge Spirits out of Etna.

“It’s a really fun time for us. Not only do we get to sit down and pour out free liquor all day — I mean, how can that be bad? — but what we also get to do is come out from behind the table and we get to go over and try some of our associates’ stuff,” Lupo said. “So while we’re out touring around getting some fresh food, you get a little drink, listen to some music, help connect with the public.”

Limiting the festival to just Maine businesses helps provide companies a chance to develop a real connection with the customers they’re doing business with, Lupo said.

“The better the story is, the more people remember it,” Lupo said. “They come here to have a chat with us. Then they come up and they visit our distillery. They go to local liquor stores, local buyers, they ask for our stuff by name.”

“Everybody gets to grow together. The rising tide raises all ships.”

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