Local beer has been a Mount Desert Island specialty for decades. Beer from Atlantic Brewing Company, Jack Russell’s Steakhouse and the former Bar Harbor Brewing Company has long been prized by residents and visitors. The annual Acadia’s Oktoberfest celebration in Southwest Harbor is nearing its 25th year. These stalwarts have recently been joined by Blaze Brewing. While not brewed on MDI, the company’s beer is now on tap in its Bar Harbor restaurant.
So when the craft brewing phenomenon gained even more steam in the last couple of years, MDI businesses and chambers of commerce embraced a leadership role in the growing industry. Maine had more than 135 breweries at the end of 2018, according to a recent report from the Maine Brewers’ Guild, more than double the number in business just three years earlier. One in five tourists in the state visit a brewery for a tour or a taste.
Atlantic Brewing (which bought Bar Harbor Brewing in 2008) and the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce began hosting a Winter Beer Fest three years ago, building relationships with brewers around the state. It has grown into a major regional event. The Acadia Chamber added a home brewing competition to Oktoberfest last year, partnering with new Hancock County neighbor Fogtown Brewing and Bangor’s home brew supplier Central Street Farmhouse, to rave reviews. The winner celebrated the release of his Altbier earlier this month at Fogtown.
Kudos to these organizations for meeting the rising tide in the industry as leaders and mentors, not as jealous gatekeepers.