PORTLAND, Maine — People flock to Portland and to Maine for the beautiful scenery and wonderful and vibrant culinary action. They also find their way here to try our local beer, spirits, mead and other craft made beverages.
Beer tourism is an important factor in why visitors choose Maine for their vacations. The state is ranked sixth for total microbreweries per capita, and two of the nation’s 50 largest craft brewers are based in Portland. When people are making their plans to travel and dine in Maine’s best restaurants, they also look to enjoy Maine’s beverages that are locally sourced and craft produced.
And there is much more than beer to enjoy around Maine, as craft distillers, mead makers, and cider producers are around the state as well.
The Labor Day Weekend of 2012 was the kickoff for the The Maine Brew Bus, started by Portland residents Zach and Allison Poole. Zach realized that a safe and sober way to travel around to Maine’s different alcohol producers would be appealing to people both locally and visiting from other parts. The Maine Brew Bus provides all-inclusive trips on a bright green former school bus that all feature food, tours and tastings at a number of area beverage producers.
The annual Portland Brew Festival was their very first event — the marketing at the locally produced beer festival held at the Portland Company complex on the waterfront helped fill seats on the initial tours which started up in the weeks following. This year and every year the festival will serve as the official party for the company, which has definite plans to grow.
In the first year of operation, over 1,000 people have taken tours and they have come from all over the country and many other parts of the world.
Recently awarded the coveted “#1 Activities in Portland” spot on TripAdvisor, the fledgling Maine Brew Bus has outpaced other tour operators who have been in business for a very long time. The unique nature of the brewery and distillery tours, and the distinctive converted school bus named “Lenny”, have helped propel the business to the top of the rating and ranking list which is derived from reviews of past customers.
“What I really like is that I am able to bring people directly into the breweries and distilleries, and they can meet the folks behind the companies and taste their amazing products,” said Zach Poole. “The majority of my guests are coming from out of town, and many times they have never heard of or tried things from the small and medium companies,” he said.
Large producers such as Allagash Brewing Company in Portland are visited, but the tours also include smaller or newer places such as Funky Bow Brewing in Lyman or Bunker Brewing in Portland. As new companies open up, they are added to the tour schedules. With almost 20 new breweries slated to open in Maine in the coming months, there will be new places to visit and new beverages to taste.