The festival was held under the tent that had been used the day before for the BDN What’s Next Conference and was by far the nicest tent I’ve ever seen used for a brewfest. There was plenty of space for everyone to move around comfortably, Brewers were set up around the perimeter on three sides with a stage set up on one end. The tent had plenty of open panels to allow natural light in and keep air flowing through, there were also window panels in the peaks that allowed even more light.
W.A Bean was the food vendor for the brewfest, they had a booth set up in one corner of the tent and were grilling up sausages and brats with onions and had ice cold bottles of water for sale. Between session I stopped and had a beer brat with onions and mustard that was excellent, although I’m disappointed I didn’t go back for a chicken sausage with Geaghan’s reserve sauce, everyone I talked to was raving about it. Capt’n Eli’s sodas were being poured outside the festival tent from their draft truck for the designated drivers in the crowd or anyone that wanted a soda.
Music was playing during all three sessions. Session one had The Ghost of Paul Revere and Jet Black Sunrise, VIP session was DJ Thermomatt and the final session Worried Well and Spencer Albee played. The biggest complaint from the brewers and the crowd was the volume of the music. The Ghost of Paul Revere and DJ Thermomatt were great, a welcome addition to the brewfest experience, the other bands were so unbearably loud that it made conversations impossible, I have no problem with music at brewfests but it’s still a brewfest, not a rock show, not being able to speak to the brewers due to the volume of the music was the only aspect of this brewfest that wasn’t enjoyable.
John Palmer took the stage at the end of session one prior to the start of the VIP session to talk about brewing and the history of beer. Session one attendees were allowed to stay and anyone attending the VIP session was allowed in for his presentation. No beer was poured during this time; breweries were busy setting up their VIP beers and getting prepared for session two. John then fielded some questions from the audience and then the tent was cleared and prepped for the VIP session. John Palmer had a table set up in the middle of the festival tent where he was selling copies of his book “How to Brew” as well as talking with festival attendees and answering brewing questions during both sessions.
Outside the tent there was an area set up behind the stage, this is where Eli’s soda’s draft van was located as well as a the Maine Brew Bus who had lawn games, a giant Jenga game and Cornhole, set up for anyone to play. There were a number of tables set up out back as well and the Traveler beer company brought along their mustache seesaw for anyone interested in a free mustache ride. Portalets were out along the backside of the tent, easily to find and there seemed to be enough of them to keep the line moving quickly. I’m not sure the arrangement of the brewfest space could have been changed but some signage should have been put up letting people know there was space out behind the stage with tables and vendors, I stepped out a few times and I don’t think people realized anything was out there.
The beer was excellent, I enjoy attending smaller festivals and I think 20 brewers is a great number to work with, as an attendee you don’t feel overwhelmed and being a tickets for samples event you feel like you get the most for your money. I was asked on more than one occasion what the “Best Beer” of the festival was, I don’t really do rankings like that, I don’t crown winners, I will say that I was not disappointed with any sample I tried. There was a few interesting brews that did stand out, Geaghan Brothers Brewing brought a Chinook single hopped IPA called KahBrew, brewed specifically for this event. Urban Farms Fermentory was pouring two Kombuchas, Jun and Ginger, both were excellent on their own but blended together were amazing and a perfect palate cleanser between beers. Sebago Brewing Company was pouring their newest beer, Bonfire Rye and that seemed to be going over very well, Penobscot Bay Brewery brought out a keg of the Nocturnem Draft Haus second anniversary beer, Mountain Man Double IPA.
Overall the Bangor Brewfest was a top notch festival, having attended the first year I can see the vast improvements that have been made. That being said there are a few things that could be changed, music volume would be the biggest item, brewfests are a social occasion, we want to converse with each other and talk about the beer. I’d like to see a couple things added; some tall tables in the middle of the festival tent to allow people to set down their beer or their plate of food and a couple of rinsing station. I’m very happy to see this brewfest moving in the right direction and expect it to continue to be a successful festival.
As always a huge thanks to all the volunteers, especially the Bangor Roller Derby team who kept the beer flowing all afternoon.