Sixty-five brewers around the state donated their brews to the collaborative global initiative

Midcoast breweries send their best beer to the U.K. in Maine Beer Box

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 10:00am

    A number of local breweries have joined ranks with statewide breweries to send their finest, cold brews through the Maine Beer Box across Atlantic last week. Those representing the Midcoast include Marshall Wharf Brewing Co., Andrews Brewing Co., Lake St. George Brewing, Boothbay Brewing Co., Monhegan Brewing Co. Threshers Brewing Co., Odd Alewives Farm Brewery, Sea Dog Brewery, and Simplicity Brewing Co.

    The Maine Beer Box is an international collaborative project started last year to exchange Maine’s brews with other countries. The custom-built, 40-foot, refrigerated shipping container holds 78 beer taps and a self-contained draft system. Its inaugural trip last year collected beer from brewers all over the state and headed to Iceland. This year, its destination is the UK. This past week, the Maine Beer Box traveled all around the state to collect barrels from 65 brewers willing to donate their brews. The last day to fill the container up was July 31, before it was loaded aboard a freighter ship last week on its way to Leeds, England. There, it will land in three weeks and be a key feature at the 7th annual Leeds International Beer Festival (LIBF) in September.

    The Maine Beer Box was the invention of Sean Sullivan, The Maine Brewers’ Guild’s Executive Director and David Carlson, owner of Marshall Wharf Brewing Co. in Belfast and has been called the world’s largest mobile kegerator.

    “By taking the lead on an international export effort which includes nearly every brewery in Maine, we're also demonstrating the collaborative spirit of the American craft beer industry - and that is a message which brewers and beer drinkers around the country have rallied behind,” said Sullivan. It is fully capable of delivering beer anywhere by land or sea, ensuring that Maine craft beer can be transported in ideal conditions, and served fresh off the tap. The Maine Brewers’ Guild sent a film crew to travel with the Maine Beer Box to document the entire journey.

    Carlson and his staff have been an integral part of this collaboration from its inception. Last June, when the Maine Beer Box collaborated with Icelandic brewers, their team traveled over to BjorFestival in Reykjavik. The Marshall Wharf crew traveled down to Portland the weekend of August 4 & 5 to do the final pack out this week before the Maine Beer Box headed to England. 

    Then, the Marshall Wharf crew will once again, fly over to the Leeds festival and operate, troubleshoot and manage the Maine Beer Box for a week. In addition to the Marshall Wharf crew, and Guild staff, Sullivan predicts that over 100 Mainers will be travelling to Leeds to take part in the festival.

    Each local brewery in the Midcoast put some thought in what they wanted craft brewers in the U.K. to experience when they sip a Maine brew. Keg Logistics provided all of the kegs so brewers didn’t have to sacrifice any of their own.

    “This year, we're sending a barrel each of five of our brews,” said Carlson. “Phil Brown Ale is a classic style brown that tips its hat to the Scottish style of a brown ale. Our 49 Cream Ale is a classic Marshall Wharf style. The Pemaquid Oyster Stout is a good representation of an offbeat steel with a classic Maine product. The Bitter Truth ESB is an English extra special bitter, and Marzen is an Oktoberfest beer that we brewed in barrel-aged in Icelandic Brennivín barrels that we got through our connection with last year's Maine Beer Box. We wanted to give them a taste of the English styles that we do while also paying tribute to the Iceland experience.”

    Several other local brewers had their own reasons for sending a particular beer.

    “We chose to send a barrel of our Northern Brown Ale,” said Ben Hazen, co-owner of Andrews Brewing Co. “I figured everybody was going to send an IPA, so we wanted to send this one, which is sort of an English brown ale, and give those in England something to something try from the United States that’s just a little bit different.”

    Simplicity Brewing Co.’s owner Stephen DePesa chose a barrel of their signature Venerable Jimmy Stout. “This is a Scottish stout and it was made in honor of my father in law who who was born and raised in Scotland,” he said. “He passed away a few years ago so we wanted to send ‘Jimmy’ back to England.”

    The folks over at St. George Brewing Co. chose to include one barrel of Kerplunk, a blueberry sour. “We chose to send that because that beer is one of the best sellers in Maine and we wanted to represent what our customers are drinking the most,” said Elizabeth Johnston, co-owner and and assistant brewer.  “Plus it’s blueberries; you can’t get any more Maine than that.”

    And Ethan Evangelos, co-owner of Threshers, chose to send a Threshers Brown Ale as their barrel. “In the summertime, that’s the beer we had the most of to send and it’s got a nice, nutty flavor without being too bitter,” he said. “It’s one of our better beers.”

    In November, the Mine Beer Box will come back with beer from the U.K., Ireland and Scotland, along with many of its brews for the Winter Session, November 10 at Thompsons Point.

    Photos courtesy Maine Brewers’ Guild


    Kay Stephens can be reached at