You might want to tell your boss now that you'll probably have some foggy mornings in mid-November, but only because you're supporting local business. November 10 to 17 is set to be the first-ever Maine Beer Week, where craft brewers from around the state will be teaming with local restaurants to showcase their best brews.
It's another food-promoting activity put together by gBrittPR, the public-relations company behind Maine Restaurant Week and Harvest on the Harbor. "This event is connecting the dots between restaurants and brewers and it gives us a reason to celebrate great food and great beer. It's a chance for folks to meet the people behind the beers we all love so much," says organizer Jim Britt.
This beer-focused week will replace the fall Maine Restaurant Week and, unlike Restaurant Week where restaurants offer three-courses for a fixed price, Maine Beer Week will be more flexible, allowing restaurants to choose how they want to feature Maine beers. The list of restaurants keeps growing and includes David's Restaurant, Back Bay Grill, Eve's, the Salt Exchange, and more (check MaineBeerWeek.com for the latest information). Some restaurants will offer food and beer pairings, some chefs will cook with beer, and others may simply offer a wider selection of Maine beer. "There are no limits — it's up to the creativity of the chefs and brewers," says Britt.
That's what Chef David Turin of David's Restaurant in Monument Square (and David's 388 in South Portland) likes to hear. He admits that when Restaurant Week first launched in 2009, he was skeptical. The idea of offering a set menu at a set cost had him concerned about devaluation of his fare, but after the resounding success of Restaurant Week, he's changed his mind. And he's all in with Maine Beer Week.
Turin is leading off the celebratory week with a five-course menu that includes peekytoe crab, duck breast, chicken sausage, ale-braised pork osso buco, and herb-ricotta stuffed prawns. These dishes will be paired with some of Maine's newest (and smallest) breweries including Rising Tide Brewing Company, Maine Beer Company, Marshall Wharf Brewing Company, Baxter Brewing, and Oxbow Brewing.
This isn't Turin's first beer-pairing event — his restaurant has had special dinners paired with beers from Boston's Harpoon Brewery — but it's one he's visibly excited about. "I think the notion of beer pairing is where wine was 10 years ago," he says. "Beer was just Budweiser and the working man would drink beer, but craft brewers have really forged new territory." More people are realizing the variation and diversity of beer and how well it pairs with food.
Daniel Kleban, brewer/owner of Maine Beer Co., is also the president of the Maine Brewers' Guild and says this is a great opportunity for small brewers to collaborate with local chefs. "Maine — and Portland especially — has such a foodie culture and it only made sense to pair beer with food and do an event that focused on the combination of the two," he says.
This week will hopefully provide more exposure for small breweries like Rising Tide, but also for the booming craft-brewery industry overall, says owner/brewer Nathan Sanborn. In addition, it's also a way for brewers to show their appreciation for local support, says Luke Livingston, president of Baxter Brewing. "It's been easy for breweries to start in Maine because they're embraced right out of the gate," he says.