SAY HELLO TO MABEL The Maine Brew Bus fleet now comprises two 14-seat buses: Lenny and Mabel.
Last month, the Maine Brewers’ Guild released an economic impact study showing that Maine’s breweries sold $92.5 million worth of beer last year, while employing close to 1500 workers. Our state is home to the fifth highest number of breweries per capita in the United States, with 4.7 breweries per 100,000 21-plus adults; as of today there are 53 breweries in Maine, and several more are slated to open later this year. The craft brew industry is expected to grow by 200 percent over the next four years, the guild reports.
So it makes sense that the Maine Brew Bus, our favorite local designated driver founded by Zachary and Allison Poole, is expanding right along with the breweries it promotes on its all-inclusive beer tours.
Over a beer at In’finiti last week (a starting point for several of the company’s tours), Maine Brew Bus “Vice Principal” (they like playing up the educational aspect) Don Littlefield told me about how they’ve added a bus to their fleet — purchased the day after Christmas, “Mabel” boasts a few more “creature comforts,” like air-conditioning — as well as several new itineraries.
The “Suds and Spirits” tour visits three spots in Portland that brew beer or distill spirits (and one that does both) — New England Distilling, where they make gin, rum, and Maine’s first post-prohibition whiskey, Gunpowder Rye; Foundation Brewing, a new draft-only production brewery on Industrial Way; and In’finiti Fermentation and Distillation.
The “York County Bounty” tour takes advantage of the brewery boom in York County, where there are 16 breweries and counting. With stops at the new Banded Horn Brewing Co. in Biddeford; the Elements beer/coffee/books emporium, also in Biddeford (where visitors can taste the beers of Gneiss Brewing out of Limerick); and Funky Bow Brewery and Beer Company in Lyman, this ride offers a taste of what’s going on, beer-wise, south of Portland. (The Southern Crawl tour, the details of which are still being worked out, will also explore this area, with stops in Wells, York, Biddeford, and Saco.)
The Brew Bus will also offer its first-ever Sunday tour this year: the “Northern Exposure” loop, which will take visitors to Baxter Brewing in Lewiston, then on to the new Ebenezer’s Brewpub in Brunswick, a sister locale to the famous (and remote) Ebenezer’s Pub in Lovell. That tour wraps up with a stop at the Maine Beer Co. in Freeport, which is expanding its line-up in 2014.
And that’s not all. Other tours are in the works for Fridays, Mondays, and even Tuesdays, with stops around Portland and beyond. The Brew Bus will also continue its “Progressive Beer Dinner Series;” the first of the season takes place next Wednesday, May 28 with Atlantic Brewing Co. out of Bar Harbor. For $70, participants will enjoy welcome beer and apps at the Little Tap House in Portland, followed by additional food courses at Tuscan Bistro in Freeport, Royal River Grillhouse in Yarmouth, and the Top of the East — all paired with Atlantic Brewing Co. beers and with transportation provided, of course.
Also keep your eyes peeled this summer for the bright green bus serving as a shuttle during happy hour (4-7 pm) on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The Maine Brew Bus “Hop and Go Shuttle” will make a loop around Portland, stopping at 10 established locations to let riders on and off (the service will be free for riders and funded by charging the official stops a bi-monthly rate). The service starts next month.
Learn more at themainebrewbus.com.