Maine's beer scene starting to tap out

Does Maine have too many breweries

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Maine's craft beer industry has been expanding each year.

Forbes magazine recently named Portland, Maine, "Beer Capital, USA," citing the most micro-breweries per capita than any other city in America; but Portland hosts only 17 of Maine's 90 craft breweries.

That's an expansion from 60 in 2015. Some breweries like Shipyard — who has been around for more than 20 years — remember just 25 breweries five years ago.

"There are only so many tap lines," said Brandon Mazer, the general counsel of Shipyard Brewing. "There is only so much shelf space."

Portland's first craft brewer, Geary's, made 34.5 percent less beer in 2015 than in 2011, according to numbers from the state's Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations.

"It used to be easier to compete for a slice of the pie," said Baxter Brewing founder Luke Livingston. "The pie hasn't grown exponentially, there are just thousands of slices now."

Livingston founded his brewery six years ago. Since then, 70 more breweries have opened their doors in Maine.

"It's still, on a national scale, only 12-13 percent of beer that is consumed is a craft beer," Livingston said. "So our market, even though it's hot and trendy right now, it's still only 13 out of 100 people."

"Ten of those people are buying an IPA of some sort, nine of those 10 people are never going to buy the same beer twice," he said. "Even if they love the beer, part of the fun for the consumer is to try different beer."

Breweries have had to get creative. Shipyard has built a tap room where people can sample new additions, like a new beer brewed with tea.

"It gives us a chance to be a little more experimental and get some feedback on some of our new products that we're working on without having to just go direct to market," Mazer said.

Breweries also use events like the annual Trail to Ale race, or events through Baxter Outdoors, to get their products more exposure. Brew festivals have also helped to bring everyone together to remind consumers they're still here.

"We are a very collaborative industry. When somebody needs hops or a piece of equipment or someone needs help, we're always chatting and talking," Mazer said. "That being said, we are competitors."

The big push now is to get more people nationwide drinking craft beer. The goal is to raise the 13 percent to 20 percent by 2020. 

Copyright 2016 WCSH


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