Oh Maine, you are often lauded as one of America’s most idyllic states to visit. You claim America’s first chartered town (York), 542,629 acres of state and national parks and loads of attractions that range from lobster-filled, lighthouse-protected coast country to famous craft breweries. But here are some things you might not know about Maine: It’s home to North America’s largest fleet of windjammers; it produces 90 percent of the country’s toothpick supply; and it’s beer festivals laws are really complex and odd.
While most of the information above comes from Maine’s Office of Tourism, the facts on Maine beer festivals come from a great article on the Bangor Daily News. Chad Lothian writes that Maine is in danger of losing its reputation as a craft beer destination because of the difficulty of organizing, selling and serving at beer festivals. According to the article, there are three different licenses that can be used to conduct a brewfest. All three have different conditions surrounding them, and the trouble seems to stem from uneven enforcement of all three.
A 48-ounce limit applies to one license, the special taste-testing festival license, but not the other two, the special food and beverage industry taste-testing event license and the off-premise catering license. Still, state liquor regulators will enforce this condition upon brewfests whose licenses aren’t subject to it.
Another puzzling regulation bars brewers from pouring their own samples at a brewfest. One of the brewfest licenses specifically says that brewers can pour, but none of them says they can’t. Another seemingly unrelated section of Maine law does prohibit sales representatives for distilled spirits manufacturers from pouring when sharing product samples.
Regardless of the laws and licences, the no-pouring rule is enforced, and it creates a huge burden on brewfest organizers, says Lothian. A ticket system is also enforced and is an added expense for potential brewfests. There are lots of other laws and regulations that the state enforces and you can read them all in the excellent article. Concludes Lothian:
We should fix our regulations and enforcement to be accommodating to brewfests. We want our local brewfests to grow, and we want Maine to play host to larger festivals that come from outside the state. Beer tourism is a big business, and in a state that boasts that it’s “open for business,” I would think we would want to nourish the title of “Craft Beer Destination.”