UNITY— Walking through meadows of apple trees, and by clusters of wildflowers and sculptures, I entered the grounds of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association in Unity on Saturday, August 17 intent on one thing: drinking beer and eating bread.
MOFGA’s first Bread and Brews Festival did not disappoint, drawing nearly 200 people from all over the state. I’ve been to many brew fests around the state, but this one felt small and intimate with 11 breweries in the main area of the Common Ground Education Center
“We heard from many of the brewers that they appreciated how small this was,” said Torie DeLisle, MOFGA’s Director of Development and Membership. “One of the brewers told us that at the large scale brew festivals, they often feel like they are just processing orders, whereas at this festival, they got to really had time to talk about their beer and ingredients with people who were very interested. So, they felt that they got some real interaction with the participants.”
Co-sponsored by the Maine Grain Alliance, the festival highlighted the many ways that Maine-grown grains are enjoying a renaissance in Maine, in both baking and beer. Many people didn’t know until they came to the festival how much the farmers, bakers, businesses and brewers all collaborate and intersect, using Maine grains in a variety of ways. For example, many brewers are sourcing their fermentables—barley, rye, wheat and oats—locally, rather than import from gristmills and farms out of state. See my 2017 related story below.
“The connection between farmers of Maine-grown grains and brewers has really deepened over the years,” said DeLisle. “To give you one example, one Maine brewer who came here, buys the grains from the farmer and runs it through the system to make the beer. When the grains are spent, the brewer then send them to a baker, who uses them in a special beer bread, so you have this full circle process—definitely a collaboration we’re trying to foster.”
The festival was also different from a typical beer tasting in that there was an educational component with multiple demos and workshops in both baking and brewing. Eli Rogosa, founder of Heritage Founder Conservancy, was one such notable presenter, who gave a workshop on “A Taste of Ancient Grains.” A renowned “seed steward” and author, Rogosa traveled the world to collect rare and ancient wheat species, called landrace wheats, which were on the verge of extinction when she brought them back to the United States. These heritage wheats are far superior in proteins and nutrients than commercially processed wheats and tend to grow exceedingly well in Maine’s short growing season.
“We were lucky to have people like Eli and other key people in Maine who are at the forefront of the grain revolution giving classes and baking bread with the participants,” said DeLisle. “We have a wood-fired oven and were kicking out wood-fired bread all night.”
And those who chose to stay the night and set up their tents on the grounds were treated to a “breads and spreads” breakfast Sunday morning. Beyond that, the festival offered food trucks, live music, samples from other vendors and for lack of a better word, a pretty organic experience.
Based on the success of this festival, DeLisle says there’s already plans int he works for a 2020 festival. “We may not make it too much bigger, but will round it out even more,” she said. “Our ongoing role is to create an educational experience that helps brewers connect with Maine growers. We’re even starting to have a conversation about creating a MOFGA-inspired organic beer for next year.”
Now, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one after drinking all that beer and eating all of that bread to think: “Time to jump back on that diet tomorrow.”
“We were joking that maybe we should probably start out the day with a 5K run,” said DeLisle, laughing. “We’ll see: stay tuned.”
For more information on future MOFGA events visit: MOFGA
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com
BELFAST—A new brewery has quietly opened in Belfast, but unlike most hyper-local rural breweries, Frosty Bottom Brewing is choosing to operate not as a public tasting room, but as a “brew share,” similar to the Community Supported Agriculture model of farm shares and fish shares that currently enjoy a popular following in the Midcoast.
Roy Curtis is the owner of Frosty Bottom Brewing, with friends and shareholders Zafra Whitcomb and Jon Thurston helping him brew. All three were individual home brewers who enjoyed getting together as sort of an informal club and experimenting with a variety of styles before Curtis started the company this year.
Frosty Bottom Brewing’s rough-sawn pine brewery and tasting room sits at 18 Hunt Road in Belfast adjacent to Curtis’ house, which he built with friends using a stand of pine that was specially reserved for the brewery located on Frost Hill Road.
For that reason, “Frost” was incorporated into the name as well as the logo.
In addition, Curtis built an apartment over the tasting room that he intends to rent out in July as a unique Airbnb listing calling it “room with a brew.” Downstairs, half of the structure is the “brewing side” with a one-barrel brewing system that produces 30 gallons when they brew every two weeks.
“Ultimately, our goal is to have 60 gallons each month,” said Curtis.
The company’s model was born out of a hobby and aims to remain a hobby; that is, the purpose of the brewery is to generate enough product to sell to shareholders, who pay an annual fee and get in return, a growler (one gallon) of two different brew style each month—or 24 styles annually.
In addition, every shareholder has the privilege of stopping by the semi-private tasting room for an exclusive free tasting of whatever the brewers are currently making. Right now, the brewery has sold all of its 2019 shares, primarily to friends and family, many of whom, helped to construct the brewery.
“We’re excited to try brewing new styles we’ve never done before and the ideal shareholder will be someone who is open to trying absolutely everything,” said Thurston.
While the CSA model for brewing isn’t new in other parts of the country, it is unique in Maine. Only one other Maine brewery has adopted this model. Side by Each Brewing in Lewiston, also offers a Community Supported Brewing program.
As both Curtis and Whitcomb are both currently employed full time and Thurston is retired, they aren’t looking to expand much more beyond this original goal, until the time is right.
Given their limited license with the city of Belfast, the brewery cannot sell beer at its tasting room location, but may only offer free samples to those in their shareholder program. For interested parties in a brew share, Curtis said he’s always willing to give a mini tour of the facilities when it works with his schedule and that those looking to sign up for a brew share may email him for consideration on the 2020 list.
“When we open up shares for 2020, we’re hoping to take on 40 shareholders,” said Curtis. “Forty of the gallons will be for them and the other 20 gallons per month will be for tastings.”
“Waldo county is pretty rich with the CSA-movement and brewing for us is very connected to local agriculture,” said Curtis.
Along with using hops from Thurston’s farm, the brewery buys Maine grains from Blue Ox Malthouse and once the grain is spent, it is fed to local pigs.
“And the brewery is really an outgrowth of the community-supported model,” he said. “As home brewers we all shared in the cost and labor to make a product, so this is really an outgrowth of that.”
For more information visit Frosty Bottom Brewery on Facebook.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
ROCKLAND—This past November, Ada’s Kitchen Bar Manager, Stacy Campbell, was invited to Portland,Oregon, during Portland Cocktail Week, to learn the latest trends in Event Management and mixology.
“There were 20 purveyors of every kind of alcohol you could imagine, but at one point, I was offered a non-alcoholic Negroni,” she said. “I tried it and had to ask again, ‘is this non-alcoholic?’ It was awesome!”
(Side note: Ada’s Kitchen is sort of know for their Negronis, as our last PenBay Pilot story “What’s In That Cocktail” attests.)
While bars have always offered a non-alcoholic choice of beverage, in Maine, the non-alcoholic craft cocktail, or mocktail, trend had to originate with Vena’s Fizz House in Portland, Maine, which debuted the botanical-infused mocktail when it opened in 2013.
After Campbell got a taste of the flavorful non-alcoholic spirits in Portland, Oregon, she began to imagine its possibilities at Ada’s Kitchen.
“First of all, I have a lot of friends in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), who would like to come out to a bar and be social, but have the option of ordering something that’s non-alcoholic and good, ” she said. “I put out a short survey on my Facebook page asking if people would be interested in mocktails and within a short period of time I had more than 100 comments saying yes.”
Apart from the typical seltzers and juices, Campbell knew, after what she’d tasted in Portland, they were going to need to up Ada’s game.
“The botanical non-alcoholic spirit in the Negroni I tasted in Portland is called Seedlip and it is different from anything out there,” she said. “It’s more complex and and you can smell and taste the natural flavors that come through the distilling process.”
Seedlip is a UK company that produces the distilled non-alcoholic spirits, based on herbal remedies published more than 300 hundred years ago by a physician named John French. The company, which produced its first batch using herbs and a copper still in 2015, became a international sensation, with iconic restaurants such as The Savoy, The Ritz and even Buckingham Palace vying for a bottle. Read more of their story here.
A bottle of Seedlip is £27 or $35 and Campbell was able to purchase several for Ada’s Kitchen and have them shipped to Rockland.
“Then I got to work, putting together a number of recipes that work best with the flavor profiles,” she said.
The Garden Tonic is Ada’s best seller on the mocktail menu. Using Seedlip’s Garden 108, made from natural botanical distillates and extracts (peas, hay, Spearmint, Rosemary, Thyme, Lemon hops), the mocktail contains jalapeno, lemon and just a splash of Brooklyn-based Fever-Tree Tonic.
“When you open the bottle, it’s this incredibly bright, fresh, smell,” she said. After she mixed the non-alcoholic spirit with the other drink’s ingredients, the visual result was like a garden in a glass with fresh basil, a long strip of cucumber and an expertly peeled coil of lemon rind swirled throughout.
Given the complexity of the mocktail and its imported ingredients, it costs just slightly under what a cocktail would be priced (around $8-9), but then again, what you’re getting is the little black dress of mocktails, not just tonic from the gun and the plop of a lime wedge.
“Right now, I’m trying to create our own version of the non-alcoholic Negroni,”said Campbell.
The discovery of Seedlip has led her down the path of searching for other fizzy mixers and high-quality ingredients.
“I found a soda from Italy that tastes just like a Campari. And now I’m working on trying to find something that approximates a Vermouth to complement that.”
The Killer Convo
This blog is a is a killer roundup of all arts, entertainment, brewery & distillery, food trucks, happy hour happenings in the Midcoast Maine. Feel free to email me anything about Midcoast arts, entertainment & the creative economy.