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Summer lovin', had me a beer ... Light and fruity is emerging as the theme of this summer's product releases by Maine craft brewers as temperatures rise and palates pivot.
"Most beer drinkers seek lighter-body beers when warmer weather arrives and more summer activities bring people outside," said Don Littlefield, president of Brews Cruise Inc., a Portland-based operator of craft beverage tours in 12 locations nationwide. "For many years, that has simply meant turning toward pale ales and lagers."
Now on the eve of summer, it's common to see multiple types of lighter beers in tasting rooms around the state, he said. Because summer beers are often lower in alcohol, that also allows for more flavor varieties that appeal to people who don't always gravitate toward beer, such as wine and cocktail drinkers.
"People are also looking for more dynamic flavor options and are finding sour and fruit-infused beers to their liking,” he told Mainebiz.
So what's on tap this summer in Maine?
Lone Pine Brewing Co., a Portland-based brewer with tasting rooms in Portland and Gorham and a new 300-person outdoor beer garden in Old Orchard Beach that opened in late April, is raising its glass to summer 2023 with Summer Lights Citrus Wheat Ale.
The product is the company's third-ever seasonal product, joining Pumpkin Party and Winter Carnival.
Summer Lights, already available in cans and on draft at all Lone Pine tasting room locations, was designed to be "packable, approachable and especially quaffable," the brewer said on Instagram: "Brewed with lemon and grapefruit zest, Summer Lights is illuminated by flavors of bright citrus and subtle spice."
Seasonal releases have "been a big part of our business, and a big part of our growth," Lone Pine Brewing co-founder John Paul told Mainebiz. But the brewer is limiting special releases to only one per season.
"The consumers get a little fatigued with how many SKUs [stock-keeping units] there are out there," Paul explained. "The goal was to create a bit more of an elevated seasonal using fresh adjunct ingredients."
The company employs around 40 people in total and aims to add an indoor tasting room in Old Orchard as well to become a year-round operation, Paul said.
Going full blast with summer offerings, Portland's Rising Tide Brewing Co. has six products up its sleeve.
They include Blueberry Squadron, described as "sour ale exploding with wild Maine blueberries and balanced with a touch of lactose milk sugar," and Mailboat IPA, which the company depicts as a "big, round, juicy IPA bursting with passion fruit, berries and citrus."
Rounding out the product six-pack are Spinnaker Hefeweizen, Mailboat IPA, Chart Topper Summer Lager and Verona Italian Pilsner, a clear lager with notes of grain, hay and grass accentuated with notes of lemon, Earl Gray tea and honey.
"Our summer beers definitely reflect the kinds of beers that various members of our team love to drink in the warmer months," said Heather Sanborn, who owns Rising Tide with her husband, Nathan Sanborn, and serves as director of business operations. "But that looks different for everyone — and for different kinds of summer occasions.”
With multiple taste preferences in mind, Rising Tide crafted various options.
“We’ve got great beers for bringing to the beach, for cracking open after you've mowed the lawn, for when you're wanting something fruity and a bit sweeter, and for when you are eating the perfect cheeseburger off the grill," Sanborn said.
Allagash Brewing Co. is getting in on the summer action with three offerings, starting with a product called Seconds to Summer that's brewed with traditional hopes from the Czech Republic and fermented with Belgian yeast for a crisp, happy flavor.
“Seconds to Summer is an excellent beer for enjoying on a warm day with friends; our customers’ response to this beer when we debuted it in 2022 was really positive, so it was a no-brainer to bring it back and re-release it in 12-packs," said Jason Perkins, brewmaster at Allagash, Maine’s largest brewer.
“We're also embracing the summer months through a brand new release, Beach Report, a crisp summer lager, and a returning favorite in Two Lights, which we brew with sauvignon blanc must, and then fermented with lager and champagne yeast. "
“One of my favorite parts about all three of these beers," Perkins said, "is that they all came straight from our pilot system, where any employee can suggest a new beer idea."
Bold, fruity libations also rule the roost in at Baxter Brewing Co. The Lewiston brewer's summer lineup include Blueberry Ale, a lime-flavored product called Lagerita, and Tropical Sour, describes as fruited lactose sour ale.
Rupee Beer, a fast-growing Indian-style lager IPA brand launched by brothers Van and Sumit Sharma, are also going fruity this summer with a limited-release product called Mango Wheat Ale.
"Mangoes are the national fruit of India, which consumes the most mangoes in the world," Van Sharma said.
The beer is being brewed by Alan Pugsley, the craft-beer guru who teamed up with the siblings to launch Rupee Beer in October 2021. The brothers, who grew up in Portland, were both honored on the inaugural Mainebiz 40 under 40 list last year.
"Our Mango Wheat Ale is light and smooth just like our flagship lager, but gives drinkers a more tropical/exotic taste of what mangoes are famous for," Van Sharma said. "Mangos in India have huge historical importance and are often seen as sacred providing good luck, so we want to help tell the story of the Indian mango, something growing up we always had at our home in Portland and restaurant in Brunswick. Great with world flavors like Indian, Thai, Mexican, but also equally an excellent beer to sip on a hot summer day."
Meanwhile in Freeport, Maine Beer Co. is also getting in on the seasonal action.
The brewer's summer lineup includes Love Point Oyster Stout, a collaboration with Love Point Oysters, of Harspwell; Wolfe’s Neck, featuring aromas of pineapple, mango, guava, coconut and orange along with notes of onion and garlic and underlying toasted bread and pine; and a Kölsch style ale called Black Barn No. 41.
Like other offerings in Maine Beer's Black Barn program, No. 41 highlights a nonprofit. In this case, it’s One Longfellow Square, a Portland performing arts and concert venue for which Maine Beer sponsored new video streaming equipment for future shows.
This summer promises to be a show of big, bold flavors for all Maine brewers.