What Drives Millennials to a Maine Brewcation?
On a brisk Sunday afternoon last October in downtown Portland, a gleeful couple got into my car as I tapped the little pink icon to notify Lyft they were ready to head to their next destination.
“So what brings you to Portland?” I asked, as we got going.
Regardless if they’d come from Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Arizona or even the South – if they were young vacationers, they all answered the same: Maine breweries.
I had been working on a couple of stories in the Greater Portland area and I got to thinking about what attracts young people here. Even though I am one, I didn’t quite understand the perspective of the millennial and I wanted to get into that headspace of people drawn to a spontaneous adventure in little, old Maine.
Don Littlefield, General Manager of Maine Brew Bus Tours said his company has been keeping track of the demographics surrounding his clientele.
“Of the 7,000 guests that took tours on The Maine Brew Bus last year, one third were between 26 and 35 years of age,” said Littlefield. “We know that our guests are visiting from Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, as well as from within the state of Maine. Often they are visiting the area without cars, or with the clear intention to leave their cars safely parked while they visit our craft alcohol producers. So taking one of our tours is a great way for people to get an overview of a truly impressive – and often overwhelming – roster of locally-owned breweries, wineries, and distilleries in Greater Portland.”
It’s not just the beer they were coming here for – it was the culture and experience around the breweries themselves.
Whether through the magnetic force of social media, or through old fashioned word-of-mouth, the tales of our legendary beer and hospitality are what draw people from all over.
So what is the Maine brewery experience?
The Maine Beer Trail is the best place to start. It’s an online guide passport to all the breweries in the state, broken down by region with info on whether they have a tasting room, offer tours or serve food. Essentially, it is the roadmap to multicultural brewery experience across the sweeping vastness of Maine.
If you go to Goodfire Brewing in Portland, you will be treated to tasting room hollowed out of an old warehouse through the fellowship of home brewers. Every beer is distinct as you sit beside the colorful wall art of their flame-hop logo and the industrial-sized fermenter tanks.
Want the vibe of the Maine brew scene, but don’t like beer? Enter Urban Farm Fermentory and enjoy their wide range of drinks including mead, kombucha, jun, beer and cidah (or cider if you are not a local). They specialize in a seasonal foraging and make their drinks from blueberries, basil, maple, lavender, balsam fir or even seaweed.
And roughly an hour north of Portland, you’ll find Norway Brewing Co., which provides a completely different atmosphere.
Charlie Magne Mellus, head brewer and co-founder of Norway Brewing Co. explained that “people want to go out and experience the authenticity of every brewery.” From their tasting room made from an old storefront, to their mix of quality beers served in a flight on a steel office drawer from the oldest filing cabinets ever, they have made a name for themselves by providing a unique experience that can’t be replicated.
When asked what draws young out-of-staters, Magne Mellus answered, “We make the best brunch in Maine – we pair beers with a themed morning dish that is legendary.”
Every person who came to Maine to explore the brew scene couldn’t wait to come back.
So, when I dropped off my passengers, I always asked, “Are you coming back soon?”
The unanimous answer? “Absolutely, which one should we go to next?”
— Text: Dustyn Bailey. Dustin is a young professional uncovering the clockwork of today’s advertising and storytelling. From the mountains to the shore, he loves discovering new people and places in Maine.