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Two glass beer steins set atop the unique quartz bar top in Shearwater at Stage Neck Inn.

Southern Maine's Thirst for Beer & MicroBreweries

Maine's Hoppy Lead in Small-Batch Beer Breweries

While prohibition ended in 1933, the beer industry was still heavily regulated until the late 1970s. At that time, the market was dominated by two large breweries which mass-marketed their beer on a national basis through distribution systems and consumer advertising.

On July 11, 1986, David L. Geary opened up D.L. Geary Brewing Company in Portland, ME. This was the first new brewery to open east of the Mississippi since the Federal prohibition on alcohol production ended.1 Maine Brewers Guild states that at the end of 2016 there were 89 active breweries in Maine alone! Incredibly, despite our lack of population relative to our 49 sister states, Maine has consistently been among the top 10 producers of beer nationally. Click here to see statistics on the number of breweries in Maine. Why has the number of breweries grown so drastically in the last 20 years?

Groundbreaking Microbrew Pubs in Southern Maine

In the early 1980s, Maine State legislation legalized home-based brewing for the first time in the 20th Century. Beer-making became a huge hobby industry over the next few years. Making and consuming beer in your own home was one thing, selling it to the public another. In order to legally sell their beer, brewers realized they needed to open their own bars. Subsequent legislation allowed for "microbreweries" (producing less than 460,000 gallons of beer per year). These small operations could more easily focus on unique flavors and beermaking craftsmanship.

Perhaps the oldest, most successful example of a microbrewer in our area is Shipyard Brewing Company. This brewer's orgins are in the restaurant and pub Federal Jack's in Lower Village of Kennebunkport. Our long-term marketing manager lives nearby. "I remember when Federal Jack's came on the scene in Kennebunkport. Of course we had friends who were brewing their own beer ... it was somewhat a craze at that time. I admired their branding ... the portrait of 'Federal Jack' conveyed approachability and comradery balanced with strength in a single glance."

After just two years of combined restaurant and brewery operation, demand for the company's beer necessitated expansion. The brewery was split off from the restaurant and Shipyard Brewing Company was formed. Shipyard Brewing Company has grown to be a household name in this area with several brewing locations in Maine. Shipyard's beers lean toward English style ales brewed with ringwood yeast.

Southern Maine offers a number of great microbrewers nearby, most of whom offer tasting rooms or restaurants... SoMe Brewing Company in our back yard, situated right here in York. Other local brewers include Rocky Coast Brewing in Ogunquit, Hidden Cove Brewing Company in Wells, Sebago Brewing Company in Kennebunk, Allagash Brewing in Portland and many others (see map).

Beer Tourism

Industry experts agree ... the trend toward small, specially crafted beer is going to continue. It's becoming a tourism boon for Maine and Maine's Legislature is taking notice! In 2011, Maine Legislature passed a bill that allows "tasting rooms" to sell beer on site. This is a win-win situation for microbrewers and beer lovers. Individuals get to taste unique creations, talk to the brewer and purchase only what they like; the brewers get valuable feedback on their recipes, often times before producing full production runs.

"Stage Neck Inn is currently developing a working relationship with a company which will take our guests on a road trip to local micro-breweries. We know many people will love this offering because it removes both transportation and guesswork from the typical tourist experience." says Peter Foster, operations manager for Stage Neck Inn. "Many of our local breweries source their ingredients locally and are able to capture the local flavors of Maine."

We share your passion for finding and enjoying great ales, beers, stouts, IPAs.Visit the bar at Shearwater as we stock seasonal, local, and organic selections on draft.

Below is a map siting some of our local breweries.

 This information comes from brewery license data from Maine’s Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations (BABLO).

1Maine Brewer's Guild, www.MaineBrewersGuild.org, established in 1986.

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