June 22--LEWISTON -- Chris Dowling doesn't like his father's beer, traditional Budweiser.
"I like IPA (India pale ale)," Dowling said. "It has a lot of hops. A lot of flavor, bubbliness. I'm a very big fan of Lagunitas. Sierra Nevada's also a good one."
Dowling, of Lewiston, was among the mellow crowd welcoming the first day of summer by drinking beer, playing cornhole, chatting with friends and listening to live music at the first annual Great Falls Brewfest at Simard/Payne Memorial Park on Saturday.
The festival was launched by Luke Livingston, 29, founder of Baxter Brewing of Lewiston, a company that's gained fame for being the first craft brewery to can its entire line of beers.
On Saturday attendees weren't just drinking. They were experiencing, tasting, learning.
Beer-drinking has evolved to a kind of art. There's a whole lingo to it, words such as "balanced," "silky," and "notes of floral citrus and pine."
The price to attend was $20 for designated drivers and $40 for people 21 and up to sample 4-ounce drinks. On tap were 29 brands: 14 from Maine (including Lewiston'sBaxter, Bar Harbor's Atlantic Brewing, Portland's In'Finiti Fermentation), eight from New England, five from California and one each from Michigan and New York.
"There's a bunch of microbrewers from the Portland area I didn't know were here," Dowling said. The festival "raises awareness of other beer companies around. It's a good source for people to expand their knowledge."
George Hebert of Auburn said he and his wife, Cheryl, enjoyed seeing old friends. "It's a good community thing, a good turnout. Hopefully, this continues."
Hebert, who's in his 60s, tried different beers, he said. But "I always go back to the one I've enjoyed."
Erin Morsey, 23, of Turner, was holding a cup of dark beer. She called the variety "amazing. There's citrus, hoppy-flavored, stouts, coffee-flavored, aged-barrel stout, the fruity light beers. Baxter is my favorite."
Inside Beer Tent No. 1, Adam Stein of Rising Tide Brewing in Portland said his popular summer beer is Maine Island Trail Ale. "It's light, crisp, 4.3 percent alcohol with beautiful citrus and pine qualities."
Kyle DeSimone of Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids, Mich., said his most popular was Rubaeus, a raspberry pale ale.
People lining up to his tap wanted to taste and learn, DeSimone said. "Some haven't tried everything and they want to know what's going on," he said. "The beer's been flowing like crazy. People are really excited about it."
Food at the Brewfest wasn't french fries and fried dough. Food trucks sold foodie eats, California-styled tacos, gourmet diner food, wood-fired pizza, bite-sized doughnuts, handcrafted micro-roasted coffee, locally farmed produce and breads.
Filling the air was music performed by The Ghost of Paul Revere.
Lewiston Police Lt. Michael McGonagle was watching the beer-drinking crowd, pleased with the friendly, polite behavior.
"Everyone's been great," McGonagle said. "It's a good turnout, good for the city, for people showing off their product." The festival crowd was a mature crowd, "more mellow," he said. "There's been no problems."
Livingston said Saturday he didn't know how many people attended, but attendance surpassed 1,000.
"It's a blast," he said. "It's been well beyond our expectation. We couldn't be happier.
People enjoyed the cornhole tournament, the music, the brews and the climbing wall, which was available only to non-drinkers, Livingston said. "I've heard of ticket-holders from every state in New England and Canada. People are staying in hotels in towns, eating in town."
He had two goals in launching the Brewfest: "to promote the craft beer renaissance in Lewiston-Auburn, and to make the community and people from away realize there are good, fun, exciting things happening in Lewiston-Auburn."
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