Blackfly Brewfest a beer aficionado’s delight

12 months ago

HOULTON, Maine — The Black Fly Brewfest was an adventurous foray into hops-tasting fun on Saturday at the John A. Miller Arena in Houlton.

The Black Fly Brewfest attracted vintners, distillers and craft beer makers from all over Maine. This year, there were more than 100 samples of beers, wines and spirits with inventive creations like Mossy Ledge Spirits’ Holy Hell Jalapeno vodka, Gigantic Dad Pants IPA from Cushnoc Brewing Co. of Augusta and Winterport Winery’s POG Passionfruit Orange Guava Summer Ale.

Whether it was the non-fruit citrusy punch of Lone Pine Brewing’s OH-J DIPA or their Breakfast Milk Stout that looks like a rich espresso but actually has Allens’ Coffee Extract wrapped into the brew, the experience for aficionados and those who just like beer was a good one, said several attendees as they explored the inventive offerings.

Making the brewfest trip from the Bay of Fundy shores, Tim Ringuette and Al Manuel, both of St. John, New Brunswick, were having a great time, they said, especially because the crowds were a bit thin.

“I like this, you can go around there’s no pushing and shoving you can talk to the owners or brewers,” said Ringuette, after finishing the OH-J DIPA and getting ready to sample the breakfast stout.

The two men were staying at Iveys Motor Lodge in Houlton and because they were sampling such an array of beers, they did not want to drive, they said. But there were no taxis.

“The owner of the inn drove us here,” they both said, laughing. “And he told us to just call when we’re ready to leave.”

The Brewfest featured tastings from these other Maine companies: Hidden Spring Winery of East Hodgdon; Threshers Brewing, Searsmont; Bangor Beer Co.; Fogtown Brewing Co., Ellsworth and Bar Harbor; Bigelow Brewing, Skowhegan; First Mile Brewing, Fort Kent; Blaze Brewing, Biddeford; Penobscot Bay Brewery, Winterport; Marsh Island Brewing, Orono; and Doom Forest of Portland.

Last year’s brewfest attracted 14 craft brewers and larger crowds for sampling. There were about 250 attending this year, according to Jane Torres, executive director of the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce, the event’s organizer, although she does not have the final numbers yet. There were about 350 last year, she said.

In addition to the beers, wines and spirits, Timberwolves Restaurant was at the event with sizzling pulled pork barbecue sandwiches topped with their own Korean Barbecue Sauce and lobster rolls.

Michael Stiggle, owner of Timberwolves Restaurant in Mars Hill served heaping pulled pork barbecue sandwiches during the Blackfly Brewfest in Houlton on Saturday, May 20, 2023. (Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli | Houlton Pioneer Times)

Owner Michael Stiggle, who was quick to pile on extra heapings and a variety of their own sauces, said his business is really all about connecting with the land and giving back to the community.

DJ Les Rhoda and local French musician Bertrand Laurence created a unique jam of a variety of blues, jazz and improvisation.

Torres said she thought the economy had a lot to do with lighter crowds. Tickets were $50 for VIP and $35 for general admission.

“It was a little slower than last year, but people had a great time and the brewers like to have the chance to talk to the people,” she said.

Eamon Keating, territory manager for Lone Pine Brewing in Portland, pours an OH-J-DIPA for Al Manuel of St. John, New Brunswick during the Blackfly Brewfest in Houlton on Saturday, May 20, 2023. (Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli | Houlton Pioneer Times)