The beer was flowing Saturday on Water Street and so was the cider, wine, craft spirits and sangria.
More than 30 food and drink vendors filled the blocked-off street all afternoon as part of the third annual Skowhegan Craft Brew Festival.
A majority of the offerings were from beer brewers around the state, but the event has also tried to diversify its offerings to attract more people, said Kristina Cannon, executive director of Main Street Skowhegan, which hosts the festival and uses it as a fundraiser.
“We’re trying to add as many non-beers as we can,” Cannon said. “Not that people don’t love beer. But we want to make sure people have all sorts of different stuff to taste and sample.”
Cannon said the festival included more distilleries this year than in the past, including Liquid Riot, a Portland brewery that also makes spirits in small batches, and Chadwick’s Craft Spirits out of Pittston, which produces maple-based spirits.
At a booth operated by Tree Spirits of Oakland, a steady flow of people were sampling two types of sangria made with Tree Spirits’ Pear SubLime mix; a blend of brandy and organic pear and lime juices; and Pom SubLime, a blend of apple spirits, organic pomegranate and lime juices, and ginger bitters.
“The sangria does incredibly well,” said Sylvie Boisvert, who was running the Tree Spirits booth. “Skowhegan is a great market for us anyway, so it helps that people know our brand.”
The festival includes only food and beverage purveyors from Maine. Cannon said they try to host food trucks from as close to Skowhegan as possible.
“I love beer, so (this festival) is a perfect match,” said Anna Chugay, 38, of Skowhegan, as she ate a barbecue sandwich from Silverton Sporting Ranch BBQ Bar, which is based in Canaan.
“The local food trucks are also great,” Chugay said. “It’s nice to support local (vendors) and have food made with local ingredients.”
General admission tickets to the festival, which cost $40, included unlimited beverage samples while $60 VIP tickets, which sold out prior to the start of the festival, also included free local food samples and early admission.
Almost 1,000 tickets had been sold before the start of the festival, and Cannon said she expected between 1,300 and 1,500 attendees over the course of the day – up from last year’s 1,100.
“This festival is our favorite by far,” said Stephen Genthnar, who along with his wife, Jessica Wentworth, owns Black Canvas Brewery in Brewer. “The people are great. The organizers are fantastic. It’s a well-oiled machine.”
Cannon said organizers are already starting to think about what future growth might look like for the festival, whether it’s adding more brewers or possibly expanding further down the street or around the Water Street rotary.
“We’re not entirely sure what the future looks like, but it does seem to be getting more popular as time goes on,” she said. “At the same time, we don’t want to lose that local, hometown feel by making it too big. It’s a fine line.”
At the end of the day, it might just be about trying new things and seeing what works.
“I think it’s good for the city and good for business,” said Dave Russell, 42, of Norridgewock, as he sipped a beer from his souvenir tasting glass. “I’ve lived in Maine probably 10 years and this is the only brew fest I know of around here. It’s a good time.”