Case after case of fresh beer is carried up the steps of 111 Commercial Street. Tourists wander in and are told to return tomorrow. Cans, bottles of dubbels, tripels, saisons, newly minted pumpkin ale — Craft Beer Cellar Portland will carry up to 1,000 brews when they open in the vacated Port Bean Cafe Friday.
“We want this to be an experience, a destination,” said Jorgen Persson, marketing malster, who co-owns the franchise with Pietro Di Luzio, beer information hopologist.
Yes this Belmont, Mass. company likes to have fun. And when the concept is this brilliant — a beer pro shop stocked with hard-to-find global brews and all your local faves in one well-lit, attractive space — this newcomer to the Maine beer scene is something to cheer.
Local beer dominates, 30 percent of the offerings are from Maine, including specialty meads like Ram Island iced tea and lavender lemonade. Overall, up to 50 percent of the beer will hail from New England.
The 11th franchise for Craft Beer Cellar, founded by beer geeks Suzanne Schalow and Kate Baker in 2010, is the first in Maine. Even in this suds-soaked city this museum of beers stands out. “People are excited,” said Di Luzio, rolling his eyes in amazement. “We want to be part of the fabric of the community.”
Putting Maine favorites like Peak Organic, Allagash and Geary’s dead ahead is a good start. Vermont’s Wolaver’s and Longtrail’s new Limbo IPA and Imperial Pumpkin invite customers to take a self-guided tour of the best of New England. Beercation? Check. The partners, who live in Greater Boston, could have opened anywhere. Why here?
“Portland is the Silicon Valley of craft beer,” said Persson. “Maybe Portland, Oregon would want to hear that.”
Bring it on boys!
The franchise, which is now in New York and Florida is rapidly growing. Are other Maine stops on tap? “Bar Harbor, near L.L. Bean … Freeport and oh yah, Belfast,” said Schalow. We’ll drink to that!