Maine Lakes Brewfest ‘fun and good for business’

Brewfest attendees sampling beer at the 2015 event. 

CASCO — More than 3,000 people are expected to attend this year’s Maine Lakes Brewfest, a major fundraising event for the Greater Bridgton Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and a major draw for the region.

The festivities will be on Saturday, Sept. 30, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Point Sebago in Casco. Tickets are available for $35 until Sept. 27, and then they will be $40 at the door.

According to Chamber Executive Director Sue Mercer, more than 3,100 people attended the Brewfest last year and organizers expect a similar total this year.

“It is our major event,” Mercer said.

Planning for it starts in February or March and spans months, she said. She declined to say how much it raised for the chamber last year.

About 50 volunteers will help run the Brewfest, which will feature more than 30 brewers and 15 food vendors. There will also be music throughout the day.

The annual event, which began as a much smaller version in Casco Village, has since moved to Point Sebago and is now in its fourteenth year.

“It’s a wonderful, friendly event and people are happy,” said Ruth York, Point Sebago’s director of group sales and special events.

The destination resort offers a special package deal for the event and they have already filled bookings for the weekend, York said.

As one of the event’s major sponsors, the Umbrella Factory grocery store of Naples has its name on the 5 oz. tasting glasses handed out at the event.

Umbrella Factory owner David Allenson sees the event as a fun opportunity for the region and his business.

“It’s a good time,” Allenson said. “Fun for everybody, and good business for me.”

Allenson, a chamber member, said his participation in the Brewfest over the past few years is part of a larger plan to grow his business. He sells pizzas and lobster rolls at the event, and says that Brewfest attendees often come to his store after the event to buy beer they’ve tasted.

Mercer emphasized that the Brewfest is a sampling event, not a “drunkfest,” and it allows people to try all sorts of different beers.

“Our list of food vendors has grown this year,” she added.

While the event is anything but dry, the organizers make a point to prepare in case of rain. Mercer said a common refrain for the event is “rain or shine, we’ve got you covered.”

The Chamber doesn’t have data on the Brewfest’s economic impact on the region, but Mercer is confident that the event sends a positive ripple through the surrounding communities.

She noted that many of the attendees come from outside the Lakes Region and even the state.

“They don’t come up just for the day,” Mercer said. “They come up at least for the weekend … They’ve got to stay somewhere.”

When discussing whether to allow signs for the Brewfest in town, members of the Naples Selectboard appeared to reach a similar conclusion at a Sept. 11 board meeting.

“These things like the Brewfest and whatever winter things they do in Bridgton … high tide lifts all boats. I think there’s a trickle-down effect for the economic activity,” said Naples Selectboard Member Richard Cebra.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Brewfest attendees sampling beer at the 2015 event.