BRUNSWICK — For the second consecutive year, more than 70 Maine breweries will send their beers on an overseas trip aboard the Maine Beer Box.
After its inaugural trip to Reykjavik, Iceland, last summer, the box’s destination this time is the Leeds International Beer Festival in Leeds, England, from Sept. 7-9.
The 40-foot retrofitted shipping container will be launched in Portland Aug. 3 on an Eimskip freighter and is scheduled to arrive in Leeds Aug. 13, after a stop in Reykjavik.
It is the brainchild of the Maine Brewers’ Guild, part of its Global Brewers Trade project. The box has 78 beer taps and a self-contained draft system.
According to the guild’s website, the container is “as a symbol of the collaborative spirit of the Maine and American craft brewing industry.”
On the morning of July 27, the box stopped to tap Flight Deck Brewing in Brunswick, where co-founder Nate Wildes said the container will travel to a different locale each year.
“The point of the Maine Beer Box is to develop the Maine brand and to show the world that whether you visit or you live full time in Maine, the beer industry and the brewing culture is a huge part of our economy,” Wildes said. “It’s a huge part of why people call Maine home and it’s a huge economic driver for the state. (The box) is our mechanical ambassador, if you will.”
Flight Deck, which opened last year, sent its Berliner Weisse, a German white ale, on the international voyage.
Wildes said choosing which beer to send was the biggest challenge his brewery faced, but the chosen brew seemed like a “natural” pick.
“Maine makes some great New England-style IPAs, don’t get me wrong. We’ve got a couple that I enjoy. But the Maine brewing industry is very diverse in (its) capabilities,” he said. “We wanted to contribute to that diversity and show that Maine doesn’t just brew Maine-style beers. We hope they enjoy our German-style as well.”
Mattie Daughtry, co-founder of Moderation Brewing, was also on hand at Flight Deck on Friday morning. Moderation, which opened on Maine Street less than six months ago, sent its breakfast stout for festival-goers to enjoy.
“I mean, it’s going to be on a boat for a month so we wanted one of our beers that would stand out,” Daughtry said. “It’s exciting, it felt like we were putting our little babies on the school bus for the first day – a really long, long school bus ride.”
The Maine Beer Box is more than just a mode of transportation, though. Once it arrives in the U.K., it will also act as the pop-up display for the beer it’s housing, with walls equipped to open and reveal the taps.
In addition to Flight Deck and Moderation, the Maine Beer Box will hold brews from a variety of other establishments from Skowhegan to Portland, including Sea Dog, Peak Organic, Bissell Brothers, and Allagash.
Daughtry said several representing each of the Maine breweries being showcased will also likely be on hand to pour beer during the four-day festival.
In addition to its allure while globetrotting, the beer box is in high demand even when it’s stationed in its home state. Wildes said Mainers often request to use it for private events.
He also said part of the box’s allure is the “rising tide lifts all boats” approach, because it showcases the Maine brewing industry as a whole.
Daughtry also expressed that sentiment, and said it applies to the brewing culture in general because of its economic impact. She noted, for instance, that brewers buying supplies from local farmers and vendors have a positive ripple effect that goes far beyond beer.
Wildes also said that even in Brunswick, where a third brewery is slated to open this fall, there’s room for more as long as the new breweries have their own niches.
“You can have all these breweries together and they make us stronger,” she said. “That’s what the beer box really represents – is just how strong Maine beer is and how diverse we are, and I think it’s a great asset and a great forward face for not only our state, but for the industry.”
The Maine Beer Box, which houses 78 beer taps and a self-contained draft system, will travel by sea from Portland to Leeds, England for the Leeds International Beer Festival in September.
Flight Deck Brewing co-owner Nate Wildes, left, with brewer’s assistant Richard Qualey and Moderation Brewing Co-Owners Mattie Daughtry and Phillip Welsh in front of the Maine Beer Box July 27 in Brunswick.