Portland brewers pay homage to their Yarmouth roots with beer named Herbie

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YARMOUTH — Greg Abbott and brothers Eric and Ian Michaud are getting back to their roots. 

The trio behind Portland’s Liquid Riot Bottling Co. is paying homage to their hometown by naming their first “tribute beer” after Yarmouth’s beloved American elm tree, Herbie. 

Herbie the beer will be introduced at Yarmouth Farmer’s Market’s HarvestFest on Sept. 21. It will also be offered both on draft and canned by Liquid Riot for a limited time.

Once New England’s largest elm, Herbie stood at the corner of East Main Street and Yankee Drive for an estimated 217 years before being plagued by Dutch elm disease and cut down in 2010

Frank Knight served as voluntary tree warden in Yarmouth for more than half a century, during which time he estimated that he saved Herbie from the disease 14 times. Knight died in 2012 at age 103. 

His successor, Debbie Hopkins, retired in 2015, but said Tuesday that during his 50 years as tree warden, Knight would check on Herbie every day. 

“It was such a phenomenal, stately tree,” Hopkins said. “Seeing it cut down broke (Knight’s) heart.”

Herbie made national news as the world watched the massive 110-foot elm fall to the ground. 

Eric Michaud, 37, and Greg Abbot, 32, said they remember playing sports together as kids, but didn’t reconnect until after college when they found they shared a mutual interest in brewing. They started Liquid Riot in 2013 at 250 Commercial St. in Portland.

Ian Michaud, 39, eventually joined his brother and Abbot as head distiller at Liquid Riot. He now lives with his family on the same property in Yarmouth where he and his brother grew up, and said he remembers hearing about Herbie’s demise while he was studying at Boston University. 

“I don’t think Herbie really came to the forefront of (most) people’s attention until it got sick and had to come down,” Michaud said. 

A plaque where Herbie once stood reads, “This tree is hereby designated a historic landmark to be honored and preserved for future generations.” 

The tree even has its own Wikipedia page. 

And now, a beer named in its honor. 

Abbot, Liquid Riot’s head brewer, described the beer as “light, refreshing, dry-hopped,” with a “snappy” finish. With an alcohol content of about 4.5 percent, Eric Michaud said they felt Herbie was fitting for a farmers market because customers could sit down and have a couple. 

“If we were going to a farmers market in summertime … we’d want something refreshing, light, (and) easy to drink,” he added. “Different situations will kind of guide us to a different track (of how we want to create each beer).”

Liquid Riot has been selling beer at the Yarmouth Farmer’s Market since last fall. When Ian was asked by the market’s communications director, Amy Sinclair, if Liquid Riot would consider making a signature beer for the market, he thought it sounded like fun. 

The Michauds and Abbot then decided to broaden the idea by paying tribute to the entire town and naming a beer after something that represents the community where they grew up. The result was Herbie. 

Four-packs of 16-ounce cans of Herbie will be sold at Liquid Riot and HarvestFest for $11.99. 

“If it does well and people want it back, we might think of brewing it again,” Eric Michaud said. 

He said the partners hope restaurants in Yarmouth will start carrying kegs of Herbie. As of Monday, Liquid Riot products were available only at Dirigo Public House, on Route 1. 

“There’s a handful of places in town that are doing some new, kind of interesting things with local craft beer that we’d like to support,” Eric said. “We’re hoping they’ll like Herbie and we’ll be able to get our foot in the door … It’s a pretty good market (for our craft beer in Yarmouth).” 

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Liquid Riot’s Herbie beer commemorates Yarmouth’s 110-foot American Elm tree that stood at the corner of East Main Street and Yankee Drive from around 1793 to 2010.

Ian Michaud, left, Eric Michaud and Greg Abbot of Portland’s Liquid Riot Bottling Co. are paying tribute to their hometown of Yarmouth by naming their new ale after the town’s famous American elm tree, Herbie. 

A crew from Whitney Tree Service in Gray moves a crane into place in preparation for the removal of Herbie, New England’s largest American elm at 110 feet, on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010, in Yarmouth.Former Yarmouth Tree Warden Frank Knight was101 when he watched Peter Lammert of the Maine Forest Service counts Herbie’s growth rings after the largest American elm in New England was cut down on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010. Knight died in 2012 at 103.