PORTLAND, Maine — Maine has no shortage of festivals, and the first to celebrate women in the craft beer industry is headed to Portland on Saturday.
The Beers Without Beards festival is scheduled for Thompson's Point's Brick South in Portland. Tickets are on sale now.
The festival's creator, Grace Weitz, came up with the idea in college while attending New York University. Weitz felt there wasn't enough representation at beer festivals.
Q. What is this event and where did the idea come from?
Weitz: I started this festival about four years ago. This is going to be the fifth iteration. It was a part of my graduate school thesis project. I was in a kind of a niche study called food studies at NYU. I've been working in the beer industry for a bit, and so I directed all of my work towards beer. I was working at a magazine called "Hop Culture" at the time that covered popular craft beer culture and we'd been going around the country hosting these craft beer festivals.
I had the idea that I was a woman working in beer. I didn't see a ton of people that looked like me at these events and at different festivals and, what if I could just create an event where all people, women, however you identify women, men, femme-identifying folks could come together and celebrate something they love, craft beer?
It's the first time that it'll be in Maine. When we started in 2018, we were based in New York, and so for the first two years, we hosted the event in New York City. Then, of course, we all know in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit around the country and around the globe, and unfortunately, we had to cancel all of our festivals for that year. But we knew Beers Without Beards was too important to really just give the axe to.
So, we pivoted [and] rolled with the punches, you know, whatever euphemism you want to insert there, and took it online. [We] made it virtual for the last two years. This is the first time that we're bringing it back in person and we decided Portland would be a fantastic place to do that. There's not only rich beer drinking culture, but just a rich historical culture as well. And it's beautiful.
Q. What has the response been from people who attended and people who hear about this?
Weitz: Their response has been fantastic, and I think we've seen a lot of growth in the industry over the past few years. I think we still have a lot of work to to go. It's kind of like a pendulum, right? You know, you swing forward a little bit and then it swings back a little bit as well. But beer is helping push that momentum forward. Even when we had it in 2018, the response was just fantastic.
I tell this story a lot: The first year it poured and the festival was outside, and there was one moment where I was standing kind of on this like balcony above the event looking down on it, and it just started to pour. I was so afraid that everyone was going to leave and it was the exact opposite. We had like a big tent, so, people just like crowded into the tent. That's where the DJ was. Other people had brought their own umbrellas and they would like huddle underneath them and then run outside and go grab a drink at one of the beer stations and come back.
I think that just really proved, you know, how, how vital the festival was to people and how important they felt it was to be there and to celebrate woman and craft beer. So, you know, we've seen it grow over the years to include other partners. We've worked with a lot of big breweries in the industry. New Belgium, Allagash, Samuel Adams, Two Roads. We worked with some big partners like Chart Industries, Bumble, Yakama, Cheap Hops, that have all gotten involved and become invested in the festival. I think that just goes to show you, you know, that the industry is invested in or people are invested in, hopefully, supporting women in the craft beer industry. But like I said, we have more work to do.
Q. For people who do want to come out and enjoy this event, what can they expect when they get there?
Weitz: We have 35 breweries that are either owned by women or female-identifying folks, have woman or femme-identifying brewers in the organization, or a brewery that has just shown and proved to us that they've really done a lot of work and invested in supporting women in craft beer.
So, a lot of local breweries, for those who are around Portland and around Maine, we have Allagash, Bissell Brothers, Austin Street, Rising Tide, and then also breweries from all around the country. We'll have music from some local Maine artists as well, food from local Portland vendors. So it's really going to be a day that is going to celebrate women and craft beer and also the local Portland scene as well.
Q. Do you hope this inspires other people to jump on board with this kind of movement?
Weitz: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I hope it inspires other people to also create more festivals. Everyone has their own way of kind of looking to push this industry forward. I hope that, you know, this movement continues and that together I do believe we're like a rising tide lifts all boats, right? So I hope the more that we get together, more that we bond together as a community, we can just kind of raise the industry as a whole.