LEWISTON – Encircled by micro-brewers and vintners, Dave Warriner of Turner weighed the number of 4-ounce shots he had left against the taps still untasted.

Admission to the Maine Grains and Grapes Festival came with a small glass and 10 tickets to taste 10 concoctions.

But there were 16 beer and wine makers on the floor of the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, and most brought several creations to sample.

“That’s the game,” Warriner said, nodding to his friend Peter Leavitt. “We’re trying to figure out which one to go to next.”

They weren’t alone.

An hour after the festival opened its doors Saturday, hundreds of people were making the rounds. Three or four times as many were expected at the nighttime session, said Chip Morrison, the president of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce. His group helped organize the festival.

The event is part fundraiser, part advertising. Proceeds from the festival go to the chamber and the Colisee. For the vintners and brewers, the benefit is exposure to their target audience: discerning drinkers.

Nate Duston, who brews beer at Saco’s The Run of the Mill Public House & Brewery, said he uses events like this to drum up interest in a beer that is unavailable in grocery stores.

“The only other place you can drink our beer is at our restaurant,” Duston said. “We want people to think of our place.”

He featured a copper-colored pale ale and a German-style dunkle weizen, a wheat beer that compares to little found in a grocery’s beer aisle.

“It’s like nothing else here,” Duston said.

Learning is part of it, too.

Vintner Keith Bodine of Sweetgrass Farm watched as volunteers poured glass after glass of his wine. Some people were surprised by the dryness of his wines, particularly since they all had blueberries or apples among their fruits.

“They think if something is fruity, it’s not dry,” he said. His sweetest, a blueberry wine, was the most popular. Many also think dry wines are sweeter than they are, until they taste them.

As Bodine talked with drinkers, Warriner and Leavitt continued to drink.

Last year, when Leavitt attended the first Maine Grains and Grapes Festival, he tried both beer and wine.

This time, he focused on the beers, challenging the pale ales to surprise him. Warriner joined him and the two compared opinions on what they tasted. Warriner, too, stuck to brews.

“If my wife was here, I’d still be drinking the beers,” he said.

He took notes on each in his program, giving them a numerical rating of 1 to 5.

With half of his tickets gone, there were no 5s.

“Nothing yet to buy a six-pack of on the way home,” he said.


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