GARDINER — The smells of pulled pork and hops filled the air Saturday as Swine & Stein Brewfest took over Main Street on a perfect fall afternoon.

The event — started in 2009 and known for its “swine” of pulled pork and “stein” of brews — was on pace to rival last year’s biggest-ever crowd, according to event organizers Saturday. In 2021, the event drew more than 1,000 attendees to improve upon a pandemic-hampered 2020.

Employees at The Blind Pig Tavern were up roasting pork at 4 a.m., and by noon, a line had formed for pulled pork sandwiches. Additionally, there were food trucks that offered Baos, fried foods and other offerings.

Live entertainment and unconventional games and contests made for a party-in-the-street atmosphere.

The Blind Pig Tavern on Main Street hosted a pig roast and started cooking at 4 a.m. Saturday for the annual Swine & Stein Brewfest in Gardiner. Emily Duggan/Kennebec Journal

Melissa Lindley, the executive director of Gardiner Main Street, said VIP passes sold out before the event. Those passes allow attendees to enter the event at noon, an hour earlier than everyone else. Anyone who bought a ticket, though, received a cup that they could fill up with unlimited pours.

Saturday’s Swine & Stein event featured more than 20 beverage producers from across the state, with familiar faces such as Bateau Brewing out of Gardiner, Lone Pine Brewing from Portland and Cushnoc Brewing Co. based in Augusta. Some of the newer breweries and cideries included two from Winthrop — van der Brew and Absolem Cider Co. — and Tin Top Cider Co. from Alna. For those who do not enjoy beer or cider, Chadwick’s Craft Spirits distillery from Pittston was on hand as well.


AEgir’s Den Meadery of Palermo proves to be a popular option Saturday for those who do not want to drink beer during the annual Swine & Stein Brewfest in Gardiner. Emily Duggan/Kennebec Journal

Also popular besides beer and cider was mead — which is a type of alcohol made from fermented honey.

“At a beer festival, mead is different,” said Mark Mancini of AEgir’s Den Meadery in Palermo, whose booth proved popular with a constant pace of pouring and refilling cups.

New this year, Absolem Cider takes a unique approach to the craft.  Not only do the cider brewers experiment with different fruit fermentations, but they live where they make the cider.

The cider and wine company started in 2019 as a concept brought to Zack Kaiser by Ryan Travers, whom he met in Maryland in the beer and wine business. Travers previously started the now-closed brewpub Lion’s Pride in Bethel, then moved to Maryland where he met Kaiser.

Absolem Cider is a new addition to Gardiner’s annual Swine & Stein Brewfest lineup and is also a new addition to the Winthrop business scene as it opened a tasting room this summer. Emily Duggan/Kennebec Journal

In 2020, Kaiser moved to Maine into the barn of a 60-acre property Travers bought in Winthrop that is now home to the Absolem Cider tasting room. The 1830s farmhouse is so old that it had no indoor bathrooms. They were installed as it was renovated into a tasting room. Their third business partner, Kevin Sturtevant, a Maine native, helped with the carpentry.

Travers and Kaiser live upstairs on the property.


“We live, breathe and do everything here,” Kaiser said.

Their dry cider is inspired mainly by European wine techniques. The same techniques used to turn grapes into wine are used to turn apples into cider and means the finished product is more similar to a dry wine than a mass-produced brew.

Some of their ciders are a 50-50 blend of cider and wine, like their “Jewel of June,” which is a cider with strawberry wine. Their “Bembel” is a German-style cider and their “Float Away” is a traditional dry cider.

They use all-natural ingredients sourced from local farms, namely Pietree Orchard in Sweden, Sandy River Farms in Farmington, and a little further away, Applecrest Farm Orchards in New Hampshire for their heirloom apples. Absolem Cider’s goal is to eventually plant their own orchard near their tasting room.

“I feel like the best way to experience food and beverage is to be immersed in the space,” said Kaiser. “We wanted to find a place where people could go for a walk, or go snowshoeing in the winter, and it can become an eco-tourist place.”

Absolem Cider opened its tasting room in a soft launch over Memorial Day weekend, but formally opened it on June 18. The tasting room is located at 799 Winthrop Center Road in Winthrop.

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