Spring Happenings February 25 2015, 0 Comments

I criminally underpost to our blog, and it is not for lack of topics as those who know me know I am a very opinionated and loud person.  But it is something we will work on.

Despite what it looks like outside, Spring actually will be coming, and with that comes some of our favorite beer of the year.  Bocks from Germany will start hitting the shelves and Pretty Things Fluffy White Rabbits will make an appearance.  We decided Spring was a great time for an update to our logo and to most of our branding.  When we first opened, we had a logo designed using the website 99 Designs.  Not an ideal method, but when you are opening on a budget, we decided to put our money in to our inventory and store, rather than the logo.  But coming up on our 3 year anniversary this Summer, we decided it was time to change.  We put out a call to local designers, and got some incredibly cool responses.  We ended up choosing to work with a great local designer, Trey Allen, who has given us some great looks that we have used on hats, hoodies and wall vinyls for in the store also produced by local companies.  We made sure to keep our dollars local as we all know how important that is to the diversity and economy of the Portland area.  Below is one look on the new logo:

This logo will compliment the logo that is on our sign at the shop, and is meant as a shorthand that we have used on our hats and hoodies.  The chalice has always been the most important part of any logo we have used, for many reasons.  Working on our chalice as part of The Uprising at Novare Res taught us a lot about styles of beer, about world class producers and by watching Shahin and staff at Novare, about how to educate customers without being stuffy and snobby.  The chalice is also a great commonality amongst the world class fermented beverages we sell, beer, wine, cider and mead.  All are drank from a cup, and we love the idea that no matter what you are in to we can all share a glass of whatever that may be.  

We are also kicking the tires on our third anniversary beer with Austin Street Brewery.  They killed it last year with Bier 2 Cellar, so we are incredibly excited to get to work on Bier 3 Cellar.  Think brett, citrus and deliciousness.  Hopefully will be ready for our third anniversary in June.

Just a heads up, tomorrow night, Thursday, we will be hosting a cider tasting.  Before you shut your brain off, these aren't the sicky sweet ciders being cranked out by massive American producers.  Three of the four are from the Basque region of Spain, fermented with indigenous apples and wild yeast, so they are dry and pretty damn funky.  The fourth is from a traditional cider producer in Vermont, Eden.  For fans of funky beers and ciders, this is a can't miss.  Totally free, from 5:30-7:30pm.

2014 Recap February 04 2015, 0 Comments

So we are about a month late talking about 2014.  First we want to thank all of you who support us day in and day out for making 2014 such a great year for us.  We grew over 40% in 2014, and being that we don't advertise in traditional channels, that's all thanks to word of mouth from you guys.  I honestly thank you for letting me do what I love every single day.  2014 was a crazy year, with a huge rise in the quantity and quality of beers available to us from local breweries.  Seems hard to believe but 2014 was the first time we saw breweries like Bissell Brothers, Austin Street, Foundation, Funky Bow, Banded Horn, SoMe and others in package form.  

Now comes the fun part, our top sellers of 2014.  Here they are, and these are all in dollar value, to even out six packs versus bombers and such:

1. Bissell Brothers The Substance

2. Rising Tide Maine Island Trail Ale

3. Lagunitas Sucks

4. Marshall Wharf Cant Dog

5. Maine Beer Company Lunch

6. Founders All Day IPA

7. Lagunitas Little Sumpin Sumpin

8. Stone Enjoy By IPA

9. Rising Tide Calcutta Cutter

10. Bissell Brothers Bucolia

I am incredibly happy/proud to see 6 out of 10 on this list come from my home state of Maine.  Everyone that works at Bier Cellar was born and raised in this state, so while the quality of the beer is always our foremost concern, it makes us happy to get to deliver world class beer to people that is from these 16 counties.   

The other thing that pops out to me is that every single beer on this list falls under the IPA umbrella, or at least the hoppy beer umbrella.  That's not a shock as that style is by far the most popular in beer right now, but it would make me very happy to see some of my personal favorite styles like Gose, Berliner Weiss and Saison sneak in that top 10.  Allagash Saison almost snuck in, maybe they can make a run in 2015.

So here is to 2015, I'm sure it will be an exciting year for breweries from Maine, and we will see some world class beer come in from outside the state.  One thing you can be sure of is we will continue to be the first line of defense, doing the incredibly difficult job of tasting all of these beers to decide what makes it on the Bier Cellar shelves.

Happy New Year.

Why Don't We Stock XYZ Brand Beer September 27 2014, 0 Comments

One of the most frequent questions we get at Bier Cellar is if we have a certain beer, and if not, why.  We thought we would write a blog post to try to cover the most frequent reasons.

1.  It Isn't Distributed to Maine - This knocks out most of the white whale beers that we get asked about most often.  For us to carry a beer as a licensed retailer in Maine, the beer either has to come to us through a licensed distributor, or from a small brewery within the State of Maine.  There are a few reasons a beer may not come in to the State of Maine through a distributor, the most common is that the brewery doesn't have the capacity to come to Maine, for some reason doesn't want to come to Maine, or can't find a distributor who wants to bring them in to Maine.  So, Heady Topper, Pliny The Elder, Hill Farmstead, Three Floyds, Lawsons and so on, just don't have the capacity or desire to distribute to Maine.  Therefore, we can't legally get them to sell them.  There are some bullshit bottleshops who will purchase beer and sell it illegally, but we refuse to go against the wishes of the brewery, if they don't want to be in Maine, then there is a reason.  We also don't want to break any laws and endanger our license.

Another reason is that no importer or distributor thinks they could sell enough of Brand XYZ to bother bringing it in to the State of Maine.  So I apologize in advance I can't get that beer you had in that tiny town in Bulgaria when you were backpacking through Europe, but not every beer can be brought in to Maine, and I am 100% positive we can find you something you like as much, if not better.

2.  It Doesn't Fit In To What We Are Trying To Do - I don't want that to come off as snobbish, because when we pass judgement on a beer, it isn't passing judgement on you for liking it.  Rather, we just don't think it fits in to what we are trying to do here.  Our hopes are to carry a cultivated selection of beers.  We aren't trying to be Beers of The World and carry every since beer produced.  Our goal is that every beer on our shelf fits our vision of what Bier Cellar is.  So just because we don't carry a specific beer, doesn't mean we think we are better than it.  We hope more often than not you come to Bier Cellar looking not looking for one particular beer, but looking for a great beer or wine that fits your mood and are open to a surprise or allowing us to open your mind or palate a little bit. 

3. It Is A Crappy Beer - Okay, this one can come off as a little snobbish, I'm fine with that.  We don't carry mass market lagers from Bud, Miller or Coors.  We don't carry sicky sweet mass market ciders.  We don't carry industrial wines. We respect your palate more than that.  At the same time, we aren't a slave to black and white definitions of what craft beer is.  We love us some Narragansett, we carry Goose Island, because they are good beers.  No lobbying group definition of craft tells us what beers we are going to carry.  We met the brewmaster from Goose when he was here for Migration Week, that man is a craft brewer, no matter who owns his company, and he is doing things the right way. 

So we hope that answers a few questions as to why a certain beer isn't on our shelves.  But always feel free to ask, sometimes we can special order a certain beer, or it may be coming in soon.  We carry as many beers we love as we possibly can, and we always hope we have one that will hit the spot. 


No Man Ever Steps Foot In The Same River Twice September 17 2014, 0 Comments

I was reading a collection of essays about wine this morning that are collected in the book "The Juice: Vinous Veritas" by wine writer Jay McInerney.  He was arguing that drinking the same wine (and I believe we can swap in beer here) twice would be a different experience each time.  He uses the famous quote from Greek philosopher Heraclitus, simplified down to "no man ever steps foot in the same river twice", to prove his point.  The concept that when recrossing a river, either the river will have changed, or the person stepping in it.  This got my brain spinning off in a million directions, but a recent experience came back to me. 

Recently I sat down with a bottle of Orval, a Trappist beer brewed by Cistercian monks within the walls of the Abbaye Notre-Dame d'Orval in the Gaume region of Belgium.  Orval was the first beer I ever drank that (intentionally) contained brettanomyces.  Brettanomyces has been classified, I would argue wrongly, as a "wild yeast".  The beauty of Orval is that it is constantly changing, as the beer is dry hopped and bottled with a dose of Brettanomyces.  When young, the brett hardly expresses itself, and you get a beautiful dry hop character.  As time goes on that balance shifts as they dry hop goes away and the brettanomyces comes on stronger.  This is why most Orval fans have a certain age they prefer the beer as different flavor profiles will exist throughout the aging process.

But Orval is only one example of how tasting experiences change.  I have found that going back to a beer, something as straightforward and timeless as Schneider Weiss, a classic German wheat beer, my palate has shifted each time.  With seasons, with age, with differences in the age or storage conditions of the beer itself, a beer flavor profile we take for granted can be radically altered.  Taste buds are constantly regenerating and changing, new experiences in food and drink can shift our preferences so don't take the beers that aren't the new kids on block for granted.  Vinnie Cilurzo, brewer/owner of Russian River, argued that people undergo "Lupulin Threshold Shift", or basically as you drink more bitter beers, your tolerance for bitterness shifts.  So while Sierra Nevada Pale Ale may seem incredibly bitter to a Bud Light drinker, to someone who drinks Double IPA's all day, SNPA can seem pretty benign.

This is a long winded way to say, in a rapidly growing industry, where new beers and breweries appear seemingly every day, it is worth going back to those old favorites, or even beers you didn't like the first time, now and again.  They may have changed, you may have changed, and your new favorite beer may be an old favorite, or even a beer you didn't appreciate the first time around. 

Austin Street Bier 2 Cellar Release July 29 2014, 0 Comments


The day has finally arrived.  When we last left our little collaboration with our friends at Austin Street Brewery (you can catch up on the back story in this previous blog post) we were letting the little Brettanomyces Claussenii yeast do their funky little magic in the bottles.  Well, the time has come, the Azacca hopped IPA that was bottled with Brettanomyces is ready to greet the world to celebrate two years of us getting to be your local bottleshop.  

We are incredibly excited to share this beer with you.  The Azacca is giving the beer a great pineapple/fruit juice aroma and flavor, and the brett is just beginning to express itself.  This is a beer that will drink great fresh, but will also age and develop in the bottle.  We are setting a sale cap at two bottles per person, so you have the opportunity to age a bottle and drink one fresh to compare the difference.  We would like to set bottle limits higher, but we are only looking at a release in the 200 bottle mark.

Bottles will go on sale Saturday both at Bier Cellar and at the brewery at 1 Industrial Way.  If you haven't gotten out there, do yourself a favor and try some of Jake and Will's delicious beers.   Jake is brewing some amazing beers with mixed fermentations that need to be tried.  You can even visit Bissell Brothers, Foundation and Allagash as well, all without moving your car.

These will be priced at $14.99 for a 750ml bottle.  Members of our email list will get an email on Friday night with the opportunity to hold a couple bottles.  If you aren't a member of the email list you can join at at the bottom of the page.   

Once again, we want to say thanks to our collaboration partners at Austin Street Brewery, but also to you, our customers and friends who have given us the opportunity to be a part of the wonderful 207 bier scene and the opportunity to do what we love for a living.


Greg Norton
Bier Cellar

Reflections on Two Years July 16 2014, 0 Comments

Now that we have been open for two years, we can't help but reflect on over 700 days of being your local neighborhood bottleshop.  We have been thinking back now on how and why we got started and how you, our customers, neighbors and friends, have helped shape what Bier Cellar has become.

I grew up in Buxton, about half an hour outside of Portland.  Portland was always the big city to me, and when I moved here to go to USM in 2000, I knew I wouldn't leave.  The vibrancy and culture of this city, while somehow still feeling like a small town, are the perfect combination to me.  I have worked in Portland for over 14 years now, but before we opened Bier Cellar one thing missing for me was a bottleshop that loved beer as much as I did.

I have been a homebrewer for about 5 years now, and through that scene I got to meet many of the people who make up the Portland and Maine beer scene, and I was hooked.  Both Katie and I completed the Uprising at Novare Res (greatest beer bar on Planet Earth), drinking 230 beers on their list as a palate education.  I worked on and got certified by the Beer Judge Certification Program and then got certified as a beer server in the Cicerone program.  The people, the beer, the passion, I knew that I wanted to be part of this world.  I also knew I wanted to build a business here, to be part of this neighborhood and give back to the city that I called home.  So we opened Bier Cellar in 2012, as a way to give back to the beer scene we love so much. 

There is not much better than turning a new customer on to a new favorite beer, it is one of the best feelings on Earth.  Seeing a new customer become a regular, and interacting with our customers on a daily basis is what keeps this job so fun, interesting and rewarding.  We love the trust a customer puts in to us when they ask for a recommendation for a beer, wine or cider.  We take that seriously and take great pride when that recommendation nails it.

We have never been bent on world domination.  We just want to be your local bottleshop.  We work hard to help every customer find something they will love, to make their day just a little bit better.  We love to tell the brewer's stories, and be the craft brewer's advocate to get people to drink beer made with purpose.

We didn't get in to this business to be rich, we knew better than that.  We didn't get in to this business as a retirement plan.  We figured we would figure that stuff out later, we just knew we wanted to talk about beer all day, to help our friends/brewers get their beers in to the hands of our friends and neighbors.  We aren't in this industry because we thought it was just a good business move, we are in this industry because I realized I had to be, it was an itch that needed to be scratched. 

So we are two years in, and we plan on many more years of being your locally owned bier store.  We love this city, our neighbors and our beer scene.  Thanks for your support. 



Bier 2 Cellar Collaboration May 31 2014, 0 Comments

I first met Jake Austin, brewer and co-owner of Austin Street Brewery, at Novare Res a few years ago when my wife interrupted the anniversary celebration of Jake and his wife Catherine.  I was embarrassed, but it forced two anti social homebrewers to start a conversation.  Luckily they didn’t hold it against us, and since that date we have been friends discussing homebrewing and beer on a nearly daily basis.  Over the years of tasting each other’s batches of homebrew, I have watched Jake far eclipse my homebrew abilities and just brew better and better beers.  I think we both realized a while ago that beer would become our livelihood, I went the bottleshop route and now Jake has gone the brewery route with the opening of Austin Street Brewery.  Jake was instrumental in opening Bier Cellar and I can safely say we wouldn’t have opened our doors if it wasn’t for Jake’s help.  Amazing to think of all the conversations we had being beer geeks on the outside looking in we are both now part of this world that we love so much.

So naturally when we went looking for a partner to help us brew a beer to celebrate our second anniversary I humbly begged Jake to brew one with me.  I am happy to announce Austin Street Brewery and Bier Cellar are collaborating on Bier 2 Cellar, an IPA that will be bottle conditioned with brettanomyces, a yeast near and dear to both Jake and my own drinking heart.  Our goal is to create a beer that is delicious fresh, but if aged will express more dry, funky brettanomyces character.

So beer geeks, you want the beer geeky details?  The grist will be made up of Pilsen malt and White Wheat malt to give a bit more mouthfeel.  It will be hopped with a bit of Nugget hops for bittering, but the star of the hop show will be the boatload of Azacca hops giving aromas and flavors of pineapple, orange, grapefruit and tropical fruit.  When Jake asked what hops I wanted to use I didn’t hesitate, Azacca is the dominant hop in both Victory Hop Ranch and Oxbow Grizacca, both beers I absolutely love.  The beer will be fermented with American Ale yeast but then bottle conditioned with Brettanomyces Claussenii, my favorite of the brett strains.  Yup, I have a favorite brett strain, don’t all 7th level beer nerds?  Brett C. is known for its pineapple, fruity notes, which should compliment the Azacca hops beautifully.  We are shooting for around a 6.5% abv.

We are hoping for this to be ready for around our anniversary on June 2.  Bottles will be available through our bottle shop and at Austin Street’s tasting room.  I personally cannot wait to pop a bottle to celebrate two years of getting to work my dream job, bringing good beers to my favorite people, our customers.