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Tripping | Analysis

Maine sends a beer box to Iceland. It takes up a lot of the cargo hold.

By Fredrick Kunkle

June 5, 2017 at 6:03 PM

The Maine Beer Box — an oceangoing container outfitted like a big keg — is loaded aboard a cargo ship for its trip to Iceland. (Chris Cary)

Most of the time, we have to drive, bicycle, taxi or maybe fire up the ride-hailing app to travel to a brewery.

Now there's an entire beer festival that can travel to you.

The Maine Brewers' Guild launched the Maine Beer Box on its maiden voyage Saturday aboard a cargo vessel steaming out of Portland for Reykjavik, Iceland, as part of an international beer exchange.

Related: [Bicycles and breweries go together, especially in Northern Virginia]

In the merry spirit of beer drinkers everywhere and a shameless bid for publicity, the group of Maine brewers transformed a 40-foot refrigerated shipping container into a floating beer keg. Inside are dozens of brands of Maine craft beer and 78 taps that will allow people to draw a beer from the side of the container. The brewers say the container, which was previously used to deep-freeze fish, is now the largest "kegerator" ever built.

Upon arrival in Iceland, the beer box will be able to serve thirsty Icelanders at the June 24 BjórFestival, a craft beer festival. When the party's over in Reykjavik, Icelandic craft brewers will refill the container with their brew and send it back to Maine for Portland's Summer Session Beer Festival on July 29. Some folks from Maine's 90 or so breweries are stowaways on the nine-day voyage, eager to exchange brewing craft and beers with their Icelandic counterparts.

David Carlson of Marshall Wharf Brewing Co. pours the first beers from the Maine Beer Box. When it arrives in Reykjavik, it will serve more than 1,000 global beer lovers at BjorFestival. (Benjamin Moore)

Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers Guild, said in an interview Monday that the idea for the Maine Beer Box grew out of a trade conference sometime back, when he heard it was cheaper to ship a container to Europe than to truck one to the southeast United States.

With the U.S. market more and more saturated with craft beer, so to speak, Maine's brewers were eager to find new customers in Europe, Sullivan said. Plus, Maine brewers already trade back and forth across international lines, using such ingredients as malts from Germany and hops from New Zealand and Australia. Iceland also happens to be one of Portland's biggest international trade partners, and so the giant Beer Box exchange was born.

Alas, no one smashed a ceremonial bottle of champagne or beer or anything across the front of the giant beer box at Saturday's launch.

"I was thinking we should take a bottle of Geary's and smash it on a corner of [the container] in the ship christening vein," Sullivan said.

Read more of Tripping:

Crowded airplanes increase aggression. Rats told us that

From road cowboys to robots: Truckers are wary about autonomous rigs

A roadside text for texting and driving? An anguished father thinks it's time


Fredrick Kunkle runs the Tripping blog, writing about the experience of travel. Freddy's also covered politics, courts, police, and local government. Before coming to The Washington Post, he worked for the Star-Ledger and The Bergen Record.

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