Breweries from around the world will set out their stalls to promote their craft in Leeds tomorrow – but those in search of a special relationship have made a rather more adventurous hop to the city than others.
The Leeds International Beer Festival (LIBF) is showcasing the Maine Beer Box, a shipping container featuring 400 kegs, 65 breweries and 78 different varieties from the USA state.
Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild, believes it could be the “biggest kegerator in the world”.
Boasting New England IPAs, sour ales, an oyster-infused stout and a spruce pine ale, the box was filled with fresh craft beer and placed aboard a freighter ship for the more than 3,000-mile voyage to Leeds.
Read more: Leeds International Beer Festival 2018: Everything you need to know about this year’s event
The custom-built, 12-metre long, refrigerated container is complete with a fully self-contained, CO2 draft system, allowing beer to be served anywhere that can be reached by land or sea.
After the centrepiece has been tried and tested by some of the 12,000 punters expected at the Leeds Town Hall event between today and Sunday, brewers from across the UK will load the box with their own craft beer and ship it back across the North Atlantic to Portland, Maine.
Local companies including Leeds Brewery and North Brewing Co will then be featured at the Maine Brewers’ Guild’s Winter Session Beer Festival in November.
Mr Sullivan, 34, said the guild wanted to find a location which mirrored Maine brewers’ spirit of co-operating with each other.
He said: “We looked around the UK for places where there was a great foothold for craft beer. Leeds was up at the top of that list.”
So was the festival itself, with the Maine brewers excited to be involved in, Mr Sullivan said.
The cultural and commercial exchange was set up after the USA beer-makers were connected with those in the UK through Harriet Cross, the British Consul General to New England, whose husband Phil Saltonstall runs Brass Castle Brewery in Malton, North Yorkshire.
Mr Sullivan said: “For decades, American brewers have looked to European and British brewers for inspiration.
“Now, brewers and beer lovers around the world have their sights set on New England as the hotbed of global brewing innovation - and Maine is leading that charge.”
Representatives from 25 Maine breweries have travelled with their beer to meet with UK brewers, share their craft and pour beer side-by-side at the festival.
John Kelly, festival organiser, said: “We are thrilled that the Maine Brewers’ Guild have chosen Leeds International Beer Festival as the UK destination for the Maine Beer Box.
“With the shared aspiration of promoting and supporting breweries and beer making in our own parts of the world, the Maine Beer Box will be an incredible, and exciting addition to the seventh LIBF.
“The festival is also proud to act as a platform and host this reciprocal initiative.”
The idea continues a Global Brewers Trade project, started in Iceland last year as a way to forge collaboration between creators across the globe and to give beer-makers from different countries a chance to discover new flavours, techniques and styles.