Maine drink makers are bringing wild blueberries into the mix.
The first time Chris and Lori Kinkade tried wild blueberries from Maine, they were wowed. “The huge amount of flavor that came out of this tiny fruit was pretty eye-opening,” Chris says. They put some berries in a secondhand Italian wine press, and the result was love at first sip. “We were hooked immediately,” he says.
When the Kinkades launched Green Bee Craft Beverages in 2010, they knew that the indigenous berry would feature prominently in their lineup of craft sodas and sparkling waters. “I like to think of wild blueberries almost like a fine wine,” Chris says. “It has a terroir that’s so unique, and it’s the true taste of Maine.”
The Brunswick-based company is one of dozens of Maine-based beverage makers incorporating the official state fruit into its offerings. Here’s a look at wild-blueberry drinks now being poured and a sneak peek at some new products hitting store shelves soon.
Green Bee’s Blueberry Dream honey soda, a blend of honey, ginger, and the juice of pressed wild blueberries, is among the company’s best sellers. “We use the honey that the bees make and berries that the bees pollinate, so it all comes full circle in one bottle,” Kinkade says. Green Bee also makes a wild-blueberry sparkling water and adds wild bluebs into Luke’s Lemonade, a signature drink it developed for Luke’s Lobster restaurants. Green Bee’s drinks are available nationwide at natural food stores and restaurants.
In 2018, when Oakhurst Dairy announced plans to launch a new seasonal drink and polled its social-media fans for their most-wanted flavors, requests for wild-blueberry drinks came pouring in. Now, the Portland-based dairy sells its Wild Blueberry Milk from May to Labor Day at groceries in Maine and New Hampshire and fields requests for it all year long. “It has a huge following,” Oakhurst marketing manager Ashley Martin says. Oakhurst also sells a Wild Blueberry Iced Tea, which is available year round.
The brewery unveiled its Blueberry Delight Milkshake IPA in 2019, and it’s been popular ever since. The full-bodied IPA has a creamy feel, hints of blueberry and vanilla, and a cool blue color. “People really love having a blueberry beer in the middle of summer, it’s just really refreshing,” Brickyard Hollow owner Brad Moll says. Blueberry Delight is served on draught at Brickyard’s Freeport, Yarmouth, and Portland locations and available in cans in groceries in and around Portland.
When siblings Nick and Erika Aschauer launched their own line of hard seltzers this year, the Brunswick natives knew they wanted wild blueberries to be part of their debut. The gluten-free drink, a simple combo of wild-blueberry juice and a carbonated base of fermented cane sugar and Maine water, is now on tap at a dozen bars and restaurants throughout Maine, alongside Dasch’s cranberry and plain varieties. They plan to sell seltzers in cans in stores statewide. “It’s slightly sweet,” Nick says, “and the first time I tried it I said, ‘Wow, that tastes fresh!’”
In November, Shipyard Brewing Company unveils its Blueberry Pie Ale, a cream ale with wild-blueberry concentrate extracted from the barrens of down east Maine. The subtle tart-sweet flavor of the berries blended with the baker’s spice is meant to evoke a wild-blueberry cobbler, Shipyard chief operating officer David Phillips says. The ale will be on tap at Shipyard’s Portland tasting room and at select bars and restaurants and available in cans at groceries and liquor stores around the state.
Eli Cayer has fond memories of raking wild blueberries as a kid. “It was always one rake in the bucket and a handful in my mouth,” he says. Since opening Urban Farm Fermentory, in 2010, his Wild Fermented Blueberry Cidah and Wild Blueberry Kombucha have been fan favorites. Cayer has also tinkered with putting the superfruit in beers, meads, and vinegars. The wild-blueberry cider and kombucha are on tap in Urban Farm Fermentory’s tasting rooms in Portland and Kittery and sold at supermarkets, specialty stores, and wine shops throughout Maine. Hannaford sells cans of the kombucha.
Like wild blueberries, kelp is native to coastal Maine, and the nutrient-rich sea greens have been sustaining Mainers for generations. In January 2022, Atlantic Sea Farms, of Biddeford, will roll out Wild Blueberry and Ginger Kelp smoothie cubes, frozen pureed mash-ups of the superfood trio that can be mixed into smoothies or used in soups, sauces, or dressings. The product is part of a small but growing catalog of foods that Atlantic Sea Farms has developed using kelp grown and harvested by Maine fishermen. The cubes will be sold online and at groceries and co-ops nationwide.
Maine’s largest cheese maker has developed a drinkable wild-blueberry yogurt made with milk sourced from family farms. The hope is to quench the growing thirst for nutritious snacks that are easy to grab on the go, president and chief operating officer Mark Whitney says. “The fresh dairy with the tart and sweet tastes of the wild blueberries makes a really nice combination,” Whitney says. The yogurt, made at the company’s Bangor plant, is now on sale at Pineland’s markets in New Gloucester and Monson, and it will be in Maine groceries and convenience stores next year.
Learn more about products made with Wyman’s Wild Blueberries, including Wyman’s 100% Wild Blueberry Juice, at wymans.com