Don’t steal the glasses: brewery etiquette at Christmas and all year round

On a recent sunny and cold Sunday near Christmas, I went to Bissell Brothers brewing company in Portland with my family.

No mistaking where you are at Bissell Brothers

No mistaking where you are at Bissell Brothers

Beer lovers spread out at tavern tables and along the windows in the vast and beautiful tasting room at the old mill at Thompson’s Point.Under the tall Christmas tree were boxes and bags bursting with toys the Brothers were collecting for the Toys for Tots holiday drive. Christmas spirit was palpable.

Under the Christmas tree: Toys For Tots fund drive toys

Under the Christmas tree: Toys For Tots fund drive toys

Taste and enjoy the beers, leave the glasses

Taste and enjoy the beers, leave the glasses

Then, while roaming about the place, exploring, I spotted The Sign. The Grinch was in the building. It showed a sketch of a donkey with the text: “There are a thousand ways to be an a**hole. Stealing glasses is one of them. Please don’t steal. It’s lame.”

Please don't steal. It's lame

Please don’t steal. It’s lame


Right below that was a framed, typewritten letter from a glass thief, who, after thinking better of his or her deed, sent $20 to Noah and Peter Bissell with a profuse apology for “lifting two of your glasses.”

Both signs got a belly laugh out of me and I showed my husband, who also laughed. But truth be told, the cost of replacing stolen glasses can get prohibitive, especially for the small breweries who have to count every penny to make their businesses work.

TIP: most breweries offer some type of “swag” for sale, especially glasses. If you don’t see a sign with prices, ask if you can buy them. The cost is usually pretty affordable. I’ve paid anywhere from $4 for a tiny sample glass at Marshall Wharf (Belfast) to $5 for a pint glass I just bought at Kennebunkport Brewing Company (Kennebunk). They make great, inexpensive holiday gifts, too.

All of this got me thinking: what do other brewers want to tell their prospective customers before they visit their tasting rooms? I reached out to several and these are the tips I received:

From Tina Bonney, who with her husband John and their partners Joel and Christie Mahaffey own and run Foundation Brewing Company in Portland:

John Bonney's partner at Foundation Brewing Company is Joel Mahaffey

John Bonney’s partner at Foundation Brewing Company is Joel Mahaffey


 We love the energy from all the different visitors who come into our tasting room. We have a lot of regulars who visit every week, but we also get many people coming in for the first time.
One thing that visitors from out of state sometimes don’t understand is our growler labeling rules here in Maine. Our policy is that we can only fill our own growlers. Most people are perfectly fine with that even though they are sometimes disappointed that they can’t use the ones that they brought from home.
We sometimes have folks who don’t know the proper care for a used growler and bring in dirty growlers to have re-filled. We are careful to tell everyone that all you need to do with your growler is rinse it with hot water, leave the cap off and let it air dry. That’s it!
We have great visitors to our tasting room. Even when the line is long on a Saturday afternoon, people are in great spirits.  The beer fellowship of the tasting room is one of our favorite things about the brewery.
The Bay State weighed in. Bog Iron Brewing Company in Norton, Massachusetts is owned by Matt Menard, Frank White, Brian Shurtleff and they make beers like Burly Blonde, Swiss Mistress and One Down. Their tasting room and brews get raves from fans, but there is one pet peeve. Here’s what Bog Iron had to say:

…folks who come in and try a bunch of samples and don’t buy anything. If you simply want to try a few beers to make a decision, that’s 100% fine, but the folks who walk in and try 6 or 8 beers and then walk out is frustrating. It’s not even really the lack of sales, but they tie up a bar seat that a paying customer could use and they tie up the taproom attendant’s time. If you want to try a bunch of beers, get a flight. This doesn’t happen all too often, but it does happen.

TAKEAWAY: Again, breweries are businesses. One or two freebies is fine, if the brewery offers that. But a flight is relatively inexpensive. I often just get a flight to sip with lunch at a brewpub, because we have 80 miles to drive home. Just a few sips gives you a range of styles. I often bring home the ones I really like in either cans or a growler.
Nicole Carrier
Nicole Carrier is co-owner and president (with brewer Annette Lee) of Throwback Brewery in North Hampton, New Hampshire and she loves her visitors! But there are a few things they can do to make their trip to the tasting room more pleasant for everyone:
I guess my biggest ‘like’ would be for customers to come in with an open mind. I think there are so many misconceptions about beer, that by having an open mind, a customer could really open themselves up to new experiences and new styles that they might end up loving. To be even more specific, we hear a lot of times ‘I don’t like dark beer.’ Or, ‘I don’t like sours’, ‘I don’t like fruit beers’. ‘I don’t like pumpkin beers’, etc. It’s rare that I can’t change someone’s mind or opinion – often because they might not yet appreciate the full range of a particular style or color of beer. My favorite is when people say they don’t like dark beer. I like to explain that they should judge a beer by its color. Color doesn’t equate to body or ‘heaviness’ of a beer. One of our lightest beers is actually dark – it’s Oma’s Tribute, our black lager. I love to have self-proclaimed ‘dark beer haters’ give it a try. Responses can range from ‘oh, I can drink that’ to ‘wow – I love that’ or ‘yea, that doesn’t suck’.
TAKEAWAY: Try everything! Be surprised! Nicole told me that one of their most popular beers is Spicy Bohemian, made with locally grown jalapenos. I am guilty of thinking I might not like a beer like this, but I’ll follow Nicole’s advice and try them all.


Jeff at Foulmouthed Brewing in South Portland would like people to be aware of where they are. Foulmouthed not only brews their beer, but like other brewpubs, maintains a dining room, where folks might want to dine in relative quiet, say before 9 p.m.

Try a flight at Foulmouthed, and the poutine!

Try a flight at Foulmouthed, and the poutine!

Not every brewery is a beer festival. There’s real excitement to taking a trip to a new place with a bunch of your friends and checking out new beers. It turns into a real quest for beer and slaking your thirst. So you try to hit as many breweries as possible and after a few, often times respect and politeness go out the window. It happens both in terms of respecting the establishment and staff but also how you talk about the beer and other breweries.
While I appreciate everyone having a good time and being a few brews deep it can be tough to be aware of your surroundings. So if you and friends are rolling into a brewery or brewpub and its low-key, you should take note and keep it kind of chill. I’m not saying you can’t laugh and have fun but if the place is half full and people are having dinner, maybe try and refrain from yelling and swearing if it’s 6 pm. This is coming from the bar manager of a place named Foulmouthed and any one who knows me knows how loud my voice is and how I swear like a pirate. But there’s a time and place for it ya know? Like 9 pm and its a packed bar thats bumping the new tribe album.

I’ve been to Foulmouthed and the staff is friendly, the beer delicious and the food great. But it is one open dining area/bar, so take Jeff’s advice and use your indoor voices. Okay, I know you watched Barney when you were a kid, admit it!
SUMMARY: Buy the glasses, try beers you think you may not like, be considerate of other patrons, clean your growlers and have fun!
If you want to visit:
Bissell Brothers Brewing
Foundation Brewing Company
1 Industrial Way #5, Portland, ME 04103
Bog Iron Brewing Company
33 West  Main Street, Norton, MA
(508) 952-0555
Throwback Brewery
7 Hobbs Rd, North Hampton, NH
Foulmouthed Brewing
15 Ocean St, South Portland, ME 04106
Kate Cone

About Kate Cone

Kate Cone has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, is a freelance writer and the author of "What's Brewing in New England: A Guide to Brewpubs and Microbreweries," published by Downeast Publications in 1997 and completely updated in 2016. She has been a foodie since age 8, when her dad taught her how to make coffee and an omelet, lifelong skills for happy eating.