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Summer is long gone, but my memories of Maine could never fade as fast. As August came to close, my wife and I embarked on an epic journey across the great Pine Tree State – from Newry and Lovell to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, to Bangor, then south through Portland and on to Boston (yes I know Boston’s not in Maine) – never did the great state disappoint.
Hailing from the metro-sprawl of New York, inundated by the modern “conveniences” of fast-paced, over-saturated living, I too-often take for granted the value of simplicity. Small business, sustainability, neighborly ways, and plain ol’ peace & quiet go a long way in many of the towns we visited.
Now… before I get too warm & fuzzy on you, keep one thing in mind: many of these same values contribute to one of my favorite things about Maine: tons of local beer. It seems everywhere we went I had no problem finding something local or pseudo-local on tap. Better yet, when I wasn’t drinking local beer, I was drinking great beer.
The map above helps outline the trip a bit – where these places are located, where our journey took us. Use the map to find links and locations for each of the below.
Sunday River Brewing
- Wheat (seasonal)
- Stout (seasonal) STRONG
Sunday River Brewing is actually in no way affiliated with the Sunday River resort at which we stayed. Apparently these guys moved in some time later and are simply ‘borrowing’ the name. Food and drink was …just OK.
Local pizza chain, had a drink while waiting for a to-go order. This was the only local beer on tap, but the fact they had one at all made me happy.
- Gritty’s Black Fly
- Bar Harbor Cole Porter
This place is probably where the younger locals hang out. Feels like drinking in your friend’s basement… if your friend happens to have a dozen or more very decent taps… and doesn’t clean very often. I didn’t mind it here, but it had somewhat of a ‘let’s throw down some bleach to cover up the smell of last night’s frat party’ aroma going on. Awesome beer, decent eats. I liked both of these beers – the Black Fly more than the Cole Porter. I’m not writing home on either, but I’d go back and I’d have another pint of each.
Legends at Sunday River
This was the restaurant at our hotel — we were the only patrons on the particular night we went (that’ll show us for vacationing at a ski resort during the summer). The bartender and the chef were awesome, the food was OK – one of the meals was great, the other was not. The bartender recommended this beer – an imperial pumpkin. I don’t like pumpkin beer, but as it goes it was fine – somewhat too sweet and spicy (nutmeg, allspice) for my tastes.
- Gritty’s best bitter (cask)
- Allagash Black
See my previous post: Creepy Cermaic Heads. ’nuff said… OK, I’d go back. This place was fantastic – top-notch service, food, and beer — in that order.
- Shipyard Export
- Shipyard Fuggles IPA
Meh… I think if I just came in from skiing in the dead of winter, this would be a great place to grab a drink. But I didn’t… and it wasn’t… so it was just OK. This had a sort-of ski lodge vibe going on – some pizza and sandwiches avail, nothing extraordinary.
- De Struise Black Albert (cask conditioned)
- Bockor Cuvee Des Jacobins Rouge
What can I say about this place that hasn’t already been said? Beer Advocate rates Ebenezer’s one of the best beer bars in the world… and I haven’t the depth of knowledge nor worldly experience to refute that statement. We drove an hour out of our way to come here, and didn’t think twice about it. I can say this was probably the best meal we had in Maine — lobster rolls (surprise), although this place is nowhere near the water. The Black Albert beer was created for them by the Belgian brewery De Struise and is truly world class. The afternoon we were there they were setting up for their annual Belgian beer festival — I can’t say we had the pleasure of attending, but they seem to know their Belgian food and drink and the setup was promising.
- Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale
- Atlantic Brewing New Guy IPA
Rupununi is more or less a touristy bar and grill. I was in Bar Harbor, I had to drink a blueberry beer… I didn’t want to, I didn’t enjoy it, but I did it anyway. I guess fruit beer isn’t my thing – but hey, to each their own. That New Guy IPA was pretty good though — solid dose of hops on the nose.
Nocturnem Draft Haus
- SN/DFH Life & Limb
- Dogfish Olde School Barleywine
Wow – what a find this place was– this one makes the “best of” album. We were in Bangor just for the night, and it was late on a Monday. Most of the nearby restaurants were closed, so this was our mirage in an otherwise-grim situation. Simple, elegant food with truly outstanding beer. 14 taps and a cask, all carefully chosen. This is a beer-lover’s bar that just happens to serve good food. Awesome vibe, outstanding overall. Reminded me a bit of The Porter bar in Atlanta.
DiMillo’s on the Water
We wanted to eat lobster by the water… and I wanted a light, refreshing, summery beer. Mission accomplished.
Here’s one you should NOT miss if you’re in Portland — granted you should probably like good beer… and, well, duck fat. Certainly not everything is made with duck fat, but the fries are cooked in it, and by golly it’s glorious. If that doesn’t sound good to you, at least do yourself a favor and check out the menu before you pass it over. One word: Poutine. Oh yeah… that beer was pretty darn good as well.
Boston: Honorable Mention
- Wormtown Be Hoppy
- Mayflower Pale Ale
Our trip took us just outside Boston, so I took us to find more good beer. We couldn’t find parking, the place was packed, we waited a solid 45 minutes to be seated… and Hurricane Irene was barrelling toward us, only hours away from striking. And it was worth it (mostly… except when we got home and our basement was flooded. That part was not worth it). Very good food and drink – recommended.
Take Homes (from Maine)
- Bar Harbor Thunder Hole Ale
Sorry to say, this beer was not particularly memorable… but I definitely remember drinking it.
Picked up a six-pack from a local convenience store. I still have 1 or 2 left — so what does that say? Well, it’s really not bad, just not great. I’d consider this a middle-of-the-road IPA, and the fact that it’s dark? Of little significance.
- Gritty McDuff’s Variety 12-pack
Ya know… when in Rome. I think this had their Pub-style, an IPA, and something else. The IPA was the least hoppy, strangely… I wish that Black Fly was in here. (Sigh…)
That about wraps it up – awesome trip, hope I get to go back someday. Thank you, Maine – to me you shall always be known as the “Great Poutine State”. Curious to know if anyone out there has been to any of these places. As always, leave your thoughts!