Sunday, May 23, 2010

Maine, 2010

Image borrowed

For the past week (May 15 - May 22), my family and I had the pleasure of visiting the state of Maine. My folks had traveled through Acadia National Park on their honeymoon, and they wanted to show us around the park. With that as the goal, my family opted to make a week long trip of it starting with two days in Portland, ME.

Portland, ME is a town that reminds me of Duluth, MN in that it is an old town that exists next to a large body of water, there is a college branch in both towns(U of MN Duluth & U of Maine Portland), each town has a brewery/brewpub (Fitgers for Duluth and Shipyard Brewing Company for Portland). Between the two, I prefer Portland. It has an old world aura in that it has cobble stone roads, old architecture, and it is not enveloped with the exhaust fumes from a paper mill (as is the case in Duluth).

While in Portland we took in the city, enjoyed the wharf, and stopped in at the best beer bar I have ever been to (Novare Res). You can see some pictures I took of & in Novare Res here. It had a fantastic beer selection (on draught and in bottle). Our first time there (we stopped back in on Friday 5/21/2010 for their 2nd anniversary party), a fellow who referred to himself as the Persian provided some back story for the beers offered by Novare Res, Novare Res itself, and he also gave us a growler as a souvenir from a place called Marshal Wharf Brewing Company which brews a beer special for Novare Res. I could go on about how great great the place is, but I'll save my breath and simply say that you owe it to yourself (as a beer fan) to make the time to visit it yourself.

The other beer related highlights/notes from the trip follow below:

- Belfast, ME: Marshal Wharf Brewing Company. We did not get to use the growler we were given by the Persian at Novare Res, but the Marshal Wharf Brewing Company has a nice setup in that the brewery + brewery gift shop is in its own building, and the restaurant the brewery feeds (3 Tides) is next door to the brewery. 3 Tides and the brewery rest along Belfast bay, and both have an exterior that look like works in progress in that their construction looked haphazard (the 3 tides website says it was started in 2003, so perhaps they are going for the haphazard look). Unfortunately, when we arrived at the brewery they were not open, and would not be open for a few hours. Thus, they will need to be visited again another time.

- In Bar Harbor, ME we tried some beer from the Atlantic Brewing Company. At the hotel we tried a bottle of their Honey Bragget Ale which is a barley wine style ale that uses wildflower honey. I thought it was enjoyable, but the heather honey dominated the flavor s little too much. My family and I also stopped by their brewery's restaurant for lunch. During lunch, we tried/shared a pint of their Bar Harbor Real Ale, the Special Old Bitter, their Scottish Ale, and their Coal Porter. It was a nice meal, and the beer was enjoyable.

- Back in Portland, ME we stopped at the following breweries:
  • Allagash Brewing Company: Is more beautiful/relaxed than I thought it would be. With how much press/great reviews they receive around Chicago (and around the web) I thought it would be a madhouse. According to our tour guide Allagash brews from 5a to 12a Monday to Friday. Allagash will also be adding onto to their current space before the year is through to help increase capacity to meet demand. I really really liked how Allagash had their brewery setup, the size of the windows around their brewery (bigger is better), and the music they had playing was great as well. Easily my favorite brewery of the breweries that we visited on this trip.

  • Maine Beer Company: Is a brewery that started recently (2009) by two brothers. One runs the administrative side of things, while the other brews their beer. They were easily the smallest of the breweries we visited, and I could only muster a talk with the brewing brother. I asked about their beer (if you get a chance try their Peeper ale and their Zoe ale), but they only offer it in cases from their brewery. Unfortunately, we visited them on our last day in Maine and drinking a case of beer was a tall order at the time. Next time I am in Portland, more of their beer will be enjoyed. Coincidentally, the Maine Brewing Company is located a block or two from Allagash. Real convenient to visit both should you ever be in the area.

  • Shipyard Brewing Company: This brewery was my family's and my least favorite of the breweries we visited. I understand every business has to make a profit, but the Shipyard tour was 60% encouraging the people on the tour to purchase stuff from the Shipyard gift shop, 20% tour, 20% taste testing. The tour guide was an impatient oaf who wanted to get through the tour, and paid no mind to the questions of the people on the tour (ex: my Dad inquired about where a person can get used brewing equipment and the tour guide brushed the inquiry aside with 'i cannot answer this right now'). Finally, I did not enjoy any of their beers that I tried. I tried the following from Shipyard: Export Ale (plain, no attractive qualities other than it was wet), Old Thumper (confirmed my anti-bitter ale stance), Shipyard IPA (Fuggles a British IPA make, but I did not care for it), Summer Ale, and Pugsley's Signature Series Barley wine (info on these beers and others can be found here).
Overall, the family trip to Maine was a great great time, and I really hope that we (my family and I) can go on many more family trips in the future.

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