These days, with over 4000 breweries and brewpubs in the US, many people tie a craft beer brewery and beer bar tour into their summer vacation and call it a “Beercation”. Our family decided to do a beercation last month on the way to Bar Harbor, Maine.
If Maine is the self-proclaimed “Vacationland”, then it’s most popular city, Portland, is Craft beer land. Its world class beer bars and breweries put it on any beer geeks “must see” map.
Just about every beer geek I spoke to back home said we had to stop in a bar named Novare Res. The name means “to start a revolution” in Latin and that’s exactly what owners Eric and Julie Michaud have started in Portland’s beer world. After traveling abroad experiencing some of Europe’s best beer cultures, they decided to bring a taste of those cultures to Maine in 2008.
Portland’s best beer bar is also the hardest to find. We had to ask twice and finally just got lucky and saw the small sign hanging over a narrow alleyway. Walking under a trellis hung with hop vines we entered a dark, cave-like bar with exposed brick and copper ceilings. Their 33 taps have a good representation of both local (Oxbow, Liquid Riot, Maine Beer co) and international (Bavik, Hofstetten, Ducotto) brews. There is a more private side room with comfy couches and a vault containing small wooden “lockers” for patron’s personal beer goblets and chalices.
We decided to sit outdoors on their spacious but crowded deck. The beer garden was hopping with a mix of 20 somethings and young families, some playing corn hole. We were lucky to walk in just as a large group was leaving and the 8 of us took over the vacated picnic table. The fences were decorated with cartoon murals and stylish graffiti. A small tiki bar poured just 4 beers by Oxbow. I ordered their saison # 37 which was refreshing and a little spicy.
The menu is mostly light beer fare with an emphasis on cured meats and cheeses. We got several orders of hot Bavarian pretzels which were soft and perfect when dipped in the house made cheese sauce.
Moving up the ABV (Alc. By Vol) ladder I opted for a Bavik Petrus Dubbel Bruin which tasted a little dirty and didn’t do it for me. Doreen ordered a Tripel karmeliet (her “favorite beer in the world”) from the extensive bottle menu and we split it. It was nice to have this option if the tap menu is not to your liking.
The group sampled and sipped a variety of brews while munching on hot pretzels. We all agreed that we would need more sustenance, so we walked down the street to Gritty’s Brew Pub.
Gritty’s claims to be Portland’s original brewpub; the first to open since Prohibition. That head start didn’t seem to help much as far as the beer was concerned. I ordered a flight of 8 beers but didn’t really like any of them enough to get a full pour. The burgers were solid and everyone seemed happy with their meal.
On our way out we heard a band playing out back. We wondered into a fenced in patio where couples of all ages were dancing to Motown hits. The younger members of our group were happy to stay and dance but Dor and I had one more stop to make.
A short walk to the harbor brought us to Liquid Riot, a brewery started by the owners of Navare Res. The outside of this hulking blue building is non-descript but inside they have created a comfortable, open space out of this former distillery. We sat outback on the water overlooking the dockyards and a narrow sliver of the harbor. I had a hoppy wheat beer and Dor drank a nice pilsner.
We finished the night off back at the dance party working off our burgers and beers. The parents called it quits early while the young ones continued on into the wee hours. On the walk back to the hotel we made plans for tomorrow’s big adventure: Allagash Brewery!