Maine currently has 83 craft breweries, which is funny because it is currently 83 years since prohibition was lifted in the state. Visiting all 83 is a challenge in just 3 nights (after all Maine is huge), fortunately for us more than 30 of them are located in or near Portland where we were based. Now, I don’t want to get your hopes up here and say we chalked them all off – we tried but could only visit a few and there was little to separate them in terms of quality.
Want to go drinking? What’s your strategy?
1. Go for a walk about town
If you wander aimlessly around the streets of the Old Port District you will undoubtedly happen upon of its many independent craft breweries. The Sebago Brewing Company for example offers the most reasonably priced beers at just $5 a pint. If you’ve got time stop for food – the shrimp ‘po boy’ for example is an excellent complement to their ale.
For the more adventurous palette try the Liquid Riot Bottling Company down by the waterfront; they have an extensive selection of in house brews ranging from velvety nitro injected stouts to mule-kicking 10% triple IPAs like”NSFW”.
This brewery/bar offered a chance to sample each beer in 4oz measures which gives your more of a fighting chance to get through the menu! Beware: American beers are strong! Most are above 5% abv and a significant proportion are over 6.5%. Those US-sized food portions definitely come in handy when it comes to soaking up the booze!
2. Take a guided tour
Not feeling brave enough to go out on foot? Then sign up to a guided brewery tour. The Maine Brew Bus is recommended by near enough everyone and we echo that endorsement. It’s a fun thing to do (especially at 11am Monday morning!) and you get to learn loads about the brewing process. Andy (or Wink as he called himself that day) was our guide and drank with us throughout the tour! My dream job! They did of course have a sober driver.
We stopped off at 2 breweries (Geary’s and Maine Mead Works) and a bar belonging to another local brewery (Oxbow). Touring the breweries was reminiscent of the labs below the laundry company in Breaking Bad – huge kettles in which the beer ferments to perfection!
This is a tin foil sculpture in the Mead Works, we saw a few dotted around town the night before. Apparently they were created by a local homeless person who has since passed away. He would head into shops and sculpt these works of art for just a few bucks. Legend has it, he could make absolutely anything you asked of him!
The US is often thought of as knowing nothing about beer with the likes of Budweiser, Coors and Miller dominating the shelves. Craft beer has come a long way in just a few years in the US and it’s obvious that beer is a big part of America’s way of life. Just to hear our fellow tour-goers talk about Saisons, IPAs and Sours as us Brits would talk about types of tea was astonishing!