After five great days in New England, we finally reached the most important day of the trip. Day six was our 22nd Wedding Anniversary. And what better way to spend the day with my wife, best friend and beer travel partner than in one of our favorite American cities, Portland, where even more lobster and beer awaited us.
We left Lovell mid-morning for the hour long drive to our first stop of the day. After four days of driving in the middle of nowhere, Baxter Brewing in Lewiston, proved difficult to find. All those cars and buildings were so much a distraction that both driver and navigator missed the right turn for the brewery. But we quickly recovered from our mistake and with a series of turns, located the brewery.
Opened last fall, Baxter is housed in a beautifully restored old mill. Their small tasting room fronts an expansive brick-walled brewery space. Having plenty of room was good as they have already expanded production capacity in their short time in business. For the can-heads, Baxter is the first brewery in Maine to can all their beers.
It was early in the day, so Merideth and I were the only two customers. Our hostess, Steff, enthusiastically poured us samples of their flagship brew, Pamola Xtra Pale Ale. At 4.9% ABV and 27 IBUs, it was a very drinkable, first beer at 11am, type of beer. Or perfect for hot and humid weather we experienced in Maine.
A Pamola is the moose-like creature in their logo. From a Penobscot legend, the Pamola had the head of a moose, the body of a man, and the wings and talons of an eagle. Pretty freaky if you ask me!
Baxter’s other production beer was Stowaway IPA, a brew familiar to my West Coast palate. At 6.9% ABV and 69 IBUs, Stowaway had an assertive, hop-forward flavor and underlying light-ish body.
We finished our tasting with two test brews. The Red Ale was a good example of the style but the star was their Mild. Of the four beers we sampled, the Mild was my favorite.
We thanked Steff for her time and departed with a bit of Baxter swag and a six-pack of Stowaway IPA. We continued our journey on to Portland.
This was only our second visit to Portland. But I have to say, no visit to Maine’s largest city is complete without visiting The Great Lost Bear. The original Maine beer institution, the Bear is THE place to find local beer.
The dimly lit interior was comfortably cool, an oasis from the hot and humid weather. We took our familiar positions at the bar. Despite being our next stop, Merideth and I both ordered beers from Maine Beer Company. Merideth ordered her beloved Peeper, while I went the latest offering from our favorite Maine brewery, Lunch IPA.
Maine Beer Company was a last minute addition to our previous trip to Maine. Visiting the brewery, we met co-owner David Kleban. Their story was one of a pair of brothers starting a brewery with glorified homebrewing equipment. The plan was to build a market for their brews first. If they could do that, the ‘real’ brewery would be built.
In the subsequent twenty months, Merideth and I followed their progress from afar. From the glorified homebrewing beginnings, their now highly sought after brews are distributed in three States, Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts. And kegs are on the way very soon.
We returned to Maine Beer Company to see the changes. Joining their regular Friday 2pm tour, we were amazed by what we saw. The shiny new brewery was quite different from the pot on the burner from our first visit. With his low key, matter of fact manner, David told our group about the beers and the brewery. We also got to meet David’s brother Dan for the first time. Dan has been the brewer for Maine Beer Company from the beginning, but only recently, due to the high demand for their beers, was he able to quit his day job. It was really nice to see success come to good people.
Our visit to Maine Beer Company concluded the preliminary activities for our Anniversary Day. It was time to head to Portland’s Old Port for the main events.
Once this trip was decided in early Spring, there was only one place that we would have our Anniversary dinner, J’s Oyster on Portland’s waterfront. Despite the rainy weather that came in, Merideth and I grabbed one of the available tables outside. As the rain dripped off the awning above us, we drooled at the thought of the upcoming lobster feast.
We hardly had to look at the menu except to choose a beer. Merideth and I both went with Allagash White to accompany our lobster. We also both ordered lobster rolls. But from here our paths diverged. Merideth started with the lobster stew she fell in love with on our last visit. Again she marveled at the huge chunks lobster in the broth, something we don’t see on the West Coast. I didn’t need any broth with my lobster so I ordered the lobster cocktail as a starter. And a dozen raw oysters (Don’t judge me. it was our anniversary… ).
J’s Oyster was everything we remembered it to be. We left with full tummies, huge smiles and the knowledge we had one more day in Portland. We would be back!
The last Anniversary Day stop was Novare Res Bier Café. We fell in love with Novare Res on our first visit. Beyond the world class beer list, Novare Res just has a great look and feel. If we ever opened our own beer bar, Novare Res would be the blueprint.
More Maine Beer Company brews were ordered. Again, Merideth went with Peeper while I ordered Lunch IPA for myself. Joined by a former Monterey-ite and friend, we chatted the evening away. Shahin, the personable and friendly manager of Novare Res, joined our conversations when time permitted.
Later, we toasted our anniversary with a bottle of 2007 Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus. It was a great way to finish a great day. Drinking amazing beer, hanging out with friends, old and new. We wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.