Thursday’s agenda included heading into Maine and starting our day off with a hike around Blueberry Mountain in Weld. The morning was warm and sunny; a nice contrast to the intermittent rain and overcast skies of the previous days. It was the perfect weather for beer and outdoor activities. However, the difficulty of our Mt. Washington hike the day before had left our legs sore and wobbly. Not wanting to waste the beautiful weather, we changed our plans to include a canoe adventure on Kezar Lake near our evening’s destination of Lovell.
Before embarking on our new adventure, we needed a little liquid sustenance in the way of a visit to Sunday River Brewing. The lush green scenery with which we’d become so familiar, continued as we traveled north of our day’s final destination. Choosing a route off the Laconia Bike Week path proved a good move, as the air was no longer punctuated with the loud rumblings from herds of Harley’s. We were excited to not only be getting away from the bikers, but also to be entering Maine because it meant the start of our own personal Lobster Fest.
Despite being waylaid by road detours, we found Sunday River Brewing in the crook of Mayville Road and Sunday River Road. The first thing we noticed was the large deck attached to the red-roofed white building. It was slightly humid out and I was still a bit leery of biting little bugs, but sitting outside was the logical place to enjoy the sunny sky.
We ordered their 6-beer taster set, which included a blonde, alt, IPA, and porter, plus two seasonal beers, a red and a brown. The beers were all highly carbonated, including the brown and porter; something that admittedly distracted me from the usually robust flavor of those two styles. We accompanied our brews with our first meal of Lobster Fest — lobster roll and lobster fritters.
Thinking about our romantic canoe trip on Kezar Lake, we continued south to Center Lovell to check into our B & B — the Center Lovell Inn and Restaurant, an establishment that has been featured in Everyday Rachel Ray and Martha Stewart Living. The large 19th Century house located a short distance from the lake, is romantically New England with its large screened porch. The interior is decorated with family antiques, creating a casual and welcoming atmosphere. We wouldn’t fully experience the warm hospitality of innkeeper Janice Sage until later, however.
First, we explored the area in search of canoe rental options. Disappointingly, we couldn’t find any. We did locate the “town beach,” but as Chris explained to me, town beaches are for the exclusive use of residents. People looked like they were enjoying themselves as kids with water wings splashed in the water and teenagers swam out to floating platforms. It reminded me a lot of my summers spent in Twain Harte.
Thwarted in our efforts, we moved onto our next plan for the day; a visit to the world famous Ebenezer’s Pub. Believe me, this was not a second-choice activity, as we already had plans to visit the place named as the #1 beer bar by both Beer Advocate and RateBeer.
The first thing that struck us about Ebenezer’s, and probably adds to its cache and charm, is the location. Situated down a dirt road in the woods, the view from inside Ebenezer’s is of a golf course. Unexpected, I know, but it didn’t detract at all from the remote roadhouse feel. It was late afternoon when we arrived and the only thing happening was a staff meeting. We sat outside on the screened-in porch to play a game of Scrabble. (As a native Californian, I was quickly becoming both aware and appreciative of the protective value and comfort of screened-in porches.)
The beer menu created excitement with the likes of Wild Pannepot, Cantillon Gueuze, and Petrus Aged Pale Ale. Much to Chris’ delight, there were a number of sours available and he didn’t hesitate to indulge himself with a Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour and Mestreechs Aajt. The only critique I would offer was that a fair portion of the beer offerings weren’t quite right for the warm, humid weather. This included an impressive selection of aged barleywines (Sierra Nevada’s Big Foot 2002-2004, Rogue’s Old Crustacean 2007, Old Marley 2006 and 2007) and stouts (Old Engine Oil, Porterhouse Plain). However, with 35 taps and an extensive bottled beer selection, there is bound to be something for everyone and every type of weather. I, for example, drank local with a refreshing Allagash White.
Chris and I also shared a cone of frites (which were perfectly cooked and oh so scrumptious) with house made mayo before continuing our Lobster Fest. No sharing where the lobster was concerned, we each ordered our own lobster roll. As you can see in the picture, it was basically one whole, intact lobster tail coated ever so lightly in mayo. One of the best lobster rolls we’ve ever had and we’ve had quite a few.
Chris and I could have easily kept going and remained at Ebenezer’s for hours on end. However, we were driving. We ended up making a fairly early night of it, which left us refreshed the next morning.
Having made our meal reservation the day before, in the morning we were treated to the most awe-inspiring breakfast I’ve ever had. The colorful beauty of the presentation was no ruse and it tasted just as good as it looked. Tasty, perfectly cooked bacon was hidden under two large slices of french toast, while a mountain of fruit topped with a pansy flower was both eye catching and fresh. Just one look at the picture above and you’ll know what I’m talking about. (Although Chris had already eaten his pansy flower when he snapped the photo) Janice, the innkeeper, served us with a happy demeanor and broad smile. It was a refreshing way to start our day and we appreciated her hospitality tremendously.
As a side note: our Ebenezer’s server had informed us that Janice makes the most amazing oatmeal cookies with dried cherries, and white and dark chocolate chips. Janice vowed to make us some for our next visit.
Between Center Lovell Inn’s welcoming hospitality and phenomenal breakfast to Ebenezer’s amazing beer selection, Lovell proved that even the most rural of locations can easily compete with large urban centers in offering excellent goods and services. It could be said that the area not only leveled the playing field, it held a distinct home advantage. Now that’s what I call “Lovelling the playing field.”