“So you’re going to Portland?! I LOVE Oregon!”
“Yeah, we do too, but we’re not going to THAT Portland…”
This trip, we headed to the East Coast. And our first day’s agenda had us doing a quick afternoon in one of our favorite cities. Yes, THAT Portland.
We started things off with a bite of lunch at J’s Oysterhouse in the Old Port area. A bit touristy perhaps, but no trip to Portland would be complete for us without it. We prefer sitting outside, but on this nice sunny day, everyone else did, too. Nothing could deter us from getting our afternoon off right, though, so seats at the bar suited us just fine. Besides, there could be nothing better than a lobster roll and Allagash White to get us ready for our walking beer tour of the city.
From J’s, Bunker Brewing was only a 20-minute walk into the East Bayside area of the city. Housed in a small red brick building, Bunker is a hidden gem. On the day we went, they had 3 beers to sample. However, our host informed us that they have brewed around 30(!) different beers in the 17 months since they opened.
Our three choices were Holdfast Black Ale (nicely brewed with a heavy roast flavor), Black Pearl (a surprisingly mellow yet robust smoked oyster stout) and Machine, a tasty Czech Pils with a pronounced grainy/bready character.
The weather was sunny and pleasant, which made the darker beers tough to choose. We both enjoyed our Pils served in the ever-popular mason jar out on their deck. With such a deep recipe book, chances are you may not taste the same beers twice during a visit to Bunker and you’re bound to find one you like.
We highly anticipated our next stop, Rising Tide Brewing. They had expanded since our last visit to Portland in 2011 and it is now conveniently located right around the corner from Bunker. It’s always nice to see good breweries grow.
Our last visit included watching owner/brewer Nathan Sanborn standing over a large homebrew kit stirring his brew. We couldn’t sample the beer that time, which meant the brewery was not added to The List. We simply chatted with Nathan, bought a few bottles and left. During this visit all that would change!
We walked into the new brewery to see Nathan off in the corner of the good-sized warehouse peering into his kettle. What a difference 2 years can make! Rising tide had 6 beers going, including Daymark and Ishmael, the two beers we were already familiar with. Joining the line-up were Spinnaker (German-style Hefeweizen, 4.5%), Maine Island Trail Ale (American Pale Ale, 4.3%), Thing Two (a new pilot Roggenbier), and Zephyr (IPA, 7.2%).
Tasting room manager, Stasia, was very friendly and helpful as we sampled the beers. I especially enjoyed Spinnaker and Chris, of course, leaned toward Zephyr. The Maine Island Trail Ale was also tasty and we bought a few bottles to bring home. The beer was described as a “hoppy American ale.” I found it to be a refreshing balance of malt backbone with accents of pine and citrus. The other great thing about the beer is that it celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Maine Island Trail Association, a group dedicated to combining access with stewardship of Maine’s wild islands. A portion of proceeds benefit the Maine Island Trail Association, so you can drink great beer while contributing to a great organization. There were so many exciting things about this visit to Rising Tide, but the most special of all is that it was finally added to The List, #808.
With a music duo and a food truck out front, it was hard to leave Rising Tide, but we scheduled a meet up with the guys from the Maine Brew Bus at In’finiti Fermentation & Distillation back in the Old Port area.
In’finiti is the sister brewery/distillery to Novare Res, the famed awesome beer café in Portland. There we hooked up with Zach and Don from the Maine Brew Bus, the original beer tour company in Portland. We discussed beer growth and politics over pints of In’finiti’s Mar-Gose-Rita (a traditional Gose) and their Belgian table beer. Both were very tasty. They also had the Blk Abt (Belgian Royal Stout), War Dark, and Rauchbier on, but without a taster set available we didn’t get a chance to taste these.
In’finiti feels a bit upscale and pretentious, but is still very comfortable. The décor is beautiful—from the shiny brew kit and distillery to the repurposed furniture. The food was also good. We were told we HAD to try the chicarrones, which, as basically fried pork belly bits, did not disappoint. I also got a taste of a green hummus-type dip with flatbread, which was also very good.
We especially enjoyed talking with the Maine Brew Bus guys and their significant others. Super nice guys, they are very knowledgeable about beer, Maine beer in particular, and Portland beer history, which I thought made for especially good beer tour guides. Be sure to check them out when you visit Portland.
After our time with Zach and Don, we were on the move again to the last stops on our quick trip to Portland.
We swung by J’s again for our second lobster meal of the trip before ending our evening at Novare Res, an absolute must stop during any visit to Portland, Maine. We had yet to drink some Maine Beer Company beer, so a stop at Novare Res guaranteed that we’d be able to do so. We enjoyed a bottle of Another One and Weez, as well as several other tasty beers whose names I cannot recall right now. You know what beer travel is like and this was one of those blurred evenings…
We tried to make an early night of it, as we had come into town on a red eye flight and were operating on only a few hours sleep. With such an amazing beer list, that’s no easy feat at Novare Res, but we did manage to tear ourselves away from the bar at a reasonable hour. Besides, we needed our beauty sleep before our first ever live TV interview the next morning at 6:30am.