Beerchasing (and Ubiquity *1) in Maine

Stormy seas along the Acadia Park Loop Road

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  If you are seeing this on your phone, click  on the caption at the top to access the blog.)

After three-days in New York City and then a short two-day stay in rural Bridgton, Maine, we spent three days exploring Acadia National Park.  

We stayed in Sourthwest Harbor – population 1,778a little village about fourteen miles from Bar Harbor – population 5,394 – a larger burg, but the former has far fewer people and is not a docking point for cruise ships and SW Harbor still offers some nice amenities and great access to the Park.

Bar Harbor

(The two previous posts of Thebeerchaser related our stay in New York City and then Bridgton, Maine before going to Arcadia – see links)

Maine is a wonderful state – a lot like our Oregon.  The cities of Portland in each state are both jewels and are worth visiting or residing!  (However, different outer garments, are recommended….)

Before the narrative below on sights and breweries/bars we visited in Maine, let’s talk ubiquity (*1)  – six categories that are emblematic of “The Pine Tree State” – most of which we repeatedly witnessed on our delightful trip throughout the state.

Beals” Lobster Shack in SW Harbor

Lobster Shacks – Maine is the largest producer of lobster in the US with 130 million pounds of lobster valued at $533 million in 2016.   The eateries are everywhere you look.  (Portland Press Herald

Dunkin Donut Shops – There are about 150 of these shops in Maine – one for every 8,276 people.   Their coffee is excellent and more available than Starbucks.  (Lewiston Sun Journal)

Self-service Wood Sales  It seems that most rural residents make some extra income by selling bundles of firewood to campers or winter vacationers.   These little structures dot the road. 

Most are $3 (on the honor system) and we got a kick out of the sales pitch of one: “Organic Wood.”  We didn’t check to see how that was certified.

Portland Head Lighthouse

Lighthouses – While Michigan has the most, Maine has over sixty and we saw three beautiful structures close-up including Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse and the Portland Head Light.

Bass Harbor Lighthouse

 

Lakes – There are apparently 6,000 water bodies in Maine greater than an acre in size and approximately 2,200 of these are named lakes. (“Science Answers”).

Eagle Lake in the heart of Acadia National Park – our favorite lake

We rode the 6.1 miles around Eagle Lake on one of the Carriage Roads.  There are fifty-seven miles of Carriage Roads that weave through Acadia National Park and are open to hikers, bicyclists and horses.

One travels through great scenery with no autos.  They are a wonderful legacy to John D. Rockefeller who gave millions to build these paths from 1913 to 1940.  They also have some beautiful stone bridges along the way. 

Scene along the Carriage Roads

Moose – well although Maine is supposed to have scads of them, we talked to a lot of people including locals and none had ever seen one.  According to: https://visitmaine.com/things-to-do/wildlife-watching/moose-watching

“Maine is lucky enough to be one of only a few states in the U.S. that has a sizeable moose population.  State biologists estimate that the Maine moose population to be around 75,000 – that’s the largest concentration of moose in the country next to Alaska.”

Okay, we weren’t in exactly wild areas, but  I was determined to have an “encounter.”   So I eventually brought one back to Oregon  – now a favorite coffee mug along with my Benedictine Brewery stein……I got the former at the Stow Corner Store in Stow, Maine – population 425. 

Favorite coffee mug…

 

 

 

 

 

And as you might expect, the last category of ubiquitous Maine features, but very important:

Breweries – While not getting bogged down in a myriad of statistics, suffice to say that the micro-craft industry is thriving in Maine.

According to one portal on national brewery figures, the leading brewery states – per capita in ranked order are Vermont, Montana, Maine, Oregon and Colorado.  Vermont has 11.5 per 100,000 people with Maine at 9.6 and Oregon at 8.5)

Significant economic impact….

The Maine Brewers Guild states that Maine has 89 breweries whereas, according to Oregon Craft Beer, our state has “281 breweries operated by 228 companies in 79 cities across Oregon with 77 people in Portland and 117 in the Portland Metro area.” (6/30/18)

As stated in another website – maybe not the most authoritative –  but this is not a graduate thesis:

“So the overall economic value of Maine beer to the state economy is between that of potatoes and lobster……..over one-third of overnight visitors to Maine (like Thebeerchaser and his wife…) report that going to local brewpubs or craft breweries was a major interest for their Maine trip.”

The afternoon, after our Oli’s Trolley tour of the Loop Road, we visited Atlantic Brewing right in downtown Bar Harbor.  We liked the modern lines of the tasting room and met two nice couples sitting at the bar – from North Carolina and Tennessee – extending their visit until Hurricane Florence had dissipated.

The bartender, although he only had worked there for a few months was very knowledgeable about their beer and the brewing process besides being generous in letting us sample their beers.

All of those we sampled were very good and we solved the problem by getting their five-beer sampler – a very colorful  lineup with our two favorites the Marko Polo  Red Ale (5.4%) and Lil Guy IPA (5.4%) a session IPA with citrus and tropical fruit flavors. (the second and fourth from the left respectively,)  

Atlantic – founded as Acadia Brewing in 1990, has expanded twice and now has two locations – the primary brewery is on a ten-acre farm a few minutes from Bar Harbor.

The tasting room we visited is “a site to develop new and exciting small batch beers only seven barrels at a time. This pilot facility allows fellow brewers from around the state, country, and world to collaborate on unique recipes and formulations in a shared environment.” (Atlantic Brewing Co. website)

Back in SW Harbor for dinner, I said to Janet that it had been quite a few years since I had tried lobster in Maine – Janet doesn’t like it – so we tried Beal’s Lobster Pier – only a few hundred yards from our bed and breakfast.   I tried a formidable, but not the largest lobster, with an Allagash White Ale.  My dinner without the beer set us back about $38.

Based on the taste and the challenge to eat it, I’m glad I tried it again, but after the two experiences, I will always opt for a steak or other seafood in the future or maybe get lobster roll instead of doing all the work myself.

I might add that I did not have guilt over the fate of the lobster although if I had known about Bale’s competitor down the street as featured in a Maine Press report after we returned, we might have gone to Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound.

Lobster “Pot”

“Charlotte Gill (owner) ….. told the Portland (Maine) Press Herald that she had been looking for a way to reduce the suffering of her signature menu item. 

She experimented with blowing marijuana smoke into a tank……to sedate her crustaceans before cooking them – granting them, she says a blissfully humane death.”

As one might expect:

“People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which once tried to erect a gravestone for lobsters killed in a truck crash, is opposed to boiling lobsters alive under any circumstances.  ‘It is highly unlikely that getting a lobster high would make a lick of difference when it comes to the full-blown agony of being boiled or steamed alive, PETA said…..”

That afternoon, we strolled through “downtown” Bar Harbor and stopped at the quaint Cottage Street Pub.

We enjoyed sitting on the patio overlooking one of the main streets and split a Maine Brewery – Woods and Water IPA  (6.2%) – appropriately named!    They had a number of good Maine beers on tap.

September after Labor Day and before the “foliage peepers” who invade New England from late September through most of October is the best time to visit Maine.

While Bar Harbor was still bustling, the crowds there and in the park were not bad. Sitting on the patio overlooking one of the main streets was a treat.

The Cottage Street Pub – right in the heart of Bar Harbor and with good beer on tap

 

That night we ate dinner at the bar of one of our favorite restaurants on the trip – Sips in Southwest Harbor.   While Janet had an excellent pasta dish, I decided after my ill-fated encounter with the crustacean the night before, to have a hanger steak – a good choice.

However, the highlight for me was a Happy Hour Bloody Mary.  For $5 I relished the best looking cocktail, I’ve had in a long time.  Multiple olives, lemon, lime and bacon!

For a nightcap, we hit the Island Bar, a cubbyhole down the street with some great signs and some cordial regulars.  It had one side open to the street with a portable heater supplying the warmth. 

They talked about how the town and the surrounding communities would lose most of their tourists and many of their residents and the year-rounders hunkered down for the harsh Maine winters.  (The bartender was headed for Colorado to snowboard, while Hank, our driver/guide on Oli’s Trolley and his girlfriend were heading to Florida.)

We split an Atlantic Brewery Bar Harbor Pale Ale and skipped the bar’s “Margarita-of-the-Month – a blueberry mango.”

Our final morning in the Park was spent driving to the summit of Cadillac Mountain.  While the elevation of this peak pales in comparison to the mountains we see in the Pacific Northwest, it is noteworthy:

“It’s the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and the first place to view the sunrise in the United States from October 7 through March 6…”

The view is outstanding and there is a walkway that provides vistas in every direction of the Park.

We made a quick trip to another pristine lake – Echo Lake, just before leaving the park .

We then were on our way down the Maine coast- south on US Highway 1 – the Coastal Route through Camden and to our next destination Rockland, Maine.

As an aside, a wonderful resource we used to help plan our trip both in Acadia National Park and in Portland Maine afterwards is the blog National Parks USA – A Tour of Public Lands and National Parks with T.

Theresa, the author, gives useful tips, historical background and has stunning photos on many of the National Parks and Monuments and related public lands – treasures we should not take for granted.  You should check out her blog!

https://nationalparkswitht.com/exploring-the-nps-with-t/

My intention is for this blog to serve as a resource for people with the same passion for the parks as me by tagging the units I review by state and including any off-the-beaten-path recommendations I have to offer.  At the very least, it will serve as a travelogue, a remembrance of where I’ve been and a reminder of where I still need to go.

(*1) The use of the word “ubiquity” is meant as a tribute to both my SAE fraternity brother and college roommate, Craig “The Dude” Hanneman – Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter in August, 2012 and Kirby Neuman-Rea, News Editor of the Hood River News.

New York City and On to Beerchasing in Maine


We started our ten-day trip to the East Coast with three-days in New York City.  (See the last post of Thebeerchaser for the initial glimpse of our time in NYC).

My only regret is I didn’t get a sausage too…

The last of three and one-half in the City was filled.   After starting with an excellent Apple Fritter at one of the many street carts, we boarded the subway for the ride to the 911 Memorial and Museum.

Words are not adequate to describe the emotions one experiences when walking through the museum after entering through the magnificent rebuilt One World Trade Center.

I remember that morning listening to NBC News seventeen years ago as I was getting ready for work, but to view the pictures and videos, hear the 911 calls, see material such as stationery and calendars pulled from the wreckage and witness the former foundational structure conveys new meaning.  

 

That afternoon, we walked around Midtown and before our Broadway play that Friday evening, stopped and had a pint at the excellent District Tap House – it’s actually two bars.

In the heart of the Garment District on Friday night

The smaller rear bar at the back.

They have an extensive tap list with over fifty beers.

Over 50 Draft Beers to selec

Given our initial encounter at our hotel the day before, we split another Brooklyn Brewing Defender IPA.

It was a friendly place with a Friday vibe as you can see from this picture of Janet and the “bouncer” at the entrance.

We then walked up Broadway to our theater to see the highly recommended play – “Once on This Island.”

“Revised and Ravishing…! Winner of 2018 Tony for Best Revival of a Musical

Part of our interest was the lead – a young woman, Haily Kilgore, who attended Clackamas High School in Oregon for two years and was a star in the Portland theater scene before furthering her education in New York and being cast as Ti Moune  in this Broadway revival. She was nominated for a 2018 Tony Award.

An Oregon transplant..

The theater-in-the-round experience was delightful, and Kilgore and the cast outstanding as evidenced by this excerpt from the 12/17/17 New York Times review entitled “Revived and Ravishing:”

“….and Mr. Arden’s (Director) staging serves his top-to-bottom terrific cast of black, and Hispanic and Asian actors beautifully.”  

On the morning of our fourth day, we took the morning Amtrak to Boston.  Although we had some great food in the City, my favorite meal was the lox and cream-cheese bagel I ate on my lap in the Penn Station waiting area.

Nice train ride….

The view from the window of our coach as we departed on d the four-hour trip to Boston was outstanding.  The coach-bus for the additional hour ride to Portland, Maine and the Amtrak ride were both clean and pleasant.

We picked up our rental car for the next week at the Portland Airport – a trusty Volkswagen Beetle This one was an automatic not like the stick shift on my college-era Beetle that had no gas gauge and a one-gallon reserve tank you switched on manually.   (This one may be the last time in a Beetle since VW is discontinuing the line.)

We stayed at a nearby hotel after dinner at the Sea Dog Brewery by the airport – one of nine locations in Maine, New Hampshire and Florida for this brewery founded in 1993.

Not much ambiance in this brewpub – kind of reminded me of the Portland (or Denver or Chicago or …..) version of the Rock Bottom Brewery franchise. 

That said, the staff was courteous and they had sixteen beers on tap.   I really enjoyed Sea Dog’s award-winning Windjammer Blonde Ale (4.8%) and Janet’s Deep Stowage IPA (6.14%) a dry-hopped cask ale, which is not itemized on their website, also got a good rating. 

We drove through rural areas about forty miles north to Bridgton, Maine, where our Oregon friends, Roy Lambert and Mary Maxwell – frequent Beerchasers in Oregon, have a picturesque home named “Pinehaven” on one of Maine’s many beautiful lakes.

Our two-day stay with them was filled with hikes, kayaking on the lake and hitting some great nearby pubs.  They have both been very active in the Lakes Environmental Association – an important initiative to preserve the pristine nature of this natural resource throughout Maine.

Two of the interesting pubs we visited were Ebenezer’s in the historical town of Lovell, settled during the Revolutionary War and incorporated in 1800.  Ebenezer’s adjoins a golf course and is in an old house which includes a wonderful screened porch where we ate and also has a beautiful inside bar.

Picturesque lighted screened porch

The pub has won a number of awards and asserts it’s the “17-Time # 1 Best Beer Destination in the World.”   I didn’t inquire the source of this rating, but their incredible selection of beers is notable as described in this excerpt from a review on Thrillist:

“With more than 700 bottles available and a huge tap selction of Belgian rarities and favorites, Ebenezers has about 1.5 different beers stocked for each of its tiny hometown’s residents.”

That’s where I had my first of many Alagash White Ales (5.0%) on the trip – one of the most popular beers in Maine.  It’s cloudy and white with coriander and orange and was outstanding.

Outstanding Belgian White

Alagash Brewing, founded in Portland, Maine in 1995 now distributes its Belgian-inspired brews to seventeen states.

Ebeneezer’s also had outstanding food including our Reubens and Quesadillas.  This Trip Advisor (7/9/18) review describes it aptly:

Fantastic Food and Beer. This eclectic restaurant is a hidden gem. There is an amazing selection of beer and the menu was vast and most delicious.”

It was definitely one of the best establishments of the many we visited on the trip.

1.5 kinds of beer for every resident….

The next day we took a healthy jaunt on a 2.3 mile trail through Pondicherry Park – a 68 acre gem in the heart of downtown Bridgton  -population 5,384!

Roy and Mary have contributed time and money to improve and maintain it and there are streams, woodlands and abundant wildlife in this family-oriented park..

There are a number of small but innovative obstacles courses along the Pinehaven Trail – gifts of the Lambert-Maxwell family. One of the entrances is through a memorial covered bridge.

The next day after touring rural Maine, we hit an idiosyncratic but cool pub for dinner – the Standard Gastropub right on Main Street in Bridgton. 

This former gas station and mini-market was converted into a gas station and pub which is know for good comfort food and a large selection of beers – both bottled and on tap. 

That’s where we first tried the Kresge Kolsch (4.8%) from Cushnoc Brewing in Augusta, Maine and Bissel Brothers’ Brewing of Portland Maine flagship beer – Substance Ale (6.6%).

We love trying “local” beers and supporting small breweries – a good choice on both beers that night.  Bissel Brothers was founded in 2013 and has already expanded while Cushnoc was founded in 2017.

Nothing fancy – but good food and a LOT of beer options!

Early on Monday, we set out and drove north to Bar Habor and Acadia National Park“Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast.” 

We checked into our quaint bed-and-breakfast – the Harbor Cottage Inn in SW Harbor and took Oli’s Trolley for a 2.5 hour tour of the Acadia Park Loop Road – the best way to get an overview of the park and avoid traffic problems. 

The weather was a bit stormy and windy which made the view along the coastline that much better.

The next post will narrate what we saw in the Park and some of the watering holes in both SW Harbor and Bar Harbor – two wonderful Maine Villages.