(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser. If you are seeing this on your phone, click on the caption at the top to access the blog.)
We stayed in Sourthwest Harbor – population 1,778 – a 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.
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.
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.
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.
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”).
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.
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.
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)
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.
“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.
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.
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!
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.