2 days and 10 Breweries in Portland, Maine
Given the growing popularity of craft beer, it should come as no surprise that the Portland Maine is a venerable hotbed of activity. I had the pleasure of venturing out for 2 full days to sample as many breweries as I could. Here’s where I went and what I experienced, which will hopefully serve as a guide to other adventurous souls.
The first thing I learned is that the scene is changing so fast that breweries are constantly moving to expand and keep up with their growth. Thus, the map below will likely be totally outdated in 1-2 months so please double check before you go.
Day 1 (Saturday)
Brewery #1 Foundation Brewing Company
1 Industrial Way, Portland, ME 04103
Arrived at 1:00pm and got to sample 8 of 11 beers they had on tap. They just opened a new new tasting room on Oct 1st, so this was quite a treat. The had several picnic tables setup outside and I was able to enjoy a amazing fall day while sampling. The tasting room was bright and very nice, however I wasn’t blown away by any of the 8 that I tried. Nothing was bad at all…just nothing so remarkable that I would point people to a specific gem. The place was hoping with a healthy line the entire time I was there. While enjoying the samples, I learned that this building has essentially evolved as an incubator for breweries and that it’s constantly evolving. In fact, Bissell Brothers just moved out of the space that Foundation took over for their tasting room.
Brewery #2 Austin Street Brewery
1 Industrial Way, Portland, ME 04103
On the backside of the same building, I discovered what was one of my favorite spots on the tour. They seemed much smaller in every way then Foundation, serving only 3 drafts and only 1 bottle available to go. That said, I tasted all 3 and was blown away by all of them. I really admire a place that exhibits restraint and offers only quality products. Their tasting room was very small and unassuming, with just one register in a window almost like an old school ice cream shop. They also had picnic tables setup outside which were quite comfortable. They also maintained a healthy line the entire time I was there. I left wanting more…and can’t wait to see where things evolve for this young standout.
Brewery #3 Allagash Brewing Company
50 Industrial Way, Portland, ME 04103
A very short walk away is the biggest brewery in the area. Walking up, you get a sense that this is legit. Allagash White is how most people become familiar with them (account for 80% of their production), but they have some many other awesome beers as well. I arrived just in time for the 3:00 tour, which is a very educational walk through the various parts of the ever evolving brewery, sampling along the way which was a an added bonus. They have an awesome tasting room and outside patio that you’d ideally want to spend all day at. The place was packed and lively in a good way. Being as big as they are, they truly anchor the scene which would otherwise be a nondescript industrial park next to a Hannafords in the middle of nowhere. Sample the more obscure stuff that you can’t get outside of the brewery. I’m a big fan of what they’ve built.
Brewery #4 Fore River Brewing Company
45 Huntress Avenue, South Portland, ME 04106
A 15 min Uber later, I found myself at a really cool building that looks like a farmhouse that happens to brew beer. The inside is big and well decorated with beautiful wood beams, amazing light fixtures and comfortable surfaces that really stand out. As cool as it was, there were only about 5 people in the whole place and that really didn’t change much the entire time I was there. It could be that it’s all on it’s own, but there was a steady stream of regulars that came in for growler fills. The 5 beers I tried were all really good, but the standout was John Henry, a Milk Stout that they served on nitrous. Amazing mouthfeel, light and bitter with little aftertaste made it beyond drinkable. I’m not a stout fan in general, but this brew could turn me.
Brewery #5 Foulmouthed Brewing Company
15 Ocean Street, South Portland, ME 04106
Another 10 min Uber ride into an unassuming neighborhood landed me at the spot I planned to hit for dinner. The folks at Fore River pointed me here and man where they right. Their food was amazing…the beer not so much. I got their Poutine which was nothing short of amazing. They nailed this with the bacon lardons and melted cheese curds over perfect fries drenched in gravy. The whole next day, I pointed people here just for this dish. I sampled 3 beers and was really disappointed by all 3. That said, it was a cool restaurant and I’m glad I went.
Novare Res Bier Cafe
4 Canal Plaza, Suite 1, Portland, ME 04101
After dinner, I wasn’t done for the night, so I made my way to the beer bar that everyone said I needed to hit. Set down in a basement of a plaza, it was near impossible to find unless you knew where you were going. Thankfully my Uber driver was a fan. They’ve got an outside patio but given that it was getting chilly, I decided to hang out at the basement bar. While it’s not much to look at, this place really shines with it’s beer offerings and food pairings. I did what anyone who’s already been to 5 breweries would do…asked the locals what to get. Two people immediately pointed me in the direction of Woods and Waters from Maine Beer Company. Holy crap was it good! Bright and juicy, yet tart and piney on the finish. And if that wasn’t enough, they had cheese pairings to go along with it that just caped an amazing day. The place was hoping and continued to fill in behind me the longer I was there. Great place to end the night.
Day 2 (Sunday)
Brewery #6 Maine Beer Company
525 U.S. Route 1, Freeport, ME 04032
I’ve been a big fan of this brewery for a long time, so there’s no chance I was going to miss it on my trip. It’s the farthest away but well worth the 25 trip up to Freeport. I started here since it opened at 11AM and my next stop opened at noon. I walked in with a small crowd that was waiting for it to open, and immediately sampled 4 of the 8 they had on tap. Since I’ve had most of them previously, I went for the limited releases. And yes, I had Woods and Waters again…and it was still awesome. Mean Old Tom on Nitro was also pretty magical. They served Bavarian pretzels from When Pigs Fly (just up the street) which were awesome. By the time I left, the place was packed. And yes, I got some W & W to go. Glad I made the trip up.
Brewery #7 Bissell Brothers
4 Thompsons Point #108, Portland, ME 04102
So I got here right at noon when it opens and was greeted with a line 300 people deep. WTF? Keep in mind that it was raining, so the idiots like me who waited a full hour to get to the front of the line are in it to win it. I was told by several people that this is the most visit spot. They recently graduated from the 1 Industrial Way complex and moved into a cool warehouse location with a huge taproom. They are best known for Substance, which is a farmhouse style juice bomb IPA and man is it delish. Here’s the deal, they have this line every day they’re open, and when I made it to the front, I nearly lost out all together as they had just 5 cases of cans left for the day! So…get there early!!! They limit the allocations on both take out (2 4-packs per brand per person) and tastes (two 5oz or a single 10oz). I saw several families there in line with their kids to get extra allocation. Yea, it’s that insane! There’s an awesome friend chicken place next door (Big J’s Chicken) that’s got some awesome chicken and waffles.
Brewery #8 Oxbow
49 Washington Ave, Portland, ME 04101
Tucked away in a garage behind what looks like an other former garage, you’ll stumble into Oxbow’s blending & bottling room. As you walk in, you’ll see a ton of oak barrels flanked by a huge tasting hall. The place is very dark and dank, leading to the worst atmosphere of any spot I visited. They are really a speciality brewer which is focuses on more advanced palettes. Lots of sours and funky beers that goes well with any of the various artisanal cheese and charcuterie offerings. There were about 15 people in there the entire time I was there, and they were the least friendly bunch, both behind and in front of the bar. I wouldn’t hurry back anytime soon, but I appreciate that they found a way to stand out in a crowded bunch.
Brewery #9 Rising Tide Brewing Company
103 Fox Street, Portland, ME 04101
A short 10 minute walk landed me at the exact opposite vibe: bright, lively and super friendly. I sampled 4 of the 11 on tap, and then ordered a full pour of Daymark since it was so freaking good. Light, crisp and delicately floral, I’d come back for this beer alone time and time again. Service was great, even with the Maine Beer Bus there and a full house of patrons. They offered a tour but I skipped it this time. The other beers I tried were decent, but nothing to write home about. Interestingly, this was the first brewery that I had been to with a TV, so I was actually able to catch some of the Pats game that was on.
Brewery #10 Liquid Riot
250 Commercial St, Portland, ME 04101
A quick 5 min Uber landed me downtown on the waterfront. Liquid Riot has an amazing location, fun bar-like atmosphere and some seriously amazing beers. I sampled 4 of the 14 they had on tap, and all were awesome! They start their beer list with Oats M’goats, an 8.6% imperial stout served on nitro. A bold move to open with such a big beer, but it rivaled John Henry from Fore River in every way. Then I tried A Beer Has No Name which is an 8.2% DIPA which drank like a 4%. I would drink this all day long! Super bright and juicy…just the way I like it. Then I moved on to the insane NSFW, a 10% triple IPA. This drank like a 5% and would clearly put me on my ass if I kept drinking it. And if that wasn’t enough, I then moved on to the Spiritus Sancti which is an 11.2% Quad. This was like candy with a velvety smooth finish. These guys blew me away. I will absolutely be heading back! And they have a killer food menu and apparently fantastic distilled spirits.
43 Middle Street, Portland, ME 04101
Needing dinner (and a walk), I made my way to Duckfat on the recommendation of just about everyone I met over the weekend. When you go here (and you must), get the poutine with sunny side up egg and duck fat-fried brusssell sprouts. Their known for their poutine, and it did not disappoint. But the brussels stole the show. I made everyone around me order them and they couldn’t have thanked me enough. This place is super small and quaint, typically runs a hour+ wait and is everything I would have ever wanted to do if I opened my own restaurant. Their beer list was a “best of” this tour, so a great place to end the night. A Bissell Brothers Substance just caped off the perfection that this place embodies.
So, there you have it. 10 breweries in two very full days. Hopefully this will be helpful to the adventurers to come. Obviously there’s still a ton more places that I couldn’t make it to, but this is certainly a great start. I’d love to hear what I missed, so please leave a comment. Prost!