And who was I to say no? After all, what better way to get a feel for the unique, diverse and downright awesome craft beer industry in Maine than by experiencing it with fellow beer lovers? So in early June, I hopped in the car with my pals Jason Ridley and Zach Pushard to see what was brewing in Maine’s microbrew capital.
Our first stop was at the birthplace of multiple local breweries including Rising Tide Brewing Company and Maine Beer Company, One Industrial Way, located near the intersection of Forest Avenue and Riverside Drive in Portland. We chose the unofficial craft brew incubator to learn more about the new guys in town, Foundation Brewing Company and Bissell Bros. Brewing Company. These new kids on the block, so to speak, have set up shop right across the street from long time craft beer powerhouse, Allagash Brewing Company. And in perfect freshman form, we found the garage doors open with the two breweries open for visitors that were flooding the parking lot in block party fashion on this beautiful, sunny Saturday.
We arrived at Foundation Brewing and were immediately welcomed in by the staff serving up delicious samples of their tasty brews. I was first handed the Eddy, a Saison with the perfect summertime feel. We headed into the brewery with our samples in hand and immediately run into John Bonney, co-founder of the brewery. John was watching a small group of visitors play beanbag toss in amongst mash tuns and brewing vessels.
“It’s all about getting people in here, having a good time, and tasting our beer.” Bonney said with a smile.
We discuss the appeal of the building for start up brewers with its cement floors and drainage; John also explains to us that each week they offer a new infused Saison. Each weeks flavor is created with whatever inspires John or partner Joel Mahaffey.
“It may be an exotic fruit, or it may be the smell of Thai food when I’m walking down the street. It keeps it fun.” Bonney said.
We sampled that weeks experiment, an infused lemon and lime Saison, which was perfect for the weather. It was light and fruity and we couldn’t help but savor every drop knowing it would be replaced the following week.
After leaving Foundation Brewing we walked next door to visit Bissell Bros. Like Foundation, a large gathering spilled out into the parking lot. We meandered through the group and found our way to the tasting bar. Knowing we would not likely make it back to the bar and be able to keep our schedule, we went right for the flagship Substance Ale.
As we enjoyed the sweet and slight bitter notes that keep this beer in such high demand, we watched 6-pack after 6-pack go out the door with true Substance Ale lovers.
Eager to continue our journey, we head off to the Bayside neighborhood to visit Rising Tide Brewing Company and Maine Craft Distilling.
Maine Craft Distilling made its name with its signature Blueshine, a blueberry moonshine made with real Maine blueberries. We were greeted by Wesley, who was eager to tell us about the spirits they’ve been developing, and of course pour samples of their Blueshine, Black Cap Vodka, Alchemy Gin and Queequeg Spiced Rum.
I was surprised at how smooth each offering was. It would almost be a shame to mix these local hand made spirits with any run of the mill mixer, although Wesley does suggest trying their Blueshine with a glass of lemonade.
Before heading to Hadlock Field, to end our trip with a Portland Sea Dogs game, we head next door to the Rising Tide Brewing Company. Rising Tide has quickly risen in the ranks of Portland craft breweries, offering an extensive variety of beers and making their way onto the shelves of most grocers’ beer sections.
I was looking forward to sampling the hefeweizen, known as Spinnaker, and it did not disappoint. The smooth, hazy, German wheat beer is packed with summertime flavor and is a personal favorite for me.
We experience the Daymark American Pale Ale (Jason’s favorite), Zephyr IPA (Zach’s Favorite), Ishmael (the beer that started it all for Rising Tide) and the Maine Island Trail Ale before snapping some photos and heading out to catch the game.
It’s truly incredible to see what these local brewers are putting together in the small corners of Portland and around Maine. Get out and explore.
- Tom Tash