Acadia National Park is one of the many beautiful, picturesque, and awe-inspiring places our country has to offer. My wife and I enjoyed spending a couple days driving and hiking around the area, but this is not a vacation series. I had the pleasure of visiting four distinct and delicious breweries that call this part of Maine home. One brewery is actually on Mount Desert Island, while the other three are short drives away in neighboring communities. These breweries are all on the small side, but as you should know, good things come in small packages!
- Airline Brewing: Ellsworth
- Atlantic Brewing: Bar Harbor
- Strong Brewing: Sedgwick
- DeepWater Brewing: Blue Hill
You basically have to drive through Ellsworth to get to Acadia, and if you turn off the highway and head down Main Street, you will soon come across Airline Brewing Company. Located in the quaint downtown area, it has an old, pub-like look on the inside. Intricate wood craftmanship and red leather booths set the mood to sip on some beers. It is overall a smallish space, but this gives it a cozy feel, which I enjoyed. Of note: while the brewpub is in Ellsworth, the actual brewing takes place in nearby Amherst.
John Black Cherry Chocolate Stout is one of the best dark beers I’ve had the pleasure of drinking. It has the perfect level of roastiness, which molds together perfectly with the chocolate notes. The cherry is most present on the nose, but does offer a hint of sweetness on the back end. Another option I enjoyed was their Brown Ale, with its strong malty background. There are several crushable options, including Acadia Getaway Golden Ale and Rye Pale Ale. Interestingly, none of the 12 options on tap when I visited were IPAs, but the two Pale Ales on tap had 65 & 79 IBUs respectively. And checking in on their tap list shows they do currently have an English IPA.
A great stop for those on their way in or out of the park, it is an inviting place to pop into. It’s also close enough that if you are spending the night in or near Acadia, you can make the short drive up to Ellsworth!
It is pretty neat that Atlantic Brewing is located on the doorstep of Acadia National Park. They do have another site in downtown that focuses on small-batch brews as well as food, but I visited the main location and tasting room outside of town. What appears to be a farmhouse when you drive up, you pull around back to find a complete campus of buildings. Besides the tasting room/gift shop, there is the actual brewing building, as well as Mainely Meat BBQ, where one can grab a bite to eat. They offer free tastes of all their beers on tap, but it is standing room only and not a huge space, so be prepared to wait if it is busy. It’s a unique spot, and being able to sample all the beer is a blast.
I had a three-way tie for best beer, but ultimately gave the award to their flagship Real Ale. This brown ale is quaffable, even as brown ales go, with its nice malt character. As with many Maine breweries, they have a nice Blueberry Ale, which has an above average sweet nose, and good blueberry notes. My other favorite was the 04609 DIPA, which is named for the area zip code. Their DIPA recipe changes each batch, and the proceeds go to a local hops project. So even if you visit once, this beer will always be changing! I enjoyed Island Ginger, which seems fairly tame, but then has a strong ginger kick at the tail end. As far as roasty porters go, Coal Porter is up there as one of the roastiest. Finally, I tried Summer Ale, which is a light wheat ale, a refreshing option on a warm day.
In terms of location, this is clearly the most immediate option for those visiting Acadia. The tasting room is a fun time, and if you are hungry I’d recommend getting some BBQ to go with the beer!
Strong Brewing is the definition of a small, rural brewery. And I love it. You can view brewing equipment to the right as you go through the door, and a small bar sits on the left-hand side. A total of three tables provide seating. They actually recently expanded from a 1 barrel brewhouse to a 4 barrel, which has helped increase production. It is a simple space, with a mix of modern and rustic touches. I also enjoyed talking with some local patrons, who heaped praises on this family-run brewery. It is clear this is a community-supported place, which is always a great thing to see. Finding a brewery like this is one reason why I love doing what I do.
As a sour fan, the Gose Paul Revere was my favorite. Brewed with Maine sea salt and coriander, it was not overly tart, with a nice balance. This made is easier to drink than most other sours I’ve had. The other choice that stuck with me was Hangar a Bateaux, a lighter Belgian Ale with slightly less farmhouse funky qualities. For the IPA fans, they have Bale O’ Hay IPA. It was certainly hoppy, with some almost earthy characteristics to go along with grapefruit notes. Definitely a unique option when it comes to IPAs. The other two I sampled were Soulpatch Porter and Localmotive (a California Common style ale). The porter was another intriguing choice, as it was initially sweeter than other porters, but had a dryer finish.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Strong Brewing. It is the type of place you want in your own neighborhood, and I hope I get to enjoy others like it across the country. It isn’t too far out of the way, so if you visit the area, stop over in Sedgwick!
DeepWater is an interesting place. The brewery (pictured) is located off the road at the back of the parking lot. Back towards the road is the Brew Pub, as well as the restaurant it is connected to, Arborvine. I did not eat there, but it appears the restaurant is a slightly upscale farm-to-table establishment. The Brew Pub is a neat area, with plenty of Maine-themed decor. There is a boat up on the rafters, oars, and several local maps up on the walls. Definitely a strong coastal theme. The bar itself feels higher-end as well. There are also a few options for outdoor seating during warmer months. If I went back I would be interested in eating in the restaurant to get the full experience.
I had four solid beers at DeepWater. They all scored fairly well with me, with Dark Horse Brown earning top marks. It is an interesting note that I scored all three brown ales on this trip highly. As with the others, Dark Horse was incredibly drinkable. 3 Sheets Porter had stronger coffee notes compared to the chocolate, which was a nice change of pace. A compelling option, the Session IPA was surprisingly malty and light, even for a session. I personally was a fan, but not sure how others would take it. My final choice of the evening was Oyster Thief Blonde, a crisp and crushable ale. This would be a good beer to sit back and watch a game, or enjoy a light meal with.
DeepWater melds together well with Arborvine, and offers a complete dining experience. Whether you go to the restaurant, or the Brew Pub, you can enjoy a nice variety of craft brews.
Besides the amazing views on top of Cadillac Mountain, you can also enjoy some amazing beers up along the coast of Maine. As I’ve laid out, they all have different atmospheres, which makes picking where to go tricky (unless you have time to hit them all)! In other words, come for the national park, stay for the tasty craft beer!
There’s still more to discuss in Maine, but next we will hop over into Massachusetts and look into the extreme Northeast part of the state!
Current Brewery Count
139 breweries across 82 cities in 16 states. These numbers are current as of 10/23/17. For an up-to-date count and to follow my adventures, follow me on Twitter: @brewerytravels.