Portland, Maine has established itself as one of the top beer destinations in the Northeast. From established breweries to several newbies, there is plenty for your taste buds to explore. I have visited a dozen breweries in the what I would call the Greater Portland Area. The majority were in Portland itself, with a few scattered in nearby towns. One unfortunate things about visiting so many is that I do not have time to properly write about each place I visit. I’ve selected the four that I enjoyed the most, for one reason or another (three in Portland, one up the road in Freeport). If you do visit Portland, make sure to walk along the Eastern Promenade and then go browse the shops downtown in Old Port.
- Allagash Brewing Company; Portland
- Bissell Brothers Brewing Company; Portland
- Liquid Riot Bottling Company; Portland
- Maine Beer Company; Freeport
Allagash is one of the main reasons why you have had a Belgian-style beer made here in the USA. It began back in 1995 when founder Rob Tod decided that we were missing out, as he noticed that while German and English beers were making headway, Belgians were not. Thus, Allagash White was born, and Belgian beers have consistently grown here in the States. It’s not just the beer, but how they brew it. They are one of the few places in the country where a coolship is used. For those that do not know, a coolship is a type of fermentation vessel that allows wort to cool down quicker. The taproom is a neat place too, with its distressed wood elements providing a rustic feel. Medals and awards hang above he door and windows, showing off their success. If you have time, make sure to take the tour.
As I mentioned, White is the flagship. Most of their sales are of White, and it is one of the best known Belgian beers in the States. This wheat beer is simply a great example of the style. There are no odd flavors, just a beautiful hazy brew with notes of coriander and orange peel. My personal favorite by the slimmest of margins was Hoppy Table Beer, a sessionable Belgian ale with flavors of stone fruit, pine, and citrus. It had plenty of body, but still went down easy. Another great brew was the limited release Hibernal Fluxus. This stout had the normal coffee and chocolate on the nose and tongue, as well as hints of mild tropical fruit. A slight bitter finish completes the experience. I also tried a brewery exclusive. House was a crisp and quaffable sessionable Belgian beer with pear and grapefruit notes.
Allagash is an absolute must-stop if you visit Portland. Many would call this the birthplace of US-brewed Belgian beers, but this is more than just a tourist stop. The beer is legitimately delicious, and when you visit you can try many brews that are not available anywhere else.
Bissell Brothers has only been around about four years, but they are dishing out some great stuff and have grown substantially. In fact, their website says they have the biggest taproom in the state of Maine! Located on Thompson Point along the Fore River, they are actually neighbors with both a winery and distillery (I found that to be fun). The taproom is a large open space. A bar sits towards the back with views of the brewery, and colorful walls make the place pop. One cool feature I liked was a smaller 2nd level that allowed patrons to look down into the brewery. Old oil barrels are used for some of the tables, and retro arcade games sit in one corner. I was there on a cooler day, but there were still several people outside enjoying the patio.
They do not offer flights, but you can get individual 5 ounce pours of anything on tap. I tried three options, with their flagship IPA The Substance Ale winning top prize in my book. This dank beer had a tropical feel overall, with citrus and grapefruit coming to mind. Hops are the big player of course, but even for an IPA they stuck out. The other two were both solid choices. Umbra was my dark beer selection, and this Oatmeal Stout had a big coffee character with hints of chocolate. For a more crushable option, Engram (pictured) fits the bill. A wheat ale, there was nothing overpowering about it. Clean and balanced, it has citrus and biscuit flavors. An interesting note, it seemed like the beers here were slightly more carbonated than most of places I’ve visited. Not sure if this is the usual, but it’s something to keep in mind.
If you visit Bissell Brothers, take time to walk the Fore River Trail, which runs almost directly by the brewery. They have a great taproom, and it should be noted that they have a large selection of beers. It would take you a while to get through them all!
Liquid Riot is a somewhat unique place, as it is a brewery and a distillery. A variety of whiskeys and rums are available if a beer simply won’t cut it. According to the menu, several of them have won awards, and the medals are displayed in the distillery. Located downtown near the waterfront, it has a prime location. A great feature is that you can view both the brewery and distillery while in the taproom. The brewery sits behind the bar, while the distillery greets you on your way in. There’s a small outdoor area in the back, but there’s more to do inside, including a pool table and shuffleboard table. Leather and wood mix together in the taproom, and it overall has a somewhat cozy feel. There’s also a nice retail area opposite of the bar.
They make some fun stuff at Liquid Riot. As a sour fan, I certainly enjoyed myself. Raspy Trouble was not only my favorite here, but is one of the better sours I’ve had anywhere. This sour brown ale is aged on over 100 pounds of local raspberries. This shows through more so on the nose, but is certainly present on the tongue as well. If I had to pick my next favorite, it would be God of War, the Biere de Garde. It’s barrel-aged with Brettanomyces Clausseni. This beer is a style most people are not accustomed to, making it a fun choice. Heart of Glass is a sour blonde. Interesting is the word I’ll describe it with, as the tartness was more laid back, and was a little funky, even for a sour. I did have an IPA, and Ka$h Money struck a good balance. Using Cashmere hops, it also has a soft malt profile, making it a solid drinker.
This is a cool place to drink, whether you are looking for a beer or something with a little more punch. I should add that my dad tried their Old Port single malt whiskey and enjoyed it. Either way, you’ll find something to try!
For those that do not know, before we started traveling I was obtaining my Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management. I started a nonprofit in college, and plan to complete my degree and work on my organization when we return. Why is that important? Because that is how I connected with the Maine Beer Company. Their slogan, ‘Do what’s right’, shows where their priorities are. 1% of their total sales go to an international nonprofit based in Vermont called 1% for the Planet. This money is distributed to a variety of environmental nonprofits. Along with that, each month they select a local organization to feature (usually regarding the environment) and donate 100% of their tips to them. They are truly dedicating themselves to not only making good beer, but making the world a better place. Located in Freeport, about 15-20 minutes from Portland, it is a short side trip.
Flagship beers don’t always mean the best beer a brewery makes, but I believe that is the case here. Peeper is a pale ale brewed with 3 hops and 4 malts, which leads to an easy drinking brew with notes of citrus, berries, and a slight breadiness. Another great quaffable option is Zoe, the amber ale. It was fairly dark in appearance for an amber, and had strong biscuit and pine elements. There was also a little sweetness, especially on the back end. Mean Old Tom is their stout, which has the usual suspects of coffee and dark chocolate. This was an incredibly silky drink, and had a subtle bitterness, which goes well with the name! For the IPA selection I had Another One. Cascade, Citra, and Simcoe hops give this grapefruit and tangerine notes. It didn’t do much for me, but not every beer will.
Their mission is one I can fully support. I truly believe in what they are doing and hope for them to experience exuberant success. Side note: you can visit L.L. Bean headquarters and their flagship store in Freeport. It’s a cool spot.
I do wish I could write another article on Portland, and if time allows perhaps I may. But quick shout outs to Gritty McDuff’s, Rising Tide, and Foulmouthed, all of whom are making good beer. Portland is a beautiful and accessible city, and I highly recommend checking it out. One other non-beer destination I loved: Portland Head Lighthouse at Fort Williams Park, just south of the city. Simply stunning views!
Boston. The Freedom Trail. Fenway Park. A certain tea party. And of course, Samuel Adams. As of recently, the Boston Metro Area has undergone a brewery boom. All of a sudden, beer buffs are just as excited as history buffs! There are so many great places to visit, and I will describe my personal favorites from my several visits to the city.
Current Brewery Count
163 breweries across 98 cities in 16 states. These numbers are current as of 11/15/17. For an up-to-date count, follow my adventures on Twitter: @brewerytravels.