Kennebec Journal, 7/25/11
The Travelin Maine(rs), George and Linda Smith of Mount Vernon, have spent their lifetimes enjoying all that Maine has to offer. Now they’ll tell you all about it — their favorite inns, restaurants, trips, activities, experiences, and travel books and websites — in their own personal style. They’ll be offering anecdotes, tips and all the details you need. So join them in exploring, experiencing and enjoying the great state of Maine.
The best hikes in Maine are on the Maine Beer Trail. And you don't need hiking boots!
Our state has gone from a wasteland to a wonderland of beer brewing. We've established an international reputation for finely crafted beers and many brew masters welcome you into their facilities for tours and tastings.
The Maine Brewers Guild provides maps and a list of brewery tours including days and hours. Some of the breweries include restaurants. Prizes are awarded if you visit 5, 10 or all 25 breweries on the trail. As if you needed any incentive.
Today's column includes a piece by our son Joshua Smith, who works for My Brothers Keeper, serving the poor in Brockton, Massachusetts. We're very proud of Josh, especially for his commitment to public service. He is also a home-brewer and writer with his own beer blog, and we're stealing a piece he wrote after visiting the Penobscot Bay Brewery in Winterport, also the site of the very fine Winterport Winery.
During those cold winter months, many hunker down and put on a warm mug of cocoa. I decided to go the other way with it. Since 2008, I have rounded up a few friends, driven to northern Maine, and enjoyed a few cold beers.
Previous destinations included Ebenezer's Pub, Oak Pond Brewing, Bray's Brew Pub, Great Lost Bear, Sea Dog Brew Pub and Shipyard Brewing. The road less-traveled, I guess.
This year, on our way to a University of Maine hockey game in Orono, I arranged for a visit to Penobscot Bay Brewery in Winterport, operated by Mike and Joan Anderson who also own Winterport Winery.
They were kind enough to invite us for a tour despite being officially closed for the winter. It's a very nice facility with kitchen, tasting room, gift shop, winery and brewery -- all overlooking the Penobscot River.
This small brewery opened in 2009. Mike gave us a very entertaining tour, tracing each piece of brewing equipment back through its previous owners. While the room had the feel of a garage, I was impressed with how well-organized and clean the whole operation was.
Needless to say, Mike isn't haphazardly throwing handfuls of chipotle peppers into the brew pot like I do when home brewing.
The tasting room is simply beautiful, with shelves jammed with fruit wines, winery merchandise and local Maine products. They even sell Bay Brew Ice Cream, made with their own Half Moon Stout! My stout float was indescribable.
On tap were their Old Factory Whistle Scottish Ale, Stout and Wheat and Brown Ale. It made for a very enjoyable and tasty afternoon. Because you can only get Penobscot Bay's beers in Maine, this is a great stop on any beer trip.
Shipyard dominates Maine's microbrewing industry, so it's no surprise they their Portland facility offers the best tour, complete with a video, tour of the bottling process and tastings of my favorite Shipyard beers (be sure to try the Pugsley series). To get inside the huge brewery itself, reserve a space online for their Tuesday-night tour.
Bar Harbor Brewing Company produces one of my all-time favorites, Cadillac Mountain Stout, so Linda and I stopped by the brewery for a tour during our June visit to Bar Harbor. There's not a lot to see in a brewery, so a good tour guide is essential.
At Bar Harbor, our guide was a young guy named Ezra, nicely seasoned in his fourth year at the brewery. He was very humorous. He encouraged us to taste the ingredients that go into their beers, including barley, a chocolate malt that tasted like burned brownies and oats that Ezra claimed to eat out of the vat for breakfast.
He saved the worst for last, a hop he described as "bittery, sour candy with a hint of grass clippings." It was worse than described and stuck with me for a couple of hours.
Shipyard, as it does for a number of beer makers, brews some of Bar Harbor's beers, "but we send them our own yeast and recipe," Ezra was quick to point out.
The tasting went on for a while, helped by a tasty snack of pretzels dipped in Raye's mustard. I learned that another favorite brew, Coal Porter, is great in chili and beef stew. Who knew?
Last week up to the Forks, we enjoyed a visit at Northern Outdoors resort including a tour of their Kennebec River Brewery. Jim Yearwood and Mike McConnell spent a lot of time telling us about their brewing process. I really enjoy the smaller brewers that don't have established tours -- they just love to tell you about their beer, anytime you show up.
All but their IPA is consumed at the resort, so you'll need to get up there to see if you agree with me -- their smoky porter is superb. For the record, Lin liked the summer ale best.
Really good barbecue is hard to find. Once you've had great barbecue, you're always looking for a place close-by.
Lately, I've noticed more barbecue places popping up in Maine. Thank goodness. My theory is that restaurants specializing in good barbecue have figured out the perfect way to season and slowly smoke meats. Many have also created their own great barbecue sauce.
So when we noticed that one of Bar Harbor's two Mainely Meat BBQ restaurants was right next to the Bar Harbor brewery, we decided we had to try it. And we're soooo glad we did!
All of their sandwiches (chicken, hamburger, veggie burger, and pulled pork) come with choice of chips, potato salad or coleslaw for $7.71.
We ordered the pulled pork and it was absolutely delicious -- lots of tender pork with a choice of barbecue sauces. Dinner choices include ribs, chicken, hot Italian sausage and steak ($10 to $15) and a sampler plate.
We dined inside at a long high table with bar stools, but there's also a screened-in porch with lots of seats. The atmosphere is casual and friendly.
Join us this summer on the tastiest trail in the state: the Maine Beer Trail. And check out Josh's beer blog!