Sunday, January 15, 2012

2011's Final Homebrews

Time to report back on my last two homebrews. One exceeded expectations, one disappointed. Next up? An oak-aged bourbon stout!

Vacationland Belgian Pale Ale, Score: 9
Named in preparation for my summer vacation up to Maine. Iwasn't particularly pleased to be forced to use a Belgian Abbey yeast strain for this Pale Ale, but it did provide the desired Belgian flavor. Fantastic fresh appealing nose with multiple notes of sweetness. Translucent pour with nice head. Taste has solid malt profile but is not overly-heavy. Bitterness is light, pleasant, and on-par for a Pale Ale. Yeast imparts a wonderful musty, Belgian component and some medicinal notes on back end. Even with big flavor, Vacationland has a light mouthfeel and is very sessionable. Probably my tastiest beer yet. Could not keep it on the shelf. Working in tandem, Dan and George quickly wiped out my inventory as the Patriots season progressed. A ringing endorsement, I suppose.

Republic of Cascadia Dark Ale, Score: 5
I was hoping to produce a Pacific Northwest-style Black IPA but wound up with another Robust Porter. The body was simply too heavy, Black IPA's are lighter and more sessionable. Pours dark murky color with neat head. Sweetness and hops hit nose nearly equally. Acidic bitterness is first flavor to hit the tongue, followed by heavily roasted coffee flavored malts. Sour, off-flavor note becomes more prominent as beer ages. Warrior, Willamette, and Cascade hops did impart a tasty bitterness at least. Smooth and lively. I will take another whack at this style at some point. It is worth noting that while I scored this lower than past porters, I think my grading scale is getting tougher as time goes on. Not a bad thing.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Maine's next great brewpub

It was another busy December at my real job. While I didn't get a chance to post on the blog, my family was hard at work reviewing the fare at Maine's newest brewpub, Mainely Brews Tavern in Waterville. Their review was more than enough to bump this pub up to the top of my to-do list. Hopefully, I will be adding my own, more beer-centric view shortly. Until then, bon appetit!

Good grub, Great pub . . . Who needs the post office?

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.

If Luke Duplessis could turn every post office location that is closing into a Mainely Brews, people would happily forget about the mail.

After several friends and readers of this column told us how much they like Mainely Brews Tavern, in Waterville’s old post office, we scheduled a visit last week. This is a fun place with a great pub atmosphere, superb micro-brews, and a surprising (and enticing) menu.

Home for Christmas last week, our youngest daughter Hilary, who works at a high-end restaurant on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., joined us for our adventure at Mainely Brews.


The atmosphere at Mainely Brews is what will bring you in — jovial, warm, and lively — but the food is what will keep bringing you back. Walking into the well-lit basement tavern with Mom and Dad just a few days before Christmas, I was surprised by how many families had chosen this place for a holiday dinner. This is not your average bar in central Maine.

The layout of Mainely Brews is great — something for everyone, with a horseshoe bar, large wooden tables fit for large groups, and cozy leather booths scattered around the oddly shaped historic basement. You can even have a private dinner or event in the old mail vault, a separate room adjacent to the tavern.

The history of the building makes for an authentic, charismatic restaurant with real Maine character.

The live music from a five-piece band was upbeat and a perfect accompaniment to the meal, without overwhelming the conversation.

The food (and beer) is what will keep you coming back for more. We were thrilled with the lobster stew and Southwest chicken rollups as appetizers, and blown away by the steak tips entrée and Mediterranean baked haddock entrée special.

These were all washed down with $3.50 pints of Maine microbrews that the tavern pours from taps.

My favorite was the Drop Dead red ale, high-alcohol amber that was both smoky and delicious. Dessert was not to be missed — the peanut butter pie is a real standout.

We were too full from all of the aforementioned food to try their burgers and pizzas. I was sorry to miss the London burger with black pepper and blue cheese. It would have been great with a Post Office Porter.

Incredibly delicious food, for surprisingly low prices, with some pretty spectacular locally brewed Maine beer. Mainely Brews is a long way from Washington, D.C., but I will be back.


The story behind Mainely Brews Tavern is a good one. Luke Duplessis bought this bar when he was 23 years old. I wonder if he could have even imagined how successful his restaurant would be now, eight years later.

The first thing you’re apt to notice is the beautiful old brick walls. Sconces and hanging lights give it a warm, welcoming feeling. One might think this is just a bar, but it actually is a restaurant serving great pub food — including burgers, appetizers and pizzas — and delicious entrees.

It was hard to choose from all those appetizers. The warm spinach dip included large pieces of artichoke, and was served with just-fried tortilla chips. Beware because those chips are addictive!

If you want something different, and enjoy a spicy sauce, order the Southwestern chicken rollups ($6.99). These are tiny burritos filled with corn, black beans and chicken, and then fried. It was the spicy ranch sauce that made these spectacular. Next time I go, they are likely to be my dinner! Luke told us these are very popular and I see why.

A friend was raving about the beef tips, so I knew we had to try this dish. A good portion of beef (perfectly cooked), mushrooms and onions, were served in a delicious, wild mushroom demi-glace.

Order their great mashed potatoes with this and you have comfort food at its best. The $13.99 price included a delicious Caesar salad. This entrée was incredible.


Hilary’s restaurant experience helped us evaluate some of the key ingredients for a good restaurant, and Mainely Brews had them all — from friendly, knowledgeable servers to appropriately timed delivery of food.

My perfectly cooked (flaky) haddock had a topping well-chopped so that you got all of the taste with each bite, and was served in a baking dish that kept the food hot (although I gobbled it up so fast it had little time to cool!)

After we’d finished our desserts, our very accommodating server (and also the front-of-the-house manager) Sandra gave me paper copies of all their menus — including the “Bear Skinny” health and fitness guilt-free menu. Much to my astonishment, my haddock dish was on that menu! I asked Lin if that meant I could order another dessert. You can guess the answer!

The micro-brews are provided by one of my favorite breweries, Black Bear in Orono, and both dark beers — the porter and the stout — are superb.

After a bit of begging, the girls allowed me to describe the desserts, a scrumptious peanut butter pie (the soft center was amazing) and a crème brule cheesecake that combined two of my favorite things into perhaps the tastiest cheesecake I’ve ever had. Hilary agreed.

Desserts are made by Luke’s friend at Carriage House Confections in Veazie (who makes desserts from some of our favorite restaurants including Fiddlehead in Bangor).


You’ll get real value here, where low prices are combined with good food served in a great pub atmosphere where everyone around us — including families with small kids — was obviously having a great time. Good grub. Great pub. Who needs the post office?

IF YOU GO . . .

ADDRESS: 1 Post Office Square, Waterville
PHONE: 873-2457
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. every day, with food served until 11 p.m.
• Outside seating in summer. Nightly entertainment and daily species, including their popular $6 burgers on Tuesdays and 2-for-1 pizzas on Wednesdays.
• Reservations are taken, parking is in front of the building and at the nearby mall.