Strong Brewing Company, Sedgwick ME

Strong Brewing Company: Beer Geeks to the Core

Meet Mia Strong, who with her husband Al, owns the Strong Brewing Company in Sedgwick, Maine

Take a tough Jersey girl with a tender spot for great beer, transplant her to Maine years later, and what do you get? A woman ready to take on the world of craft beer.

Meet Mia Strong, who with her husband Al, owns their tiny craft brewery in Sedgwick, Maine. Opened in 2013, Strong Brewing Company, whose motto is, “Beer geeks to the core…we brew what we like and we like everything,” has already grown in small leaps and bounds, completing a third expansion just this March.

Strong Brewing Company was the product of hard work and crowd-sourcing, including a successful Kickstarter campaign and a Community Supported Brewery, similar to a CSA. While Mia currently runs the business/operations end and Al makes the beer, she will soon train to brew on their new system. One can only wonder what beer styles she has in mind.

I caught up with Mia recently and peppered her with questions about how her love affair with beer began. “My mother was drinking Paulaner when I was in my teens. I snuck one of her beers and liked it. So long “In the beer market...there’s plenty of room to grow. The diversity in styles is great for beer drinkers.” — Mia Strongto the Old Milwaukee I pretended to drink with my friends, dumping it out when they weren’t looking. A few years later I discovered Old Rasputin from North Coast. I took a four-pack of it to a party and a guy told me, ‘Girls don’t drink beer like that.’ I had a few choice words for him to set him straight.”

In four years, the Strong Brewing Company has expanded twice, upgrading the brewing equipment, adding a tasting room, partnering with two food trucks and working to attract a third food vendor for summer, 2017.

I ask the million-dollar question: is there room for growth in the craft beer business?
Mia tells me, “I agree with the Brewers Association that we have only 12.2% of the beer market, so there’s plenty of room to grow. The diversity in styles is great for beer drinkers.”

“We’re not afraid to try new recipes and we listen. Last summer, people were asking for a stout. We switched up our production schedule in order to brew one to have on tap.” Mia has two kids, so I wonder what’s on tap at dinner time, for the adults, of course. What beers pair with comfort food like mac and cheese? “Something light, like our California Common Ale called Locomotive.” I’ve had it, and I agree. Goes great with clams and lobster, too.

— Kate Cone is the author of What’s Brewing in New England, (Downeast Books, 2016). She is currently working on a book about her search for her Irish ancestors and the beers they drank. Contact her at kateconewrites@gmail.com

 


Five Maine running groups

Five Maine Running Groups

Find running camaraderie on the trails and the road

Warm weather brings all the runners out, from the mighty fast marathoners to the easy-going jog-walkers. And while solitary runs on local trails suit plenty of folks just fine, running with a group has perks, too. Running groups are supremely social (which often translates to making new friends), and running with other people supplies a level of motivation that’s hard to summon on our own. Many of Maine’s running groups are free to join, or have a nominal annual membership fee, and most of them run year-round, too (sometimes in snowshoes).

Maine Track Club

Maine Track Club has gathered local runners together since 1979. Open to all level, MTC has groups in several towns, including South Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Gorham, Scarborough, Sabattus, and Yarmouth. They also organize several races a year, and members have access to training clinics and social events. Membership is $25 a year. Mainetrackclub.com

Trail Runners of Midcoast Maine

Photo: Emily Higgins-McDevitt

Trail Runners of Midcoast Maine

Trail Runners of Midcoast Maine is a free, year-round trail running group that meets a couple times a week in the Camden area (in warmer months, they usually run the trails at Camden Snow Bowl). Monday Night Dirt is a no-drop group run, which means beginners won’t feel left in the dust, and there are also runs on Wednesday and weekends. Find them on the web or on Facebook.

Old Port Pub Run

Old Port Pub Run is perfect for Portland-area runners who are motivated by post-run beers. The group meets at 6:15 p.m. every Thursday, year-round, at Liquid Riot Bottling Company in Portland. Runs range from 3 to 5 miles, and socializing back at the bar follows. The group is free, but bring money to buy your own beer. www.oldportpubrun.com

Fleet Feet Maine Running

Fleet Feet Maine Running offers run groups its locations in Brunswick and Portland. The $75 fee includes three days of running (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday), coaches, a year-long training program, and informational clinics. www.fleetfeetmainerunning.com

Trail Monster Running

Trail Monster Running is for serious trail runners who aren’t shy of rain, mud, and snow. Membership is “paid in the form sweat and blood on the trails,” which means you become an official member by showing up to run and volunteer. How fast you are doesn’t matter – the love of trail running does.
trailmonsterrunning.com

Central Maine Striders

Central Maine Striders in Waterville, established in 1975, connects runners of all levels, from recreational runners to competitive racers. The $15 yearly membership fee is good for the whole household and includes discounts for club races and access to group runs and training programs.
www.centralmainestriders.com

— Text: Shannon Bryan


Take it Outside! Paddleboarding, mountain biking, and outdoor workouts for every level

Take It Outside! Outdoor workouts for every level

On the water, on a trail, or planking in the sunshine, sweat-inducing outdoor workouts beat a treadmill any day!

From mountain biking and paddleboarding to outdoor boot camps and yoga in the park, you can find an outdoor activity that’ll have you panting up a storm and loving every minute of it.

If you’re brand-spanking-new to a sport, taking a lesson is always a good way to go. You’ll learn proper form and technique, as well as the best ways to stay safe once you’re out on your own (all things you don’t want to learn the hard way). Plus, that expert guidance will help you learn more quickly (bonus!). If you’ve already got some experience, there are groups, tours and events for you, too.

PADDLEBOARDING

BEGINNER: Paddleboarding looks easy enough to figure out (it’s just standing up, right?), but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Start by learning the best techniques for getting upright – which can be harder than it looks – proper paddle form, and safety measure (including wearing a leash and PFD and being aware of weather conditions and tides). Outfitters around the state offer lessons, including Wheels N Waves in Wells, Coastal Maine Kayak in Kennebunk, Portland Paddle in Portland, SOPOSUP in South Portland/Cape Elizabeth, L.L. Bean in Freeport, and Acadia Stand Up Paddleboarding in Bar Harbor, to name a few.

SUP EXPERIENCED: If you’re comfortable standing up on a SUP, then it’s time to start exploring. You can certainly chart your own course on Maine’s waterways, or sign up for a guided tour to places you might not think of. Maine Kayak in New Harbor leads sunset tours in Pemaquid Harbor, Portland Paddle leads tours to Fort Gorges in Casco Bay, and Seaspray Kayaking & Paddleboarding offers downwind ocean paddleboard tours that depart from Hermit Island in Phippsburg and end at Sebasco Harbor Resort (where a restaurant, bar, and outdoor pool await).

To really work yourself out, check out a paddleboard yoga class with Koan Wellness in York, on Lake Androscoggin with Windsurfing Maine, or with an area paddle shop, many of which are offering SUP yoga these days. Maine Sport Outfitters in Rockport offers SUP Fit classes to really work your core and get your heart racing.

MOUNTAIN BIKING

Mountain bikers. Photo: Shannon BryanBEGINNER: Learn the basics with free weekly skills clinics in Portland. Sponsored by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, the Wednesday evening clinics are perfect for beginners. They alternate each week between novice clinics on the Eastern Prom and beginner to intermediate clinics on the Stroudwater Trail. Sunday River in Newry runs a bike school with 90-minute clinics that include a bike rental and helmet. L.L. Bean in Freeport offers Learn to Mountain Bike courses that include all equipment and instruction.

INTERMEDIATE RIDER: Hit the trails on your own — the New England Mountain Biking Association is a great resource for trails — or join up with a local mountain biking group for some trail togetherness. The Single Track Sisters is a free women’s group that rides regularly on Monday and Wednesday evenings (Mondays are great for beginners, too). NEMBA has several Maine chapters, including in the Carrabassett region, Midcoast, Central Maine, Portland, and Penobscot area. The Green Machine Bike Shop in Norway leads group rides, too. For group rides (all levels welcome) that end with beer, check out the Bikes & Brews events from Gear Works Productions.

GO AFTER IT: Challenge yourself with a mountain bike race such as 12 Hours of Bradbury Mountain in Pownal on September 16. You’ll compete against other area riders, push yourself harder, and have an incredible experience, too.

OUTDOOR WORKOUTS

yoga_shannon-bryanBEND & STRETCH: Yoga is splendid for all levels – it’s great for strength, balance, and flexibility. But if you’re looking for an accessible workout that’ll have you inhaling warm summer air (rather than panting for breath), yoga is it. Many studios offer outdoor classes in warmer months. Practice Yoga leads yoga classes on Ogunquit Beach every morning from 7:30-8:30 a.m. The Viewpoint Hotel in York hosts outdoor yoga with views of Nubble Light every Wednesday from 8-9 a.m. In South Portland, Kelly Rich Yoga offers yoga at Bug Light Park every Tuesday 6-7 p.m. and Sundays 10-11 a.m., and Willard Beach Yoga leads classes on Fisherman’s Point. In Portland, Ashley Flowers teaches 6-7 p.m. Wednesday nights at Payson Park. If you like to cuddle some baby goats after your workout, check out yoga at Sunflower Farm in Cumberland.

SERIOUS SWEAT: Outdoor boot camps offer you the chance to sweat your brains out on the beach, on the grass, or up and down the bleacher stairs at your locals sports stadium. These boot camps are open to beginners, too, and offer heart-pounding workouts that’ll leave you exhausted and happy. In Kennebunk, check out Get Out There Fitness for 45-minute workouts at Mother’s and Gooch’s Beaches. Saco Biddeford Bootcamp  offers workouts on the beaches of Biddeford Pool on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and Portland Sweat Project meets every Wednesday morning for free fitness at various locations around town.

REALLY KILL IT: Sign up for the  Ragged Mountain Scuttle at Camden Snow Bowl on September 24.

— Text & Photos: Shannon Bryan


Rangeley Lakes

Find your summer bliss in the Rangeley Lakes Region

Maine’s Rangeley Lakes Region includes more than the 10-square-mile lake itself, extending to five other large lakes and hundreds of smaller lakes and ponds. Add rivers and streams, two mountains – Saddleback and The Horn — just east of the lake, and mile after mile of forests. What do you get? A paradise for those who love the great outdoors and all the activities it invites. Fishing, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, climbing, camping, cycling, wildlife watching or just lazing beside the lake – whatever your summer bliss, you’ll find it here.

Hikers and climbers have their choice of woodland trails or several mountains. Bald Mountain Hiking Trail, between Rangeley and Mooselookmeguntic lakes, climbs to an altitude of 2, 443 feet for 360-degree views over both lakes.

AJ Cycles (207-864-2850) on Maine Street in downtown Rangeley rents and sells Fat Bikes. They are a full-service bike shop, if your own needs a tune-up or repairs. Take a rental from AJ’s to the extensive network of trails at the Rangeley Lakes Trail Center.

Moose Loop Cafe is located on Main Street, at the trailhead to Franklin County’s Moose Loop, a forest trail with mountain climbs and scenic views.

Mingo Springs Golf Course

View from Mingo Springs Golf Course

Golfers will appreciate the scenic Mingo Springs Golf Course, a favorite of both beginners and scratch players. Although the course is relatively short, it’s challenging, and birders love it for the variety of species that nest alongside the course.

All the lakes and ponds surrounded by forest makes a prime wildlife habitat, and moose-watching and photography is one of the region’s most popular activities. If roadside “stakeouts” between Rangeley and Eustis — a favorite moose-spotting spot — aren’t enough, take a moose-watching tour with prize-winning moose caller Matt Tinker through Green Farm Guide Service.

Green Farm can also plan and guide day and overnight hiking trips and guided fishing for pickerel, perch, trout or salmon. Their expert fishing guides can help you improve your dry fly casting, too.

With lakes on every side, it’s hard not to spend some time enjoying water sports. Lakeside Park, on Main Street in Rangeley, has a free sandy beach with lifeguards, picnic tables and changing rooms, while Rangeley Lake State Park, on the lake’s south shore, has a beach with lifeguards; it charges a small day-use fee.

To explore the lakes and ponds and enjoy the wildlife that make their homes on the shore, rent a canoe or kayak at Ecopelagicon Kayak Rentals on Pond Street in Rangeley. Single and double kayaks, canoes and standup paddle boards can be rented by the hour, day or week. Ecopelagicon also offers tours and lessons in all three sports.

You can find equipment and clothing for all your water sports and other outdoor activities at Rangeley Region Sports Shop in Rangeley or at Rivers Edge Sports Shop in Oquossoc.

Most guides provide the equipment necessary for their activities. Black Brook Cove Guide Services offers day or half-day salmon and brook trout fishing trips on the famous Rapid and Kennebago rivers, with all equipment included.

The area has plenty more lodging options. The Rangeley Inn and Tavern, overlooking Haley Pond in the center of town, has rooms with lake and mountain views, as well as a farm-to-table dining room.

Rooms at the pet-friendly Town and Lake Motel, are on a beach within easy walking distance of restaurants and shops, have beautiful lakefront views; some have well-equipped kitchenettes. For lakeside rental cabins, contact Russell’s Rentals.

Caryn Dreyfuss Real Estate can help you find your own little spot of heaven in the Rangeley region, whether it’s a cozy cabin in the woods or a family-sized lakeside retreat.

Start the day with an omelet or eggs benedict at The Gingerbread House Restaurant on routes 4 and 17 in Oquossoc or savor their signature crabcakes at dinner on the wrap-around porch. The Red Onion Restaurant in Rangeley is known for pizza but has a long menu of sandwiches, too. Find plenty of take-out options for trail lunches and picnics at family-owned Keep’s Corner Café and Bakery (207 864-2262) on Main Street or at the sandwich deli in the Moose Loop Cafe.

Text: Bobbie Randolph


Patrick Chavanelle, Allagash brewer at the Industrial Way brewery in Portland. Photo: Dave Patterson

Saisons with a Twist

Since last spring I’ve had a love affair with saisons. I had always been a casual fan of the earthy, dry saison style, but last year it turned borderline obsessive. Each time I stood in front of a beer cooler, I’d find myself uncontrollably drawn to the saisons’ siren song.

As a long-time homebrewer, when I become smitten with a style of beer, I’m inclined to brew a batch in my kitchen. Homebrewing allows me to get intimate with a beer style, becoming acquainted with its nuances from the inside out.

But like that green-eyed, enigmatic girl at a school dance, the saison intimidated me. Saisons get the heft of their flavor from yeast. The beers I’ve traditionally brewed are hop-forward ales.

Luckily, two of my favorite saisons are brewed in Maine: Allagash Saison from Allagash and Farmhouse Pale Ale from Oxbow.

On a snowy day in late winter, I sit down with Allagash brewer Patrick Chavanelle at the Industrial Way brewery in Portland to get some tips on how to work with the sexy, if not unruly, saison yeast.

Clad in a one-piece brewing suit, Chavanelle explains that he originally brewed the Allagash Saison as a homebrew beer when he was hired at the brewery. Head brewer, Jason Perkins, liked the homebrew, and the Allagash team spent two years piloting batches before they settled on a final recipe for their dry, citrusy saison.

“The most important part of working with saison yeast is controlling the fermentation temperature,” Chavanelle states.

With most saison yeast strains, a homebrewer can achieve a range of flavors depending on the fermentation temperature.

High fermentation temps, in the mid-eighties for example, bring out spicy, funky flavors from the phenols, though fermenting too high can produce plasticy, band-aid-esque off flavors. Lower fermentation temperatures around seventy degrees bring out fruity flavors. However, if you ferment too low, the yeast will stall and homebrewers won’t get the proper attenuation to produce a dry finish—a vital saison characteristic.

Recognizing the frightened look on my face, Chavanelle assuages my fears by explaining that a fermentation temperature around seventy-five degrees will bring out the spicy, fruity saison flavors I’m looking for.

With growing confidence in my understanding of saison yeast, I contact Tim Adams, head brewer and owner of Oxbow Brewing Company, to help me better wrap my head around hopping a saison.

“You can use as much hops as you’d like, but be careful about when you add them to the boil,” Adams cautions. “The biggest problem you can encounter is making the beer too bitter.”

Adams continues that the longer a hop boils the more bitterness gets extracted from the isomerization of the alpha acids in the hops. When I explain that I’m interested in adding American hops to my saison for lush citrus flavors, he advises I add the majority of my hops in the whirlpool at the end of the boil and in dry-hopping. This advice saves me from making the mistake of over-hopping my wort at the start of the boil.

Maine Brewing Supply, Portland MEI’m now ready for my last stop before homebrewing: Maine Brewing Supply in Portland to consult with homebrewing Zen master Gordon Jones.

When I utter the word saison to Jones, a twinkle appears in his eyes; I know I’m talking to a kindred spirit.

“Saisons are the best style of beer to play with, because you have so many flavor components going on,” Jones states.

Clarifying the type of saison I want to brew, Jones rattles off a half dozen saisons brewed in the U.S. using domestic hops.

During this discussion, the Amarillo hop continually comes up. With bold flavors of oranges and grapefruit, Jones explains that many brewers turn to the Amarillo hop to get a clean, citrus interplay with the funky saison yeast.

Recalling that Tim Adams had mentioned the Centennial hop as a good choice for saisons, Jones and I put together a hop schedule of Amarillo and Centennial hops, saving all the hops for five minutes left in the boil, the whirlpool, and dry-hopping. Eschewing the bittering stages of the boil altogether.

Jones suggests Wyeast 3711 French Saison, a hardworking yeast strain known for its ability to work through residual sugars to create the dry finish I crave.Brewing a saison, Tim Ebersold and Dave Patterson

Keeping the malts simple—six pounds of extract pilsner malts and one pound of crushed wheat—will allow the French saison yeast and the American hops to shine in this homebrew.

My brewing partner, Tim Ebersold, and I head off to brew our saison. Imagine a month-long movie montage of us boiling, steeping, spilling, bottling, and impatiently waiting while Tom Petty sings, “The waiting is the hardest part.”

After five weeks, I wistfully crack open a bottle, and there it is: the spicy, funky aroma of saison yeast. There’s a nice bouquet of hop citrus flavors from the Amarillo and Centennial hops when I sip the saison, but they don’t get in the way of that beautiful French saison yeast. As the warm weather hits New England, brew up a saison and let the dry, fruity flavors accentuate your summer days.

— Text & Photos: Dave Patterson


Summer Fun on Main'es South Coast: Kennebunkport and York

Summer Fun on Maine’s South Coast: Kennebunkport and York

Miles of white sand, saltwater taffy, long estuaries to explore by kayak, one of Maine’s most iconic lighthouses – what’s not to love about that stretch of shore between Kennebunkport and York?

The quartet of beach towns — Kennebunkport, Wells, Ogunquit and York — couldn’t offer more variety. Wells and York are all about families kicking back. Kennebunkport and Ogunquit are known as more high-end enclaves, although their beautiful beaches are open to all and each offers a wide range of lodging and dining choices.

Near scenic Cape Porpoise in Kennebunkport, the affordable Rhumb Line Resort  caters to families, with large indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Stop at Cape Porpoise Kitchen for take-out and picnic at Cape Porpoise with views of Goat Island Light. Or head a mile or so north to Goose Rocks Beach, less known than the popular ones along Beach Avenue.

For a traditional shore dinner go to Mabel’s Lobster Claw (www.mabelslobster.com); if you’re lucky, the signature Lobster Milanese – grilled shrimp and lobster – will be on the day’s menu. On Route 1, taste craft beers at Sebago Brewing.

Get a different view of Cape Porpoise or the Kennebunk River on a guided tour with Coastal Maine Kayak and Bike in Kennebunkport or join them for paddleboard lessons or tours. They welcome all skill levels, and offer bike and scooter rentals, too.

The best beach at Wells is the four-mile stretch north of Mile Road (park on Mile Road or Atlantic Avenue). Only a mile from the beach and on the handy trolley route, Wells Beach Resort & Mini Golf has drive-through RV sites with full hook-ups, cable TV and wi-fi. There’s a big pool, an 18-hole mini-golf course, two playgrounds, a rec room and volleyball, basketball and bocce courts.

The 220 grassy sites at Sea-Vu Campground include shaded tent sites as well as RV sites with full hook-ups, TV and wi-fi. Everyone loves the setting overlooking the ocean, and families appreciate the large pool and mini-golf course, as well as the trolley stop at the front gate for car-free beach access. Sister campgrounds of Sea-Vu West and Sea-Vu South are nearby. Sea-Vu West offers spacious sites with full-hookups, WiFi and cable, a pool and kiddie pool, recreational facilities, and is on the trolley route.

If camping’s not your style, Sea Mist Motel on Route 1 is reasonably priced and has in-room kitchenettes and an indoor pool. A bit more upscale are the condo suites at Misty Harbor Resort on Mile Road.

Experience a different coastal environment at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge on Route 9. A mile-long interpretive trail winds through a coastal forest and along tidal marshes where sightings of heron, egrets and sea birds are common. Just across a tidal creek, the Wells Reserve at Laudholm has seven miles of walking trails.

The Maine Diner on Route 1 in Wells is no secret: for more than 30 years it’s been serving fried clams, chowder, blueberry pie and all the other Maine coast favorites: Get more suggestions of things to do at the Wells Chamber of Commerce visitor center.

Don’t think all the fun is within sight of the sea.

Head inland to Sanford to find Mountain View Golf Range, a family-friendly center with mini-golf, a driving range and batting cages.

York is a family favorite, not only for its beaches (descriptively named Long and Short Sands), but for Maine’s most iconic lighthouse, Nubble Light at Cape Neddick. Add The Golden Rod, famed for over a century for its saltwater taffy, and New England’s only zoo/amusement park at York’s Wild Kingdom,
and you have a winner.

You can’t camp closer to the beach than at Libby’s Oceanside Camping in York Harbor, overlooking the mile-and-a-half Long Sands. Owned by the third generation of the family that founded it in 1923, Libby’s offers full hook-ups, TV and free wi-fi, but best of all are the ocean views from nearly every site, and direct beach access.

Text: Bobbie Randolph
Bobbie writes about her favorite Maine experiences, from camping and kayaking to skiing and dogsledding.


The Saco River begins in Crawford Notch, NH, as Saco Lake, descending out of the White Mts, traversing through 24 towns, carving its way through south western Maine all the way to the Atlantic between the towns of Biddeford and Saco.

Quiet Paddling in Western Maine

My all-time favorite mode of transportation is by canoe. This ancient way of travel leaves me feeling peaceful and present in no time as I leave the work-a-day details behind with a few short paddle strokes. Experiencing the floating support, being suspended on water, another body, holding me up and carrying me along is powerful and healing. The sound of the wooden paddle slicing through the water’s surface, plunging down silently, propulsing me along the slow passing scenery, the perspective gained from being on top of the water, a place no one has walked or driven before—it’s simply magical.

Abenaki Indians, “The People of the Dawn,” relied a great deal on waterways of this area for easy and swift transport. Maine has 7 major rivers that tribes used as super highways to explore, gather resources, trade and enjoy the bounty provided my Maine’s epic natural resources. The rivers served as trade routes and also helped the Abenaki to make seasonal migrations from south to north to help ensure greater success with hunting and gathering. Many tribes spent their summers on the coast taking in the ocean’s bounty. By early fall, they would paddle and pole back upstream to their winter home, rich with game, shelter and resources.

I get to live near the serpentine shores of the Saco River, one of these 7 gems. The Saco River begins in Crawford Notch, NH, as Saco Lake, descending out of the White Mountains, traversing through 24 towns, carving its way through south western Maine all the way to the Atlantic between the towns of Biddeford and Saco.

The Saco River has been a hot bed for conservation drawing in the Nature Conservancy and the Saco River Corridor Commission to protect is shores and waters.

Our cities and towns used to turn their backs to the rivers, using them a receptacles for industrial waste, including paper, tanning and textiles. Thankfully, waterfronts are now being cleaned up, honored and featured, as the beautiful resource that it is.

The Saco has been a hot bed for conservation drawing in the Nature Conservancy and the Saco River Corridor Commission to protect is shores and waters. Because of its seasonal flooding and intense water level fluctuations after sudden storms, it is home to rare plants and animals that sustain and thrive in these varying conditions. The receding glacier left the river with a thick sandy bed that acts as a water filtration system, providing some of the cleanest water on the planet. Over 250,000 people and multiple bulk water extraction corporations tap into the aquifer surrounding the Saco’s sandy surroundings.

The quiet paddler has an opportunity to drift into some amazing wildlife along the Saco and its connecting streams, bogs, ponds and lakes. I have been directly escorted by river otter, swacked into attention by beaver as they slap their tails adamantly letting me know who’s turf I am in. I have paused to watch dozens of painted turtles sun bath on a river-worn log. Around bend and curve, I have followed the flight and distinct King Fisher’s song. Being mesmerized by the stillness and majesty of the great blue heron, bald eagle and osprey is humbling and inspiring.

Magic happens when one just shows up and joins the circle of what is already going on, tuning into the natural rhythm and natural world. Canoeing provides a life-long opportunity to access the wilderness we still get to experience and witness. Paddling totally shifts my mental state. There is still deep quiet in western Maine, off the hub-bub of major highways, out of town just enough to smell the trees, see the sky and hear the birdsong strong.

Text & Photos: Jen Deraspe
Founder of Nurture Through Nature Retreat Center, Maine’s first Green-Certified lodging retreat, Jen Deraspe lives off the grid on the slopes of Pleasant Mt. in Denmark. Her passion is leading earth-friendly retreats and holistic life coaching.


How to Photograph Whales and Other Elusive Wildlife, Michael Leonard

How to Photograph Whales and Other Elusive Wildlife

In most DSLR cameras there are 4 popular modes where exposure decisions are either fully or partially made for you by the computer in the camera. Those 4 modes are…

Full Auto – Green: where the camera chooses everything for you. You will certainly make a picture, but usually not with the best results possible.

‘P’ or the Program mode: where the camera chooses the exposure for you. Your camera will set the shutter speed and the lens f/stop to make a picture and this is a good all-around mode in which to shoot for everyday photography.

‘Tv’ or ‘S’ is for Time Value or Shutter mode: where you set the shutter speed and the camera assists by selecting the lens aperture appropriately to make a good exposure. A fast shutter speed can be a good option for freezing action to reduce motion blur when shooting moving subjects.

‘A’ or Aperture value: where you choose the lens f/stop or Aperture and the camera assists by selecting the appropriate shutter speed (time) to collect light to make a good exposure. Aperture mode is best for doing still life, portraits and for those times when you want or need to control the depth of field or the selective focus in a scene.

Tricking your camera

There is a fifth way where you can trick most new DSLR cameras to assist with the exposure, which can help you make your best shot.

The Manual mode is usually where you make ALL of the exposure decisions in your camera, including the light sensitivity or ISO. By setting the ISO to Auto you can force your camera to assist with the exposure based on your Shutter and Aperture settings and on the available light in the scene. In Manual mode you can set the shutter speed, to freeze the motion as desired, and set the lens aperture to get the selective focus or depth of field that you want all while letting the camera figure out the proper ISO to make a good exposure.

Here is an example – you are going on a whale watch and want to come back with sharp images, but you are on a moving boat and the subject matter is moving as well. Here’s what you do…

Select Manual mode in your camera and set the shutter speed to a fast setting – 1/1000th to 1/2000th of a second for instance. Most lenses have a sweet spot where their sharpness is the best, usually between f/8 and f/11. Set the aperture in this range favoring f/11 to get the sharpest image from your lens and to also gain more depth of field. Next, set the ISO to ‘Auto’ and let your camera assist by adjusting the light sensitivity accordingly. These settings work best in areas with bright sunlight. In darker scenes, the ISO may be raised too high causing noise in the picture that will manifest as grain. This ‘Auto-Manual’ or ‘Manual-Auto’ technique also works well for photographing birds, surfers, and other moving subjects where you want to have the ability to control the sharpness of the image.

Give it a try the next time you are out photographing and see if it helps you to make your best shot.

Text and photo: Michael Leonard


Hernit Island Campground

Wilderness Camping in Maine

Few things truly say “summer” like the crackling of a campfire as orange light dances around the campsite. The heady scent of the deep forest and the campfire smoke soothes your senses. Thankfully, you don’t have to heave off too far into the wilderness to find a piece of the forest you’ll feel you can truly call your own. These campgrounds will bring you that deep wilderness feel without having to mount a multi-day expedition just to get there.

MIDCOAST

HERMIT ISLAND

Carol Savage Photography.com

Photo: Carol Savage. carolsavagephotography.com

While indeed an island unto itself, Hermit Island is one you can reach by car over a short narrow causeway. The private campground at Hermit Island has something for everyone, whether you want to be nestled deep in thick evergreen forest on plunked on a windswept ridge or right on the smooth sandy beach. It’s a huge campground with 275 individual sites, but it doesn’t feel huge. When you set up your tent, you’ll still feel like you have a piece of the island to yourself. The preferred areas are Osprey Point and Sunset Lagoon, Joe’s Head and Sand Dune Beach. Make a reservation well in advance and hope for decent weather.

When you’re at Hermit Island for a few days, treat yourself with a side trip to Popham Beach. This spectacularly scenic smooth sand beach is shaped like two huge crescents, with a large jetty in the middle that’s great for climbing on and just hanging out to be with the ocean for a few hours.

 

THE HIGHLANDS

CHIMNEY POND IN BAXTER STATE PARK

Of all the campgrounds and campsites throughout Baxter State Park, you’d be hard pressed to find one that feels more magical. You are right in the cradle of Katahdin, and on the shores of Chimney Pond. It truly doesn’t get much better than this. Gaze around the scenery and you may feel as if you’ve been transported to Middle Earth. The gray granite spires of Katahdin loom ominously around you—at once inviting and daring you to climb.

Pack light, as you will have to hike in—it’s 3.3 miles from the Roaring Brook Campground. There are nine two-person lean-tos and a 10 person bunkhouse, so you won’t need your tent. This is one of two back country campgrounds within Baxter State Park and is quite popular. Reserve well in advance, and be respectful of the rules. The rangers take very seriously Percival Baxter’s doctrine of the park being a “wilderness preserve first, recreation resource second.”

 

MOOSEHEAD

Lily Bay on Moosehead Lake

Lily Bay on Moosehead Lake. Leah LaRoche

LILY BAY STATE PARK

Lily Bay State Park is another wild and remote park and that provides the feeling of island camping on the shores of Moosehead Lake without having to load up a canoe or kayak. There are plenty of remote feeling lakeside sites, especially on the Dunn Point side of the park. Most sites must be reserved, but several are first come, first served. Do yourself a favor and reserve a waterfront site. These primo sites fill up fast in the summer. If the Dunn Point side is full, don’t despair. Go for the peninsula of sites 33 through 38 on the Rowell Cove side. This little group of sites is among the best at Lily Bay.

The sites deeper in the woods are also spectacular, but since you’re right on the shores of Moosehead Lake, your campsite might as well be there too. And if you’re truly daring, part Inuit, or have a high pain tolerance, you can even take a dip in the cool waters of Moosehead Lake. It will truly take your breath away, even on the hottest summer day.

 

WESTERN LAKES

RANGELEY LAKE STATE PARK

In the right moments, the stillness, the darkness and the quiet at Rangeley State Park are absolute. The still may only be punctuated by loons checking in from alternate ends of the lake before they turn in for the night. Rangeley Lake State Park has 50 sites spread throughout the dense forest. Aim for one near the shore of the lake, especially sites 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21 and 23. If those are already full, fear not. You’ll never be that far from the lake either way. Try for one of the sites set along the outside of the campground loop road, as those typically have a bit more forest separating the individual sites. At night, when the campfire is crackling, all you’ll see is your immediate circle bathed in the orange light of the campfire. The surrounding forest will be shrouded in impenetrable darkness and you’ll feel like you have the forest and the night to yourself.

DOWNEAST AND ACADIA

COBSCOOK BAY STATE PARK

Cobscook Bay State Park has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to oceanfront campsites. Try to get a site on the Cobscook Point peninsula with sites 56, 57, 59, and 62. These spectacular sites are truly set off on their own. This is another spot where you can get that remote island camping feel, even though if you run out of Cheez-Its, your vehicle is parked only 30 yards away.

One cool thing about camping Cobscook Bay State Park is clamming out on the mud flats. You can venture out there at extreme low tide and pick yourself a peck (about two gallons or 15 pounds) of clams. Be mindful of the incoming tide though. When the tide turns and comes in, it comes in quite rapidly and the tidal range averages 20 to 24 feet. Getting trapped on the mud flats can be inconvenient; it can even be dangerous. Cobscook is actually the Passamaquoddy term for “boiling tides.” Back at your campsite, you won’t have any fresher clams than those you just dug up and grilled over your fire.

Text: Lafe Low


Camping photo - Robbie Martin

Summer Camping Gear Wish List

Summer camping gear wish list: Anker 15W Foldable Dual-Port Solar Charger

 

FOR THE GEARHEAD:
Outdoor Gear Lab gives the Anker15W Foldable Dual Port Solar Panel the best marks for 2017 for charging your phone and music in the wilderness. It’s lightweight, durable and competitively priced at $49.99.

 

 

Summer camping gear wish list: Hydro-Hammock

 

FOR THE GLAMPER:
Hydro Hammock is one of the most buzzed about outdoor accessories in the last two years. This hot tub hammock holds up to 750 pounds of body weight and water, with a water heater that offers serious relaxation. It ain’t cheap at $1892 for both hammock and water heater, but it looks like pure bliss.

 

 

Summer camping gear wish list: Sawyer Mini Filtration System

 

FOR THE PRIMITIVE CAMPER:
The Sawyer Mini is an award-winning 2 ounce water purifier which filters up to 100,000 gallons of water coming in at an affordable $19.99.

 

 

 

Summer camping gear wish list: gourmet frozen meals from The Maine Meal

 

FOR THE FIRE RING FOODIE:
The Maine Meal are gourmet frozen prepared meals made by Skowhegan couple Mark and Kelly LaCasse ranging from lobster, sea scallops,beef and chicken, along with side dishes of vegetables, soups, pasta, potatoes and grain dishes. $30-35 feeds two people.

 

 

 

 

Text: Kay Stephens


5 Can't Miss Hikes Downeast by Johanna S. Billings

5 Can’t Miss Hikes Downeast

One of the most rewarding aspects of hiking Downeast is the chance to get off the beaten path. Downeast hikes offer the same spectacular views as their more well-known counterparts with the bonus being solitude. Here are five great places to explore hiking trails.

5 Can't Miss Downeast Hikes by Johanna S. Billings

A family makes its way along the Hollingsworth Trail in Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge in Steuben

Great Wass Island

The Great Wass Island Preserve in Beals offers several hiking trails with some of the best views Downeast. Trails take hikers both through the woods and along the rocky coast.

The Little Cape Point trail (2.2 miles) intersects with the Mud Hole Trail (2.3 miles) at Little Cape Point to make a nice 4.5-mile loop. The terrain is uneven and difficult and hikers should use caution, especially in bad weather.

Start by taking Little Cape Point trail through the woods. You will reach the ocean shortly before arriving at the point, where you pick up the Mud Hole Trail. Mud Hole runs along the shore for about a mile before cutting back through the woods to the trailhead. One of its best features is a view of Moose Peak Lighthouse, which is located across Eastern Bay on Mistake Island.

Petit Manan Wildlife Refuge

The Petit Manan Wildlife Refuge in Steuben offers two trails — Birch Point and Hollingsworth.

The 2.2-mile Birch Point Trail begins in an open blueberry field and takes hikers into the woods. The smooth and wide trail, which is easy for hikers of all ages, provides a number of scenic stops featuring benches and interpretive signs. One of the best views is Lobster Point, where Adirondack chairs in the woods look out over the bay and rocky shore.

5 Can't Miss Downeast Hikes by Johanna S. Billings

The Trails at Eagle Hill Institute allow hikers direct access to the water.

The 1.5-mile Hollingsworth Trail starts in an open field and takes hikers over a slightly more challenging terrain to a rocky granite beach at Chair Pond where they can enjoy a rest on Adirondack chairs. Explore the beach area, looking for shells, interesting rocks and even old lobster buoys that have washed upon shore. Pigeon Hill Bay and the lighthouse on Petit Manan Island are visible from the trail.

Eagle Hill Institute

Eagle Hill offers a network of six intersecting trails, which range in length and difficulty. Just a 10-minute walk from the main building is a scenic overlook offering views of Gouldsboro Bay, including Schoodic Head and Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. Other trails take hikers through the woods, through blueberry barrens and along the coast of Dyer Bay.

Few people seem to know about this hidden gem. Hikers will enjoy solitude and the feeling of being alone on a private preserve. Eagle Hill also offers camping and has an on-site restaurant that is open in the summer. The institute also offers a variety of programs year-round, including concerts, workshops, seminars and presentations.

Quoddy Head State Park

Of course, the obvious attraction here is the West Quoddy Head Light, the easternmost lighthouse in the U.S. However, hikers can head off the beaten path right from the lighthouse to a series of trails not usually explored by lighthouse visitors. Most notable is the Coastal Trail which takes visitors along the shore from a high, rocky vantage point. At 4 miles round trip, this is the park’s longest trail. It shows off the cliffs from a wooded vantage point with periodic overlooks where views can be appreciated without obstruction.

5 Can't Miss Downeast Hikes by Johanna S. Billings

A group of seagulls sits on the rocky shore along the Hollingsworth Trail in Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge in Steuben

The other trails offer the hiker the chance to explore bogs and forests full of mosses and lichens. A variety of birds, from seagulls to bald eagles can also be seen along this and other trails. The park also features spots for picnicking.

Pigeon Hill Preserve

The Pigeon Hill Preserve offers 1.8 miles of trails. Hikers can climb to the summit to see views of the coast and pick blueberries in season. Other trails take hikers to the defunct silver mine.

At 317 feet above sea level, Pigeon Hill is the highest point along the coast in Washington County. The top of Pigeon Hill was used in the original “Eastern Oblique Arc” survey when the US government surveyed the eastern coast of the United States. From the top looking west Mount Desert Island can be seen, to the south Petit Manan Point and lighthouse can be viewed.

 

GETTING THERE

Great Wass Island Preserve, run by the Nature Conservancy, features 1,576 acres in Beals, Washington County. Described by its website as the “spectacular gem of Downeast Maine,” it is located off Route 187, accessible from Route 1 in Jonesboro.

Petit Manan Wildlife Refuge does not have its own website, but information on the trails is available on Maine Trailfinder: Birch Point trail  /  Hollingsworth trail.

Eagle Hill Institute is a nonprofit organization aimed at promoting natural history and the arts. Information on the hiking trails is accessible here.

Quoddy Head State Park is located four miles off Route 189 in Lubec and features 541 acres of forest and bog. Additional information on trails, including maps and day-use fees, can be accessed online or by calling 207-733-0911. The lighthouse, located adjacent to the park, is run by the West Quoddy Head Lightkeepers Association. The visitor center is open daily from Memorial Day to Oct. 15. For more information, call 207-733-2180 or email info@westquoddy.com.

Pigeon Hill Preserve is located off Pigeon Hill Road, just off Route 1 south of Milbridge. For more information visit downeastcoastalconservancy.org.

 

Text & Photos: Johanna S. Billings
In addition to being an avid hiker, Johanna is a national award-winning writer and photographer based in Steuben, Washington County. Her website is jsbillingsphoto.com.

 

 


Onawa Lake from Borestone Mountain, photo by Carey Kish

The Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit

A GRAND HIKING CHALLENGE IN THE MOOSEHEAD LAKE REGION OF MAINE.

From my airy perch on Mt. Kineo, feeling the intense exposure of the dramatic 700-foot cliff face of granite below me, I enjoyed one of the finest vistas anywhere in Maine’s North Woods. The misty gray afternoon skies served only to enhance the wildness that characterizes the magnificent view across the vast waters of Moosehead Lake to a veritable sea of mountains north, east and south.

It’s little wonder then, I thought, that Mt. Kineo is one of the mountains featured in the Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit, which challenges hikers to scale six high peaks around Maine’s largest lake. Each summit provides a unique vantage point for appreciating the immense natural beauty and unspoiled quality of the Moosehead Lake region, much of which enjoys conservation protection.

The Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit was developed as another avenue to drive nature-based tourism to our region,” said Angela Arno, Executive Director of the Moosehead Lake Chamber of Commerce.

Arno collaborated with Dan Rinard, Operations and Facilities Manager for the Appalachian Mountain Club, which is involved in its own eco-tourism effort through its Maine Woods Initiative project on its 70,000 acres of conservation and recreation land in the heart of the 100-Mile Wilderness. Arno and Rinard sorted through the region’s extensive inventory of mountaintops, finally settling on six peaks with maintained foot trails that were accessible by road year-round.

The Maine Center for GIS (the folks that brought you the Maine Trail Finder) created the maps, while the Chamber had a colorful trails guide produced and a website established. For each mountain, hikers get driving directions, round-trip trail mileage, elevation gain and trail profiles, everything you need to hit the trail. You need only lace up your hiking boots, shoulder a day pack and go: to Mt. Kineo, Number Four Mountain, White Cap Mountain, Eagle Rock, Big Moose Mountain and Borestone Mountain.

Enjoy an extraordinary vista from the summit ledges and steel rungs of the old fire tower atop Number Four Mountain (2,890 feet), which looms over the wild landscape just south of First Roach Pond and includes the rugged slopes of Lily Bay and Baker mountains. For many years, the only trail to the top was the steep and eroded fire warden’s trail, but the path has been recently rehabilitated by a Maine Conservation Corps trail crew under the direction of the Bureau of Parks and Lands. A series of well-designed switchbacks now make the hike a little easier and much more enjoyable.

The most remote of the six peaks is White Cap Mountain (3,644 feet), which requires a 31-mile drive to reach its base, nearly half of that on gravel roads. The mountain is also the most strenuous, with an elevation gain of 1,909 feet over the course of the 3.3-mile climb to the alpine summit. The ascent follows the white blazes of the renowned Appalachian Trail on part of its 2,189-mile route from Georgia to Maine. Anytime from about midsummer on, you’re likely to cross paths with a grizzled thru-hiker, now less than 100 miles from the big prize at journey’s end, Katahdin, in clear view from the rocks above the treeline high on White Cap.

From the pinnacle of Eagle Rock (2,290 feet), you’re rewarded with an exhilarating top-of-the-world view that captures everything from the upper Kennebec River valley and Moosehead Lake to the vast forestlands and mountain peaks as far north as Baxter State Park. An informal trail has existed for years on the north side of Eagle Rock, but thanks to the handiwork of the Maine Conservation Corps, a new route has been opened from the south, a meandering path with a healthy dose of ups and downs. Raven Ledge part way along offers a nice preview of what lies ahead at trail’s end.

Big Moose Mountain (3,196 feet) is the crown jewel among the 13,500 acres of the Little Moose Public Reserved Land, rising prominently above the thick woods, jumbled hills and sparkling ponds. Site of the first fire tower in the United States in 1905, the steel tower erected in 1919 to replace the original wooden structure was carefully removed in 2011. The restored tower now adorns the lawn outside the Moosehead Chamber of Commerce office on Route 15 on the way into Greenville. Revel in the marvelous views of the region from the narrow summit ridge, including a look at the slopes of the revitalized Squaw Mountain Ski Area.

Amid 1,600 acres owned by Maine Audubon, the craggy twin peaks of Borestone Mountain (1,981 feet) feature spectacular views over Onawa Lake to the rough, undulating terrain of the Barren-Chairback Range and beyond into the famed 100-Mile Wilderness. On the eastern summit are the iron bolts of the former fire tower and a map and compass display that helps you to identify every mountain in a complete 360-degree arc. Halfway up the mountain is Sunrise Pond and the Robert T. Moore Visitor Center, where interpretive displays detail the fascinating human and natural history of the area.

Hikers who tackle the entire Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit are eligible for a patch, sticker and certificate noting the accomplishment, all for the price of an application form and small fee. There’s no time limit on the Pursuit, so you’ve got all summer and fall. Up the adventure ante by pursuing the Ultra, Winter and Winter Ultra challenge options. Get started at www.mooseheadpinnaclepursuit.com.

Carey Kish of Mt. Desert Island is editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, and writes a regular hiking column for the Maine Sunday Telegram.


Mount Kineo from Moosehead Lake, photo: Carey Kish

Moosehead Lake: a destination high above the rest

LOCATED OVER 1000 FEET ABOVE THE LEVEL OF THE SEA LIES THE WORLD-FAMOUS MOOSEHEAD LAKE. Surrounded by majestic mountain peaks, Moosehead Lake is a destination high above the rest. Home to an abundant population of moose, this part of Maine announces its grandeur at first sight. Indian Hill at Greenville offers a stunning glimpse of this deep lake and the endless mountain range that lies ahead. A warm community of quaint shops, local eateries and waterfront gardens welcome you in downtown Greenville, Maine.

Guide Outposts are plentiful and can provide you with a northern exposure adventure of a lifetime. Moose safaris are best enjoyed by canoe and NorthEast Guide Service can provide you with the experience, knowledge and perfect setting for an authentic Maine wildlife tour or whitewater rafting trip along the rapids of the Penobscot & Kennebec Rivers. Fly fishermen of all ages and abilities can also take to the water. Wading, drift boat or inflatable raft, Wilson’s on Moosehead Lake can show you what they do best in the cool headwaters of the Kennebec River and Indian Pond.

Moosehead Lake, Cathy Genthner

Photo: Cathy Genthner

A short drive up the eastern side of Moosehead Lake leads you to Blair Hill. The most magnificent views are found here as well as the finest dining, at the Blair Hill Inn & Spa. The road continues to Lily Bay State Park, a resource for recreational trails, day and overnight camping and Moosehead’s most popular public beach. Just beyond Lily Bay, half way up Moosehead Lake is the small town of Kokadjo, population “not many.” This is where the pavement ends and the North Maine Woods begin. ATV trails abound as do the mountain hikes that are found here in Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness. Number 4, Whitecap, Gulf Hagas and the B52 Memorial Crash Site are just a few of the hikes that are found on Moosehead’s east side.

Opposite Kokadjo on the west side, lies the town of Rockwood, the heart of Moosehead Lake. Rockwood’s location makes it the best for boating opportunities. Here you will find a full service Moosehead Marina for all of your watercraft needs. Motorized and non-motorized boats can be rented at The Birches Resort or Lawrence’s Lakeside Cabins. No visit to Rockwood would be complete without a visit to Mount Kineo State Park. Accessible only by boat, shuttle transportation can be found for a fee at the Kineo Docks. A beginner hike will lead you the fire tower at the summit, giving a 360 degree panoramic view of the entire lake. Mount Kineo is also home to one of the most historic and scenic 9-hole golf courses in all of New England.

A short walk across the carriage trails leads you to Pebble Beach, the most beautiful beach on Moosehead. Pebble Beach sits under the 750 foot flint cliffs of Mount Kineo. A rope swing and smooth stones that you cannot find anywhere else set this beach apart from them all. Private sailing and lake fishing charters depart daily at Gray Ghost Camps. A sunset sail and an evening spent around the campfire is the perfect way to end any day on Moosehead Lake. For more information visit www.friendsofmooseheadlake.org

For just short of a century, Maynard’s In Maine has provided their guests with outstanding wilderness experiences in addition to excellent bungalow style cabin accommodations and great dining with wholesome fresh farm foods prepared to perfection. The Moosehead area offers outstanding landlocked salmon, trout and togue fishing. Recently, Billy Maynard landed a 29.67 lb Togue on Moosehead Lake measuring 41” long. His huge catch beats the old Moosehead Lake record set in 1961 of a 28 pound 12 ounce togue. The area’s large, pristine forests provide excellent cover for deer, bear and small game and make it an outstanding hunting region. Here guests at Maynard’s will find a real pearl in the North Woods. For additional information, call (207) 534-7703 or visit the Maynard’s in Maine website.


Beer tourism

Maine vacations built specifically around breweries

In recent years, I’ve gotten into the habit of counting license plates at big beer releases. Specifically, I’ve been checking out how many out-of-state plates are mixed in among the Mainers seeing what’s new from their local brewers. More and more, the number of people “from away” dwarfs the locals. There’s always a reliable contingent of Massachusetts folks, followed closely by flannelled Vermonters and our neighbors from New Hampshire. But Maine beer is drawing drivers from further and further away. On release days at Allagash and Bissell Brothers, you’ll increasingly see people coming from as far as New York, Pennsylvania and even Virginia.Skowhegan Brew Festival

Beer tourism — that is, trips and vacations with an itinerary built specifically around breweries — is booming in Maine and around the country. The Brewer’s Association (the trade association for small and independent American brewers) estimates that about ten million people visited craft breweries last year, and that number is only rising. With over 90 breweries operating in the state, and one of the highest concentrations of breweries per-capita in the country, Maine is at the forefront of the world of “beercations.”

“During 2016, 85% of the 5,300 guests on board came from places other than Maine,” says Don Littlefield, General Manager of the craft beer tour company the Maine Brew Bus. And these visitors weren’t here just to try Maine beer, but to take it home. “Over a 12-month period, our tour guests purchased over $50,000 in additional spending for beer and merchandise to bring home.”

These purchases of beer (either for consumption or to-go) at breweries are big business — the Brewer’s Association reports that about 7% of total brewery beer sales are made at a brewery or in a tasting room. Littlefield suspects the rate is much higher in Maine, with “75% or more of sales” for some brewers coming from direct interaction with customers at their breweries.

BEST BEER STORES

Old Mill Pub

Maine is called “Vacationland” for a reason — tourism is practically the state’s raison d’etre — and has been part of the state’s brewing landscape since the first lobster-branded phial of Geary’s Pale Ale rolled off the bottling line in the ’80s.

On top of this, the brewers of the Pine Tree State are making great beer. Beer so great, in fact, that it’s highly sought after outside of our borders. And with the majority of the state’s brewers only distributing within Maine (and many distributing themselves, only within a few dozen miles of the brewery), demand for Maine-made beer straight from the source is at an all-time high.

“Visitors from out-of-state have been a big part of the people who walk into our tasting room since we’ve opened, and it has only grown since then,” says Tina Bonney, Business Manager at Foundation Brewing Company. “It’s great to see interest in Maine beer grow, not only because we love to share what makes the beer scene here great, but it’s also a chance to share other cool things that are going on here, and why we love calling Maine home.”

While demand is peaking now, it’s not a new story. For years, the largest beer sites online (Ratebeer, BeerAdvocate, and Reddit’s r/beer) have hosted forums for beer-lovers looking to share their local beer. If you’ve ever looked on these sites, or even on Facebook and social media posts, you’ll see the popular acronyms FT (“For Trade”) and ISO (“In Search Of”) floating around every local beer release.

In the early 2000s, Bar Harbor Brewing’s Cadillac Mountain Stout was among the most highly sought-after beers from Maine. The dry stout, voted best stout in the world in the World Beer Championships in 1995, topped plenty of “best beer” lists and turned lots of people onto Maine beer. Also in high demand at the time was Shipyard Brewing Company’s Pumpkinhead, a divisive spiced beer that had devoted fans willing to go to great lengths to get their favorite seasonal beer as the days got shorter. Demand also rose for Allagash Brewing Company’s Belgian-style brews, particularly after 2010 as they began releasing small-batch beers brewed in their Coolship (a broad, open vessel used to cool spontaneously fermented sour beers). The Coolship beers age particularly well, and Coolship Resurgam, Coolship Red, Coolship Cerise, and Coolship Balaton, among others, remain in high demand by beer-lovers around the country.

In recent years, the fervor over beer releases has shifted in a hoppier direction. While bold stouts still demand some attention (Rising Tide Brewing Company’s Nikita and Tributary Brewing Company’s Mott The Lesser are two such examples), IPAs, Double IPAs, and cloudy “New England IPAs” draw hundreds of visitors to releases. Foundation’s Epiphany IPA and Maine Beer Company’s Dinner Double IPA both draw massive crowds at each release, creating snaking lines of visitors down Industrial Way and Route 1. Demand for Bissell Brothers’ Substance has been astronomical since they started brewing, but every new release from the brewery draws scads of people to their spot-on Thompson’s Point. The brewery releases a schedule of can releases seasonally, and there seems to be a line no matter the release.

In addition to the demand seen at Maine’s breweries and taprooms, Maine beer retailers see visitors looking to bring home local beer (or trade it with friends near and far). “When we wrote our business plan in 2011, we never foresaw how big beer tourism would be to our business,” says Greg Norton, owner of the state’s best beer store, Portland’s Bier Cellar. “Each year we see increasing numbers of out-of-staters coming in to Maine … It’s been amazing to see how much beer that has gone from our shop to other states and even countries.”

Norton has fostered a good relationship with local brewers, and his shop is a go-to spot for new releases from many Maine brewers, including the aforementioned Bissell Brothers, Foundation, and Allagash. He also advocates for other local beer that doesn’t have quite as much hype behind it. “I generally try to steer them to great examples of styles that may fly under their radar as well as crowd pleasing beers that are pretty universally loved. If it’s summer time, a nice Weiss beer or lager, in winter a porter or stout.”

Outside of Portland, beer stores represent both the greater Maine beer scene and their local brewers, many of whom might not be available in the Forest City. A stop at Tully Beer and Wine in Wells can get you beer from tiny Theory Brewing Company, for example, and Ron’s Market in Farmington carries growlers from local Tumbledown Brewing Company. Bottle shops in the expanding Bangor/Orono beer scene, like Bangor Wine and Cheese, carry bottles, cans and growlers that never make it to Southern Maine’s shelves.

Looking to enter the wild, wooly world of beer trading?
Be advised that shipping through the U.S. Postal Service is a strict no-no, while using carriers like UPS and FedEx is a bit more of a gray area. Forums on the popular beer sites are a great place not only to find trading partners, but also for advice on how best to package and ship your beer. Some bottle shops are also helpful, as sources for bottle shipping containers if nothing else. The short answer? Pack carefully, throw in some extra favorites, and don’t be a jerk. Use trading as an opportunity to share local favorites and receive the same from someone. If nothing else, think of it as a boxed-up beercation.

— Text: Josh Christie

 


Monhegan Island Brewing Co.

Visit an Island Brewery: Monhegan Brewing Co.

For you, dear beer, I would climb a mountain and cross the sea.

To grab a brew from Monhegan Brewing Co., it’s not like you can just drive up and hit the tasting room after work. This remote brewery is one of the few existing island stops on the Maine Beer Trail. You’re going to have to set aside an entire day for the journey, but it’s going to be the best damn beer you’ve ever tasted.

The entire experience starts from the moment you take the mailboat from the Monhegan Boat Line out from Port Clyde.  For $35 round-trip, you can make the 7:00 a.m. or 10:30 a.m. ferry out and take the return 4:30 p.m. boat back, giving you an entire day to explore Monhegan’s extensive trails.

The official ferry season starts Memorial Day, but the crowds start to hit around July 4, so if you want it to feel as though you have the island to yourself, go any weekday or weekend before then. With roughly an hour crossing (10 miles out to sea), stand out on the top of the deck and let yourself experience full sensory overload; feel the bracing salty wind, the churn of waves and take in the porpoises, seals, and shags. Close your eyes and imagine everyone else you know sitting in an air-conditioned cubicle, trying to decipher an Excel spreadsheet. Try hard not to cackle out loud.All of Monhegan Brewing Co. beers are named for Monhegan landmarks or aspects of island living.

After the boat docks, you’ll instantly see why this place inspires so many artists. There are no crowds or cars. Barely any stores. Just million dollar views everywhere you turn and a reclusive sense of silence. Maine: the way life used to be.

Have a good pair of hiking boots and bring a backpack with snacks and water or grab what you need at the island’s only year-round grocery store, L Brackett & Son on the main road just before the post office.

Buy the trail map at the boat ticket booth because your smart phone won’t likely work here. For those who want to boost the enchantment factor, take the easygoing Cathedral Woods trail, which reveals many tiny handmade fairy houses built alongside the path. (Just don’t cheese off the locals and alter the natural landscape or leave any items like beer caps).

If you want to get the biggest reward for your beer hike, forgo the easy trails and head straight for the cliffs. A short jaunt down the south side of the main road will take you to a fairly good loop starting with Burnt Head #4, which winds through the hushed forested interior of the island. Cut to the left slightly to Gull Cove #5, which takes you through a jagged cliffside path, (known as Trail #1) a spectacularly rugged hike that spans the perimeter of the island.

When you come out on Lobster Cove on the south side of the island, you’ll be sweaty and tired, but it’s going to feel like the chorus of angels just busted out in a cappella when you see the shingled cape taproom of Monhegan Brewing Co.

Owners Matt and Mary Weber started this family-owned brewery in 2013 and for the last three summer seasons, have seen traffic and sales exponentially increase. “The first year, people would sort of stumble onto the brewery, but now, especially with The Maine Beer Trail, we’re seeing more and more people come over specifically to go for a hike and sample a brew,” she said. “You earn your beer, that’s for sure.”
The inside of the taproom feels like a rustic clubhouse with cheerful blue and white decor and features about five to six brews ranging from IPAs and pale ales to a stout.

One of their most popular summertime brews is the Balmy Days Citra-Hopped Kölsch. After those cliffs, the light citrusy body with a touch of wheat is going to taste like Nirvana in a glass, no joke.

“A lot of people have told us it’s the best beer they’ve ever had, said Mary. “As much as it pleases me that they like our brews, I have a feeling that being hot and sweaty and having a cold beer at the end of the trail has a lot to do with it,” she laughed.

Each brew ranges from $5.00 – $6.00 per pint and they also offer handcrafted ginger beer and root beer as well. They take both cash and cards, but islanders always appreciate cash.

At this taproom, there is no such thing as a stranger. Many of those who came over on the ferry with you will end up here, or you might see an islander wheel up on an ATV to fill a growler. Mingle on the taproom steps or wander out to a shaded table in their lobster trap beer garden.

Out of all the day trips you take in your lifetime, you can honestly say you never went this far out of your way for a beer.
Okay, kick back and take a sip. You can die now.

— Text & photos: Kay Stevens


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