Maine Brew Guide – Tasting Rooms
There has been a new precedent for new breweries: you need to have a tasting room. This wasn’t always the case but I’m happy that it is today. An example is Geary’s Brewing Company who recently opened a tasting room after decades of being in production. Now, all of Geary’s vast amount of fans can enjoy the environment of the brewery. This all means you can enjoy local craft beers in a welcoming environment with other like minded people.
Tasting rooms make or break a brewery. If there wasn’t a tasting room than you’ll only be able to enjoy what the brewery had to offer at bars. You wouldn’t get the culture and environment that a tasting room can offer. The tasting room employees can always go on and on about the beers pour. If the brewer is on premise you can talk to him about the beer and the company. There is so much learning in a tasting room. Below I’ve selected my 3 favorite tasting rooms from North of Portland, Portland, and South of Portland.
I define anything “north” as being past Portland on I-95 and I-295 on a map. If you’re heading north I would pay a visit to Maine Beer Company, Lively Brewing Company (Ebenezer’s Brewpub), and Baxter Brewing Company.
Maine Beer Company is located in Freeport, just south of exit 20 off of 295 and the outlet shops on Route 1. They have a sizeable, clean, and classic-looking tasting room with white walls – a minimalist design similar to their beer labels. Their beers, which vary but often hoppy, are a nice way to break up a day of shopping.
Lively Brewing Company is located inside Ebenezer’s Brewpub(formerly Lions Pride) and is located on Main Street, Brunswick. They serve hefty portions of family-style food as well as brew their own beers on premise. Veterans in the craft beer business, Chris Lively and Michael LaCharite are working together to produce some amazing beers at the pub like Magin Mike Saison and Space Taxi Belgian Quad. The custom blown glass tap handles are beautiful to look at as well.
Baxter Brewing Company is located in the center of Lewiston in the Bates Mill building. They brew delicious seasonal and year-round beers. The tasting room is homey and industrious and always includes friendly faces behind the bar. There are picnic tables and cornhole games in the brewery itself. Baxter tends to keep on a few small batch beers that you can’t get outside of the tasting room. If you’re in Lewiston for the day, this is a staple for a visit.
Portland has so many breweries and tasting rooms it has it’s own place as the middle. There are many breweries and brewpubs in Portland that provide a wide variety of environments and craft beers, and a visit to any one supports the local community. The tasting rooms I want to highlight this time are Allagash Brewing Company, Rising Tide Brewing Company, and the NEW Oxbow Brewing Company Portland tasting room.
Allagash Brewing Company is Maine’s 2nd largest brewing company and the 47th largest craft brewery in the country according to data from the Brewer’s Association. The past two years was spent expanding the brewery and tasting room to what it is today: a fantastic craft beer experience. Just by walking into the tasting room you can have a free flight of 4 of their beers on tap. However, I suggest visiting their website and scheduling a tour of their vast and breathtaking brewery – THEN doing a flight of beers. The tasting room is also a wonderful opportunity to buy some rare Allagash beers that aren’t distributed outside of Maine, as well as their merchandise.
Rising Tide Brewing Company has a tasting room with a custom concrete bar with wood accents underneath, and a polished floor containing smooth bits of recycled glass. The room is large and can house lots of thirsty people, also spilling out (weather permitting) to an outside seating area. You can find Rising Tide’s year-round beers pouring, as well as all of their seasonals. On the weekends they have a food truck parked outside of the brewery so you can enjoy local grub while drinking their beers. The tasting room staff always has a smile on their face and are full of energy. This is a great place to take a few friends to and try a bunch of Rising Tide beers, especially in the summer time.
Oxbow Brewing Company has – until recently – been exclusively located in the rural town of Newcastle, Maine. In November, they opened a second tasting room on the East End in Portland. Their new tasting room has barrels forblending and aging the saisons and sours they brew. Their tasting room includes some on-tap selections and bottle pours of some of the harder to get Oxbow beers. The huge space is inside of a warehouse, and includes picnic tables with wood accents all over the place. The Oxbow crew will have no problem explaining their brewing and blending process they do for their craft beers with a space like this.
Like Northern Maine, I will over-generalize and call my “Southern” selections those in York County – Maine’s southernmost county. There has been a recent boom of new breweries and beer spots popping up in York County as well as some awesome ones that have been there already.
The first brewery I want to mention is Barreled Souls Brewing Company, which opened this summer. They are located off of Route 1 in Saco. They are located in the basement of an office building, and is furnished with chairs, benches and other furniture made from reclaimed wood and staves of barrels. They use a special Burton Union System to barrel ferment all of their beers. With a large TV to watch the game on Sunday, this place is fun to have a flight of craft brew.
Tributary Brewing Company is located in Kittery, Maine and was started by brewing legend Tod Mott (creator of world-renowned Kate the Great at the Portsmouth Brewery). This is an easy place to hit up if you’re visiting the beautiful city of Kittery. The tasting room is painted blue and has picnic tables and a sizeable bar area. The beers are tasty, and many are not available anywhere but in the tasting room.
The next southern tasting room that I love hanging out in is not a tasting room, it’s a bar & café called Elements : Books, Coffee, Beer. It’s a combination of a relaxing café environment where you can read a book and a comfortable bar where you can enjoy a pint or bottle of local beer. The sign from the street as well as all the signs inside are designed to look like the periodic table. The bar/café also serves coffee if beer isn’t your first beverage of choice.
Benjamin Moore is photographer and martial artist. He has been blogging about craft beer for 4 years for Southern Maine.