The Winter 2015 Maine Brew Guide – Not your ordinary winter brews!
Text Benjamin Moore.
You may be surprised when I say Winter is my favorite time of the year. It’s the season of warm layers, bountifully beautiful snow, and very short days. Winter is also post-pumpkin beer season, which frees the shelf space and tap lines for a wide variety of heart warming darker beers.
Fall is a time of artificial flavored beers, but more importantly malt-forward styles as well. I’m always a big fan of hopping everything under the sun but sometimes I forget about beers like Marzens, Octoberfests, and even brown ales until the fall comes. Winter continues the sweeter and darker times with stouts and porters.
Something about the cold weather and the holiday cheer makes me want to imbibe. Although I don’t gravitate towards any style in general. In fact, I drink what is local, available, and what I’m in the mood for at the time.
Maine has so many breweries to choose from now that we are spoiled by the quality and variety. I can fill this whole magazine with segments of each Maine brewery, their awesome beers you can drink in the winter, and where you can find them. Instead, I’ve chosen five of my favorites right now to highlight. If you talk to me next week those five may change.
In the old mill buildings in Biddeford and Saco are a brewery and a brewpub that are right around the corner from each other. One is Banded Horn Brewing Company and the other is Run Of The Mill Pub. Banded Horn has been brewing beer for just over a year now and has been making a splash in the beer scene in Maine. They brew a very nice traditional German Pilsner called Pepperell Pilsner, named after the building they are located in.
Run Of The Mill has been in operation for a bit longer than Banded Horn and makes some of the best pub style food that I’ve ever tried. Their Bug Lager is brewed year-round and pairs perfectly with their cuisine. The brewpub is located right over the Saco River, which is the perfect view during the summer on Run Of The Mill’s outside deck.
Nestled amongst the mill buildings in Biddeford, Banded Horn has a collection of beers that will really surprise you. Their Pepperell Pilsner, Luminaire Lager & Veridian IPA are great staples to their year-round core selection. But this winter you can catch their Norweald Stout and their Daikaiju IPA are some of my favorite beers of those styles. The Daikaiju is the right balance of intense IPA bitterness with a ton of fruit and citrus flavors. Overall, Banded Horn never disappoints.
Your favorite brewpub Sebago Brewing Company makes great beers all winter long. My fridge always has at least a few cans of fresh Frye’s Leap IPA ready to drink. We were very lucky in the fall to enjoy Sebago’s Hop Swap, Local Harvest & Bonfire Rye. Bonfire Rye has to be one of my favorite rye-based beers on the shelves. The bitterness of the rye is balanced by the abundance of malt.
But after fresh hop season is over and the leave have fallen, Sebago is just getting started for the winter. Their Slick Nick Long Winter Ale has been reformulated to be stronger and even more smooth as the previous versions. It’s a smooth and warming winter seasonal that’s not too sweet. I love the flavors of Slick Nick so much that I love using it to cook with.
Soon you’ll find the annual Barleywine available on shelves and taps from Sebago. This has to be my favorite beer they brew because every year it keeps getting better. They age it for a year in barrels that give a bourbon and sweet vanilla flavor. The boozy notes are balanced by the sweetness. Get the Whistle Punk 4 pack cans while available. It has an abundance of tropical fruit, citrus and pine aroma and flavor from the great hop blend. Big juicy American hops burst from this unfiltered Double IPA. It will be released several times throughout the year.
If you’re ever stuck in Kennebunk, Portland, Gorham, or Scarborough in a snowstorm, a Sebago Brewpub is a great place to hunker down and enjoy a beer or two.
The Liquid Riot Bottling Company, a brewpub/distillery located in the heart of downtown, is one of the best kept secrets in Portland. They serve only their own beers on tap, and offer a wide variety of house-made spirits including a single malt whiskey and a brand new bourbon whiskey.
Liquid Riot doesn’t brew any winter beers per se, but their line up is hard to beat. They are brewing beers like The Killing, a kettled soured ale that has 200 lbs of fresh Maine grown cranberries aged. They also have the coveted Russian Imperial Stout called Back to Black as well as the return of their Belgian dark strong ale called Disbelief. Disbelief is brewed with Maine Maple Syrup and Trappist yeast.
If the spirits and beer don’t warm you up enough, Liquid Riot has a tabletop shuffleboard and a pool table to have fun when the snow is falling.
Bigelow is nestled into a little farm in Skowhegan, Maine. The owners refit a custom-built horse barn into a cozy brewery with a fireplace. My favorite beer from Bigelow is their Dementia Double IPA, a hefty double IPA that is piney and delicious.
Tumbledown Brewing Company is located in Farmington, Maine. They are very small in operation yet produce traditionally styled craft beers. Their Tumbledown Red Ale is their flagship and is a malt forward ale that keeps you wanting more. At the brewery and tasting room, Tumbledown runs four beers on tap (three standard beers, including the Tumbledown Red and a line reserved for seasonal/limited edition beers. They sell beer in 32oz & 64oz growlers and will be offering 22oz Bombers that are being released on Small Business Saturday! Their Growler Club entitles members to exclusive benefits that are detailed on their website: tumbledownbrewing.com.
Take the time and drive over to Lyman, Maine and pay Funky Bow a visit. Their brewery is a really fun place, especially on Friday evenings. On Fridays you can find delicious wood fire pizza, local musicians playing, and more importantly their beers on tap. Like most breweries, you can find rarer beers at the source. Their G-String Pale Ale and So Folkin’ Hoppy IPA are great examples of those styles and can be found year around.
You’ll notice that lately Funky Bow is ramping up their lineup of beers. They just released their Cherry Picker Barrel Aged Stout in limited bottle release. They also started a new single-hop series of beers that will be on tap at the brewery. Every beer from that series will feature a beer brewed with just one type of hop to feature all the flavors in that one variety. Also be on the lookout for Funk Bow’s Santa’s Sack Barrel Aged Red Ale releasing in December as well as Smoked Staccato Stout available throughout December.
At 27 years old, Dan Pease started Rock Harbor Restaurant on Main Street in Rockland, Maine with the idea of some day making it a brew pub. After 2 years of growing the restaurant into one of Rockland’s favorite pubs, a brewery in southern Maine decided to close its doors. The opportunity to start a brewery presented itself and Dan purchased the equipment and moved it two hours north and installed it at Rock Harbor in July of 2013. After licensing Rock Harbor Brewing Co., the brewing began and by October the first pints were poured. Since October Dan has made three different IPAs, an ESB, Pale Ale and two stouts. His only previous experience in brewing was ten years of home brewing, but through research and experimenting he has been able to create brews that people at Rock Harbor Pub & Brewery are loving.
Baxter Brewing Co. is a Maine-based craft brewery which is the first of its kind in New England to can all of its beer. Located in Bates Mill in the up-and-coming community of Lewiston/Auburn, ME, Baxter Brewing Co. currently distributes its flavorful and unique craft beers in ME, MA, NH & VT, CT, & RI both in six-pack and on draught.
Blaze Bangor–Gourmet wood-fired dishes, all natural ingredients and over 50 craft beers on tap is all waiting for you at this uniquely cozy dining experience. The Run of the Mill and The Liberal Cup bring the comfortable, inviting atmosphere of English style pubs to Maine. Housed by a sprawling mill building in Saco, ‘The Mill’ offers ample indoor and (seasonal) outdoor seating with views overlooking the Saco River and up-and-coming mill district. Smaller and more intimate than its southern counterpart, ‘The Cup’ is located in the heart of Hallowell—a vibrant, historic town. Both feature hand crafted beer and home-style food surrounded by distinctive architecture and old world charm in rustic brick & mortar structures.
The Great Lost Bear has become a Portland institution since opening in 1979. With the Craft Beer Revolution in full throttle they offer over 78 beers on tap with over 40 from the State of Maine alone. The GLB features an enormous eclectic menu with something for everyone, all served in an entertaining atmosphere where you can taste some of the freshest local beer around!
Benjamin Moore is a photographer and martial artist. He has been blogging about beer for five years in Southern Maine.