We took a little self-made beer and food tour with some friends in Portland, Maine. The main purpose was to celebrate a birthday; the completion of our good friend Theo's twenty-ninth trip around our star. We found some things we really liked and some things that only whelmed us, so we would like to share.
Our first stop was the service plaza in Kennebunk...to use the restrooms. You didn't think we were touring truck stop foods, did you?! The continuation of the ride was uneventful. So uneventful, in fact, that we missed the exit we wanted. Someone was slacking in the navigation department. Oops! No matter, we turned around at the next one and still managed to arrive first of our group.
The second stop (the first planned one) of our tour was Rising Tide Brewing Co. We got a high top table and looked over the beer list, but we waited for friends to arrive before making any decisions. The next to arrive were (belated) birthday boy, Theo, and his wife, Kerri, along with their friend, Nathan. Credit for the planning of this tour goes entirely to Kerri; we're merely participants. We got signed into our tour while Theo's brother, Chase, and his wife, Christina joined us.
We found a spot at the bar to order a round, and it was then everyone else realized they hadn't decided. Not a problem, they moved out of our way and we ordered a Pisces and a Waypoint while they hemmed and hawed over the beer list. To be fair, Rising Tide offers a surprisingly large array of beers for their size, with 12 beers on tap. With everyone's hands full of beer, and their eyes protected with safety glasses, we began our tour of the production area, lead by Dan. As far as craft breweries go, Rising Tide is maybe slightly larger than average. It's just a one-room operation, but they have a handful of ~150bbl fermenters. Dan came across as quite knowledgeable of the process and science of brewing, as well as the company's history. He was very friendly and had us all laughing throughout the tour. Of the Pisces, I was a fan. It had been warm when we set out on our trip, though Portland was overcast, and a light gose is an awesome nice-weather beer. I enjoyed the Waypoint, a nice, smooth coffee porter. Even though the weather was spring-like, I generally prefer dark beers year-round.
We finished the tour and were joined by Theo's dad, Wax, and his wife Marie. There was also another woman, Julie. We all stepped outside to find the Japanese-inspired food truck called Mami. We ordered rice balls per Dan's suggestion, as well as a steam bun, recommended by Nathan. The flavors were great, and the food was the perfect little snack to quench our very slight hunger.
As our group milled about, sampling different foods outside and beers inside, we popped in next door at Maine Craft Distilling to see what they had. I was mostly interested in their whisky situation; which was only a couple shots left in one bottle. We talked with the bartender about how that was great for their business, yet unfortunate for me. We learned it is available at Whole Foods and a couple other nearby locations. I tried a small sample anyway. Unfortunately, I didn't LOVE it enough to try to track it down. Nathan strayed in a few minutes behind us and he sampled a dry gin next to a barrel-aged gin. He preferred the dry, though he later confessed that he wasn't in love with the samples either.
Next, we drove across town to check out Allagash Brewing Co. As soon as we parked, we realized they had expanded noticeably since we were last there, a few years ago. We got signed in and checked out what was available in the tasting room while we waited for the rest of our group to catch up. I drooled over the bottles of Curieux trying to decide if I should buy one or 12, while others got a sample of house beer. Eventually, Bella rounded us up and took us out onto the production floor. As an engineer, this place always fascinates me. The production equipment is just beautifully designed and integrated. It's really more of one giant machine, than several separate processing tanks.
Bella told us of the rocky start for Allagash Brewing, back when no one in America had acquired the taste for Belgian-style beers. It was interesting to think about how the taste of a nation can affect a company and, through perseverance, how a company can affect the taste of a nation. Allagash kept producing their flagship White through the early years, unchanged, and eventually it caught on. About a decade later. We moved on to the experimentation area where the employees can try out their own ideas. It was cool to see that although their production scale is so massive, Allagash still approaches brewing like any other craft brewery; they still think they're small. We passed through the wild yeast and fruit addition area, where my beloved Curieux is made, on our way to the barrel-aging room. Here we tried out Map40, Hoppy Table Beer, and St. Klippenstein. They were all great, in their own distinct ways. They were all very different from one another. I was very impressed by the flavor of the Map 40. It is a Belgian-style stout infused with cold-brewed coffee. In my opinion this beer was better than the Waypoint I had gotten at Rising Tide.
Back in the tasting room, we made some decisions and bought a few items to bring home and save for a rainy day. As the rest of our group did a combination of purchasing for now and purchasing for later, we chatted about our plan, and eventually made a move towards the door.
We walked the short distance down Industrial Ave. to Foundation Brewing Co. and grabbed a table on the patio. It wasn't quite that nice outside, but we were optimistic. We held the table while the stragglers caught up and lined up to get flights. We skipped out on drinking here, though the reviews from our fellow tourmates were good all around. Bedrock had the most positive responses of everything.
Just three doors over from Foundation is New England Distilling, which we went to next. I inquired about the whisky situation, of course - more specifically, bourbon. I asked if they make bourbon, which as it turns out, was the wrong question. The answer was yes, so I got excited. Attached to that yes was a big ol' BUT. "Yes, we make bourbon BUT we don't sell it yet." Apparently there is disagreement among the company about which proof they should bottle it at, and they need to reach a consensus before they can sell it. Oh well.
We drove across town again for our next and final stop at Little Tap House for dinner. We arrived first, and well ahead of our reservation time, so we asked if we could just grab a couple seats at the bar while we waited on the rest of our party. Our table was ready, we were told, and would we rather sit there? So we got seated and ordered some maple bacon mixed nuts. When the nuts arrived, we realized we were both very hungry. They were totally delicious. We devoured them.
As a few more of our party arrived and got situated, our waitress brought us a complementary sample of a bean relish, from the chef. It was pretty good, though not our favorite. We realized that some of our group would take a while to catch up, so we ordered a few various appetizers to share. Among them were pomme frites with parmesan and truffle salt, a cheese plate, Reuben eggrolls, and hummus. All the food was amazing, and helped us decide on entrees. I ordered a brisket. I ordered chili. The brisket was over the top good. We had to bring the remaining chili home because it was delicious but enormous portions. Yay for leftovers!