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Aug 11, 2010 07:48 AM

What Portland brews should I go out of my way to try?

I'll be visiting your lovely city(town?) in a few short weeks and am eager to know what local seasonal microbrews should I go out of my way to sample during my visit? A Blueberry Ale perhaps? I noticed that Sebago makes one, is there a better option? I also saw they just releaesed a Pumpkinhead Ale. That looks interesting. Also the Smashed Pumpkin one, but I have a feeling I missed that one.

I've read great things about The Great Lost Bear and Novare Res, but am looking for specific (seasonal or not) beer recommendations.

I don't love uber-bitter beers. I like pale ales, but IPA, double IPA etc. are a bit harsh for me. I also don't care for beers with a heavy wheat presence (the medicine cabinet flavor... to me it tastes like how bandaids smell...)

I tend to like any type of beer as long as it tastes balanced, and I'm a huge fan of porters and stouts, although in this heat I'll most likely be opting for something a tad lighter.


The Great Lost Bear
540 Forest Ave, Portland, ME 04101

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  1. GLB will have more focus on local beer than Novare Res. And don't forget Gritty's and Sebago for some brewpub action.

    As for specific beers, I'm not the best person to suggest them because 1) I'm mostly an IPA drinker and 2) I'm not really a fan of most Maine beers - especially anything made at Shipyard. I would suggest Atlantic Coal Porter, but most likely you will only find the Shipyard made version in Portland. Allagash white or any other Allagash beer will be something for you to look out for though.

    2 Replies
    1. re: LStaff

      I strongly disagree with LStaff, and find most Shipyards well above standard. Their brewmaster is a Brit, and their
      " Fuggles" IPA is made with proper (IMHO) English hops. If you like Cascade hop flavor, then Ship is not for you. But definitely visit the brewery and taste for yourself.

      1. re: mainemal

        I don't know how you can disagree, I am quite positive that I don't like Shipyard's beer. ;-)

        Has nothing to do with the hops he uses - or even all that much with Ringwood yeast (as I have had many clean beers made with this yeast), and everything to do with his brewing technique of rushing the beer through fermentation and not letting the yeast finish its job and clean up after itself leaving the beer with a cloying, sickly feeling in the back of the throat and makes every beer taste like butter or butterscotch. Diacetyl is appropriate in some styles (like ESB) but at lower levels than Shipyard's beers though. Some people have a higher tolerance for diacetyl than others, I can detect even the slightest amounts and find it offputting. Many people don't notice until you point it out them - I have ruined many a beer for my wife after I point out the butteriness to her - then she notices it.

        Here's a link to a good article that outlines the controversy.

    2. Here's my two cents:
      Gritty's Pub Style or the seasonal (by the time you get here...prob. the Halloween Ale). Geary's London Style Porter
      Old Thumper ESB (Extra Strong Bitter - english style). In my book, not "uber bitter". Technically brewed by Shipyard -- but I don't consider that a bad thing.
      Allagash White (wheat style - but I certainly don't think this one smells like "band aids").
      Andrew's Old English Ale - out of Lincolnville (midcoast). If you can find it down there, try it.

      1. Gritty's beers are awesome, but I have only tried the IPA's, but my guess from those and their reviews that there would be some that you'd like.

        Allagash has some great ones also. I've had their white outside of Maine and it was very good.

        I'm thinking by wheat you meant malty?? Only saying bc the last overly malty, high ABV brew I had I could kind of see what you meant by band-aid smell.

        3 Replies
        1. re: solargarlic

          I've never been able to clearly identify what causes that band-aidy smell/taste that I hate. I've definitely had wheat beers that I like, it's just mostly prominent in wheat beers. Malty you say? I'll remember that.

          Two glaring examples of that taste I've had recently were Ommegang's Three Philosophers and Southampton Double White. Couldn't drink either of them.

          1. re: sixteenbiticon

            Mostly yeast interaction with trace elements that can be brought out of wheat malt that give the beer a phenolic clove-like flavor that some describe as medicinal or band-aid. Doesn't mean all wheat beer will have it, only certain ale yeasts provide that flavor. These flavors are desired by those who brew Hefeweizen.

            Allagash white is a witbier - which may show some phenolic character in the form of peppery spiciness (if you can notice it over the coriander/orange flavors ), but clove or bandaid flavor would be out of place in this style.

            1. re: sixteenbiticon

     have me so curious right now. I really wish I could meet up with you at GLB and we could sample some and I could actually understand what you taste! The first white beer I liked was the Long Trail White...said right on the bottle that it was brewed with coriander and orange. Expecting those flavors, I really liked that style. Now I enjoy a good hefeweizen or other white beers when I know what it's going to taste like. I've never really noted clove in there. The Three Philosophers (which sadly, I have not tried yet) is a high ABV beer, a Quadruple, so there is that malty, sour thing going on there. How about in a barleywine style, what do you think of those? Maybe it also has to do with the fermentation process used?

              In any case, I'd check out either a brewery, or go to GLB, get a flight, and talk to a bartender about your experiences and see if they can help you find a style that works for you.

          2. Allagash White gets mentioned a lot, but they certainly have many more interesting beers. Given your preferences for porters and stouts, you might like Allagash Black, a delicious dark Belgian, which to me is on the coffee/smoky/roasty side of things. If you can find their Victor, definitely worth the hefty price tag. The first review review here is pretty consistent with my experience:

            I agree with LStaff that shipyard is fine, but nothing all that special. I think you can do better.

            1. Gritty's Black Fly Stout
              Geary's HSA
              Sebago Brewing Fryes Leap IPA
              Maine Beer Company Peeper Ale
              Bar Harbor Cadillac Mountain Stout