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Aug 28, 2011 07:51 AM

Beer - Best place to fill a growler in Portland ME

Just moved to Portland area with SO from Seattle, WA. I am hoping to fill some of my growlers with good local beer. I've had the obvious local beers (Shipyard, Gritty's, Allagash, etc) which have been excellent, but I know there must be more.

Can anybody suggest the best place to fill a growler with local beer, considering price, quality, and variety?


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  1. I don't think beer stores (or even breweries?) can sell growlers, only brewpubs - depends on the type of license they hold I would think. Most likely they will want you to use their own growlers too.

    Gritty McDuff's and Sebago Brewing brewpubs are the only place I know of in Portland.

    Shipyard and Allagash sell bottled products though.

    Gritty McDuff's
    68 Main St, Auburn, ME 04210

    1. There are a few growlers of certain Maine beers at both whole foods and RSVP

      3 Replies
      1. re: grittys457

        I assume these are pre-filled at the brewery, and these stores do not have filling stations?

        I probably should have said beer stores cannot fill growlers, not sell them.

        1. re: LStaff

          "I assume these are pre-filled at the brewery, and these stores do not have filling stations?"

          Yeah, my bad. Those are filled already. On a side beer note, I'm looking forward to trying the new Maine brewery Oxbow at Novare tonight. Supposed to be a nop notch farmhouse style beer.

          1. re: grittys457

            They are a top notch new Maine brewery. They are out of Newcastle and supposedly you can get growlers filled their on Fridays. I thought they had the best tasting beers at Maine beerfest this year. Also went to Novare during Maine beer week and got to sample more of their beers.

      2. The only growlers I've seen in stores around Portland are from Sheepscot. Not good beer at all. the growler scene in Portland is weak. I would say the whole state is behind on growlers, but I do hear Marshall Wharf in Belfast sells them. I thought the new law that passed last year was going to make it possible to walk into brewpubs and breweries and fill your growler. Even if we could just buy a growler at a brewpub that would be an improvement.

        11 Replies
          1. re: mjp81

            Any updates on this?

            A closer look at the law from a few years ago reveals language that allows breweries to sell their own growlers from behind the bar, but it mentions nothing of whether patrons can bring in their own vessel to be filled on site.

            1. re: Mike CP

              I feel your pain, Mike CP. I just moved back to Portland after being away for 5 years. While away, I fell in love with growlers. It supports the local brewery because you're buying direct, draught tastes way better than bottles and cans, and maybe best of all, it eliminates having to recycle. Fill it, drink it within a week or two (within 24 hrs once opened), wash it out, repeat.

              I was shocked to find that growlers haven't taken off here. The bartender at Sebago openly shamed me for asking, saying "Why would we do growlers when our beer is available in bottles?" Dbag.

              Seadog out by the malls in SoPo does growlers. They're owned by Shipyard and have good stuff like Thumper on tap but because of the goofy, old blue laws around growlers, they can only fill with the Seadog beers. I'm not in love with any one Seadog beer. The IPA is fine, the blond is fine. I usually try whatever wasn't on tap on my prior visit, and it's always fine. Never stellar, but fine. The people working here are always nice and they have a loyalty points card thing (not sure what it's for yet but its also accepted it up at Sunday River in the bar at White Cap, and I feel terribly smart and important when I whip it out...)

              Grittys also fills but in my 2 attempts to get reacquainted with the place since I've been back in Portland, I found the beer nearly undrinkable, gross even. So disappointing because it's a great space, close by, and it's basically an institution that I used to love. I would love to get growlers filled here rather than driving all the way to the mall, but in trying 4 pints over 2 visits, something is very wrong here nowadays.

              Sorry for the long answer to your short question. I just love love love growlers and good beer! I can't believe Portland's green beer-obsessed locavore culture hasn't caught on yet.

              1. re: Sunnny

                I can understand from the "green" perspective, but not so much on the "buy direct" or "tastes way better" perspective. Don't get me wrong, I fill up on growlers from Marshall Wharf in Belfast as often as I can...but to think it tastes way better than out of a tap (1st choice) or out of a bottle (2nd choice) is a stretch at best. It all comes from the same source doesn't it? And if you're drinking it alone (i.e. the Mrs is having a glass of pinot, you're having beer) you're hampered by the size. Kind of like that 2 liter bottle of half drunk, fizzless Coke that's sitting in my fridge waiting to be tossed.

                And does Sebago/Gritty's/Shipyard/xxx really care if you get it out of a growler as opposed to a six pack? And if you recycle those bottles & cans, aren't you just as green?

                I think it comes down to freshness. Fresh beer out of a bottle or a growler tastes great. Unfresh beer out of a bottle or growler tastes bad.

                Maybe I'm just beer naive. Though years of experience may suggest otherwise.

                1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                  I appreciate everyone's response on this; mostly I'm just curious as to the what/where/why since I'm new to the area.

                  The biggest appeal of growlers to me is the ability to try a beer that may be on tap, but not available in a bottle. Back in Seattle, a nearby tavern or specialty beer store would have great local, national, and international taps each week. Some of the breweries providing the kegs were either too small to bottle or maybe not interested in selling bottles to the local market due to shipping or distribution costs. Growlers allowed me to try a beer at the bar, and then bring some home with me if I liked it. This may not be directly increasing profit for the brewer, but it definitely raised awareness of any new local brand.

                  But back to Portland: If filling growlers is not an option, is there a bar where it is best to try the small batch or short-term beers in the area? Where do you go to see what is new?

                  1. re: Mike CP

                    I would go to Novare Res. I have also had tastings at the Great Lost Bear, just don't eat the food.

                    1. re: Mike CP

                      "But back to Portland: If filling growlers is not an option, is there a bar where it is best to try the small batch or short-term beers in the area? Where do you go to see what is new?"

                      Not Portland but try Liberal Cup brand seasonal/rotated brews available at the original Liberal Cup in Hallowell and the Run Of The Mill pub in Saco.

                      Also Lion's Pride in Brunswick.

                      Maine Brewers Guild has a website w/ info on members, etc.

                    2. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                      My memory is fuzzy (go figure...) but on an Anchor Steam brewery tour I took, I think they explained beer that goes into bottles is made slightly differently from the beer that is sold in kegs.

                      They're made in separate batches but I think the ingredients are about the same, just a difference in process. The bottled beer needs to stay fresher longer on the shelf whereas kegs hopefully get turned over more often. Also, the bottled beer is more carbonated than keg which I think they said helps preserve it, and the higher carbonation means the beer is less dense which slightly diminishes the flavor.

                      Again, my memory is terrible so I could be totally wrong here, and every brewer is likely different. Point is the beer in the bottle vs the beer from a keg from the same brewery aren't necessarily exactly the same. (That being said, I probably couldn't tell the difference in a blind taste test...)

                      And no way on recycling bottles being as green as re-using a growler, not even close. Recycling means the bottle is transported and heavily processed in order to make it usable again. Probably not a perfect analogy but think of it as bringing your own re-usable shopping bags to the grocery rather than just switching to paper from plastic.

                      1. re: Sunnny

                        But imagine you like to shop all over New England at different stores and each store only lets you use their own branded bags. This is what I find inconvenient and wasteful about growlers. I've thrown out a ton of growlers in the past because I will never get back to the brewery they were filled at and no one else wants to put their beer in someone elses branded growler - some site labeling laws for this practice, others site the marketing aspect. Breweries really need to come up with some kind of reciprocal return service, or simply start using stickers to label "foreign" growlers if they are truely interested in the "green" aspect of it.

                        1. re: LStaff

                          Oxbow is so good! The Crow Bar on Munjoy Hill has it. I think I also saw it at The Thirsty Pig on Exchange. And Peeper which I am becoming addicted to. The Pig makes insanely good homemade kielbasa by the way, perfect snack with local beer.

                          The brewers maybe wouldn't mind sharing bottles. I think it's the liquor laws in the way.

                          Agreed a growler does not make sense if you don't live close to that brewery and or if you only drink beer occasionally, and your spouse won't help you finish it within 24 hrs of opening. A growler doesn't last long at my house so it works perfectly. I have noticed the metal capped growlers (Moat, Triumph) seem to hold the quality better than the plastic caps (Seadog) after a week in the fridge, in the rare instance a growler would sit in my fridge un-opened for that long.

                          I wouldn't bother if I was on the road. That being said, I've moved a lot and do have a graveyard of growlers I can't often use, but I'm glad I kept them. I have a few for Moat and it's a treat to bring Iron Mike home once or twice a year. And I remembered to put my Triumph growlers in the car for a road trip last week.

                          I admit I have one very sad growler from away that is now used to house pocket change.

                        2. re: Sunnny

                          Nobody is denying that draft beer tastes better than bottled beer...the comparison here is growler beer vs bottled beer. Sure, if you drink that growler as soon as you get home then great, you've succeeded in drinking draft beer. Wait a few days...or drink some and then wait a few days for the rest...then no way does it taste better. Believe me, I'm not begruding the growler..but for some people (or in some circumstances) it just doesn't make sense. And on the pendulum of "greenness", lets put the growler somewhere between drinking straight out of the bar tap and recycling store bought bottles. The least green being flying to Oregon to visit the Rogue brewery and buying a six pack and flying back with it...disposing of the half drunk bottles in the alley...

                2. I know this is about 1h 15m south, but Throwback Brewery in North Hampton, NH does fill growlers...


                  2 Replies
                  1. re: pilletsh

                    This is a terrific place! Looking forward to the rhubarb wit on Thursday!

                    1. re: pilletsh

                      Blue Lobster Brewing in Hampton, NH also sells growlers. They opened not too long ago. I was there a couple of weeks back and found a couple of their beers I really liked. Good stuff. Their growlers have the stopper tops with metal bale (like a Grolsch bottle).


                    2. Not local but whenever I am up in North Conway, I always get a few growlers at Moat Mountain Brewery. And the food is great too!