Portland, Maine isn’t the first Portland that comes to mind when someone mentions America’s craft beer capital -- that finger is usually pointed at Oregon. However, this little city in Maine is brewing up more beer than anywhere else in the U.S. per capita. With 17 microbreweries and a population of 67,000 people, Portland, Maine has 25.5 breweries per 100,000 people, the highest rate of anywhere in America. Plus, the charming cobblestoned streets, boutique shops, and 5-star seafood make this New England city the perfect weekend getaway. So, want to do a bit of brewery hopping? Come along, I’ll point you in the direction of the very best.
Day 1: Downtown Portland
Begin your brewery adventure along the fishing wharfs of Commercial Street in the heart of downtown. Liquid Riot is a restaurant, bar, and brewery where you can enjoy a delicious lunch to prep for your day of liquid taste testing. The restaurant sits within the brewhouse, where you can see different beers being brewed each day at every step of the process. As a dark beer connoisseur, I loved the Imperial Oatmeal Stout called, “Easy Like Sunday Morning,” named for it’s hint of Maine maple syrup and Guatemalan coffee. Want a beer that will put a hop in your step? Give “What’s in the Box?” a try; it’s the smoothest Double IPA I’ve ever had, and at 9% ABV, you’ll be hopping all the way over to your next brewery.
Head down Commercial Street, or go right through the heart of town along Congress to the industrial outskirts of Portland. Here you will find Bunker Brewing Company nestled in the back of a long, white concrete building. The brewery's new location embraces its industrial location with an eclectic mix of weathered wood, old-school stools, and a vintage, patina tiled bar. On tap, you have to try the brewery’s flagship lager, Machine, a Czech-style Pilz that’s clean, crisp, and simply delicious. And for all you porter lovers out there, Baltic Wave claimed the number one spot on my list of favorite dark beers. It’s rich and smooth with a hint of sweetness and minimal hop bitterness.
Down the road at the tip of Thompson’s Point, you’ll find a microbrewery that is no new kid on the block for beer connoisseurs. Bissell Brothers Brewing is always hopping, with lines traveling out the door to wait for the brewery’s flagship beer, The Substance Ale, which the Bissell Bros describe as, “A brightly dank ale that threads many needles.” Grab you ale and head up to the loft to watch the brewery buzz below you. Or, go outside to sit on the patio and watch the Amtrak trains go by. Make sure to be on the lookout for one of Maine’s signature food trucks, the Highroller Lobster Co., in case it pulls up outside Bissell Brothers. They have one of Portland’s fave lobster rolls made with your choice of either drawn butter or lime, jalapeno or roasted red pepper mayo. The lobster roll was stuffed with fresh meat and the lime mayo was delish.
Finish for the day back in Portland’s downtown area, a bit further East in the Bayside neighborhood. Here you will find Rising Tide, a family-owned craft brewery which specializes in artisanal, small-batch brews. One of their staples, Daymark, is an American Pale Ale which uses locally-grown rye in its brewing process. Of course, my favorite was the brewery’s delicious coffee porter called Waypoint. Rising Tide partners with a local coffee shop called Tandem to give the beer it’s coffee-roasted flavor, and Tandem’s brick and mortar bakery is a must-see spot in the downtown area. Don’t be alarmed when you pull up to an old-school gas station. You’re in the right place, just walk inside and the scent of coffee will hit you.
Day 2: Around Portland
You might recognize this name from Portland’s list of craft breweries, and that’s for good reason. Allagash is one of Maine’s most well-known brews, with its staple beer, Allagash White, making appearances on taps across America. Since 1995, Allagash has been an independent brewery bringing Belgian-styled beer to America. Check out their taproom and try their rotating assortment of beers on tap, including their annual Fluxus beer which commemorates the first beer Allagash ever sold. Hibernal Fluxus 2017 is a delicious experiment of rhubarb meets Saison milk stout, slightly sweet and slightly sour. Its location is a bit off the beaten path on the outskirts of Portland, but I promise, you’ll spend much of your day in this part of town.
Right down the road, you’ll find brewery after brewery clustered in buildings at 1 Industrial Way, a breeding ground for World Class Maine Beers. Head on into Foundation Brewing, and snag a spot at one of the few bench tables if you can -- this place fills up quick. With more than 10 beers rotating constantly on tap, you may not know which one to try (I certainly didn’t). So, give the brewery’s daily flight a whirl, with 4 pre-chosen brews selected by Foundation employees for you to taste! Then, go up for flight #2, or choose your fave and grab a pint.
Walk around the corner of 1 Industrial Way, and you’ll find your last (maybe?) brewery of the day. (Note: There are quite a few more breweries in this area if you want to keep the party going!) New to the Portland craft beer scene, Battery Steele is quickly making a name for itself. The crowd favorite brew definitely goes to Flume, Battery Steele’s Double IPA, which is delicious, juicy and full of that hoppy flavor.