Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Vacation: Portland Day 1

On Sunday we began out vacation leaving South Hadley behind for the sunny skies of Portland before making our way to Dover, NH where our sister-in-law and her soon to be husband are located. We had a wonderful drive up 202 to 2 to 495 - 95 - 295 or something like that. When we reached Portland 3 hours later we were looking for some place to grab lunch. So being the beer enthusiast that I am choose Gritty McDuff's for lunch. As you probably can guess our food choices revolve around beer. 
There's my wife waiting for me to go it...she's a fast walker.
Gritty McDuff's is one of the first brewpubs in Maine and the first in Portland. You can tell a good local place by the number of members mugs they have above the bar. One of the local, frequent patrons told us if your a member for 5 years you get one of the fancier mugs and get to take your beginners mug home. Let's just say there were a lot of 5+ year mugs. The bar is made of copper, which is different than most. Another unique trait is the long bench style, we decided to sit at the back side of the bar instead. 
look at my artistic side, its great
Many of the beers at Gritty's our English inspired beers, meaning you can taste more malt than hops. As a hop head I was looking forward to trying something different. Being a hop head I went with their IPA, which they claim is Maine's Best IPA. They used a 2 row malt, British style of course, with some caramalt. The latter is used to help with the brownish coloring. The beer itself had a nice hop presence, using less than I would. It was enjoyable to drink and I nice way to begin our, I mean my beercatian, since my wife is pregnant with our first child. So I enjoyed a whole pint all to myself. Knowing that we were going to many places on this day I wanted to pace myself. So I had only one other beer and that was a cask conditioned single hop pale ale. This beer was a little hoppier than the IPA, not by much though. The cask was smooth and dry. The beer had a great balance of flavor which was great again. 

Gritty McDuff's: Go there, drink beer and enjoy the atmosphere and get the sweet potato tots with maple sour cream (They are amazing!)

One of the nice things about Portland, like Burlington, VT you can walk to a few breweries and that is what we did on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  

Our next stop was at Sebago brewery, which they don't brew on site. Instead they have about five locations including a production facility. The place we stopped at on Fore Street was one of the restaurants. The place was really nice and it seemed more restaurant than brewpub which was fine. The nice thing though is we sat at the bar and was able to get free samples. So naturally we tried the IPA, which I think was my favorite beer of the day. The Frye’s Leap IPA used American 2 row hops, which I think allows for a higher abv than the British kind.  At the restaurant bar, no one was really sure about the hops, but the manager came in and saved the day telling us that they used 2 types of C's Cascade and Centennial. I could smell the cascade hops and it was fantastic. This was a true west coast style IPA compared to another that I will review later. The name Frye's Leap IPA comes from a cliff of of Sebago Lake.

another wonderful artistic shot,
 I am awesome, and so was this beer
The next beer we tried was their summer Hefeweizen which is a golden wheat ale that had strong characteristics of banana and clove. These flavors come from both the Yeast strain and red wheat that were used to create this beer. This beer was very enjoyable, I am learning to like Hefeweizen a lot more, similarly with Belgian beers. The yeast that is used for them has a great taste, especially for summer beers. 

Sebago: Go to the bar and get the IPA, its great, or go to the store and buy a six pack.

Next we went Shipyard This was the first tour that we went on. Their normal tour is Tuesday's but they have a video tour and tasting. Even before we get it, while waiting we were able to try Capt'n Eli's soda. This is not like Coke, Pepsi or Mug Root Beer; this soda is made with real ingredients and real sugar cane. They were great and a nice break from beer. My favorite was probably the Ginger beer, it had a strong ginger flavor. 

On to the tour, Shipyard has created a very funny video of how they came to be. We sat on church pews to enjoy this video. After a quick tour of the bottling line, which is the largest in Maine and they do bottling for many different companies including Peak, Sea Dog and various other locally made soda's. They took us to the bar upstairs and we were able to try many of their offerings. Many of them were good, not a normal buy for me, since many of the beers are created in English style.

A couple of beers that I will focus on is one of their newest IPAs Monkey Fist and one that they opened just for me to try, Applehead.

Monkey fist was a solid IPA, sold as an aggressive IPA and for a place which focuses on British styles, it is. The cascade hops were solid coming though the beer. The beer is well balance and not an over powering hop presence. 

The second beer that I will focus on out of a collection of solid beers (included their Export beer, which is a better tasting Molson Export beer), is Applehead Ale. If your expecting a hard cider, you would be sadly mistaken. Applehead is a beer that taste like apple pie, in a good way. They have created a wheat beer that you can taste the cinnamon, nutmeg and apples. It was surprising and refreshing. If you have or know someone who likes ciders and not beer, you should get this for them.

Shipyard Brewing: Go for the tour, stay for the beer.

phone died, now using someone else's picture

Our final stop was at Run of the Mill Brewpub.  

This place was located in Saco, not Portland, in a old tannery. The beer was OK overall, I had only one. They advertised it as a west coast style and it was not. They used cascade hops but that gets lost in the beer. Overall it was fine but not worth going to again. I am not going to dwell long on this beer since it was my least favorite of the day. 

Run of the Mill: Its OK, don't go out of your way for it.

again, no phone, no self picture
photo via

Overall, great day of beer, more Portland beer on another day, go now and enjoy beer.

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