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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Drinksgiving 2016 - Part III: Whole Lotta Port!

Day 5 - Portland, ME

Although we'd just visited Portland earlier this year (in March for my birthday), we couldn't pass up another opportunity to visit since we'd be so close. Portland is less than two hours away from Boston by car, so it seems to me like a no-brainer for us to spend the night in one of our favorite cities. It would also make a sweet "Portland sandwich" since we also visited the Portland West this past summer. Additionally, despite the fact that we've visited Portland numerous times in the past, I've never blogged about our adventures in this great city. So to borrow another Rickyism again, it's like getting two birds stoned at once.

First on our itinerary was Allagash, a favorite of mine ever since I was introduced to a bunch of their beers at Prohibition Pig in Stowe, Vermont a few years back. For Black Friday, they had poured a quartet of dark beers in the tasting room, which were still available during our visit the following day. With the exception of Black, a Belgian-style Stout, all of them were new to us! It's also worth mentioning that every visitor gets a complimentary flight of four beers just for setting foot inside the tasting room. Here's what we enjoyed during our visit:

Black - the aforementioned Belgian-style Stout
Hibernal Fluxus - another Belgian-style Stout, this time brewed with figs
Dougernaut - yet another Belgian-style Stout, this one blended with cold brew coffee
Josephine - a delicious dark strong ale with house Brett and aged in Cognac barrels

I must say this flight was a treat, with Dougernaut being my favorite of the bunch (although all were fantastic). Any time cold brew coffee is an ingredient, you can be assured that I'll be drinking it.

Darkness... imprisoning me!

Since I came bearing gifts from Hershey, PA, I was allowed velvet rope access. Bella, one of the managers, took us for a stroll around familiar territory. Each time we visit Allagash, we get the royal treatment due to knowing the right people. The highlight for me is always the barrel-aging room. Allagash has a very mature barrel-aging program, and it's always nice to walk through and see what's aging. Plus the smell of the space itself is a fringe benefit in and of itself!

As a thank-you for the beers I brought, they reciprocated with a bottle of Golden Brett and Émile. (These beers are so complex that it's easier to provide a link to each rather than regurgitate their tasting notes.)

Just across the street from Allagash is another favorite of ours - Foundation. When we first visited Foundation a few years ago, their focus was on farmhouse ales and Saisons. We were immediately impressed with their offerings and make sure to visit each time we're in Portland. These days, they are also making some fantastic IPAs and other styles outside of the farmhouse realm. Also, they have since occupied the space left behind from Bissell Brothers (more on those guys later), so the tasting room was obviously much larger and spread out. Meanwhile, I got in touch with my old friend Vikki, who had just moved to Portland with her boyfriend Bill a few months prior to our visit. I first became friends with Vikki almost 15 years ago when she used to tend bar at ABC in Harrisburg back when my band herbie was performing regularly. She later worked at Tröegs with me and then Snitz Creek before moving to Portland. Vikki and Bill met us at Foundation for a beer, and then Bill had to work for a few hours, so Vikki hitched a ride with us to the next several destinations. Here's a quick recap of what we enjoyed at Foundation:

Afterglow - juicy American IPA with notes of tangerine, pine, and berries
Venture - "Maine" IPA featuring a variety of hops including Mosaic and El Dorado
Burnside infused with coffee - a version of their traditional brown ale infused with coffee
Zuurzing - tangy citrus-forward farmhouse ale soured with Lactobacillus
Ember - hoppy amber ale brewed with Columbus and Mosaic
Forge - big stout with coffee, chocolate and dark malt flavors

I picked up some 4-packs of cans and we were off to our next three stops, all of which were but a stone's throw away from each other.

Urban Farm was up next. This place is actually known for its kombucha more than anything else, although they have been dabbling in ciders and, most recently, beers in the form of gruits (ancient ales brewed with herbs and spices rather than hops). They have also been doing some dry-hopped ciders and kombuchas as well. They've got quite a hybrid business model. Plus this place is really crunchy, if you catch my drift. Brewslut loves this place, which is funny, because she hates hippies. This place is a hippie haven; at least to me it emanates that particular vibe. Think soy candles, pachouli oil, and earthy incense. At any rate, Brewslut always leaves with a few bottles of kombucha to enjoy at home.

While we were here, we each enjoyed a sampler flight of some truly unique offerings. Here's the run-down of my flight:

Harvest de Gruit - a French style Biere de Garde
Dry Hopped Booch Beer - a dry-hopped gruit/kombucha hybrid
Berliner Fruit Gruit - a sour Berliner Weisse-style gruit
Baby Jimmy - Dry Cidah aged in Jim Beam bourbon barrels
Coffee Kombucha - self explanatory

See? I told you they made some pretty cool stuff! I dig the earthy vibe of this place and they make some really off-the-wall stuff. Plus they are the only brewery of its kind in Portland. This is always a must-stop place for us to hit when we're in town. Brewslut wouldn't let me leave Portland without stopping here for her Booch fix!

The crunchy vibe of Urban Farm.

Across the street from Urban Farm is Lone Pine, brand new to the Portland beer scene. This relatively small facility has a tight tasting area for folks to congregate and enjoy a pint or sampler flight of about 8 or so house beers. While discussing the name of the brewery with Brewslut and Vikki, I immediately thought of Back to the Future. In the beginning of the movie, the name of the mall is Twin Pines. However, when he inadvertently travels back in time to 1955, he crashes the DeLorean into a tree on a farmer's property. Later in the movie when he returns to present day, the name of the mall had changed to Lone Pine. It's those little things you catch after repeated viewings that I love about that movie. Brilliant! At any rate, I wasn't able to ask about the origin of the name, as this was a quick stop. I settled on Brightside IPA, which was good enough but not a stand-out of the day. This place is so new that their web site is still under construction and I was unable to find an actual description of the beer. Brewslut went with the Chaga Stout, a straight up Oatmeal Stout. I don't recall if they had take-out beer available aside from growler fills, but I did just read that they have introduced cans as of December 9, so we just missed out on bringing some home to share with our drinking team.

Also in this neck of the woods is Rising Tide. We'd been to Rising Tide a number of times since they first opened back in 2010. However, we first learned about the brewery while visiting San Diego the previous year. We bumped into the owners, who were also on a beer trip, at Hess Brewing. At the time, Rising Tide was only in the planning stages. However, he gave me his card on the off chance that we'd visit Portland at some point in the future. Sadly, each time we've visited, he (Nathan) wasn't at the brewery. Since we first visited Rising Tide, they too have expanded the facility to accommodate more customers. I liked their stuff from the get-go. On this particular occasion, I decided to go big and have just one beer, so I ordered a pour of Nikita, a Russian Imperial Stout weighing in at just under 10% ABV. It was particularly chilly outside on this day, so this beer really warmed me up on the insides! The tasting room was quite busy, so we finished up and headed to our next spot, but only after I purchased two bottles of Hesperus, an 11.2% ABV barleywine. For 2016, they blended a newly brewed version with an oak-aged version. (Editor's Note: I shared with with Team D(r)INK shortly after we returned, and this was quite good but pretty boozy. Can't wait to see what 6 months - or more- of cellaring does to this!)

Get the Bunker, baby... get the Bunker!
So, it was off to Bunker! We'd been to Bunker's old tiny tasting room on two previous occasions. This time, however, they'd moved to a much larger space with a huge, open floor plan with plenty of room for growth. Yet another expansion! Seems as though Portland needs more beer. By this time, Bill was done with work and re-joined the party. They'd also begun canning in earnest, and had a few offerings available. This place just had a cool ragtag vibe, which reminded me of Coast Brewing in SC. During our two previous visits, they had a very limited number of beers available. No more than 3 beers on tap. This time, they boasted 10+.

I brought in some Troegs beers as a gift, and they reciprocated with a few cans of Salad Days (a lager) and two others. While we were there, we enjoyed Green Mind (a Maine wet-hopped IPA), Neo Classical (a hazy session IPA) and Weird Wave (a barrel-aged dark sour ale) on tap. I was really digging this place as well as the staff and clientele. The guy working the bar gave us a quick ten-cent tour of the brewing area, and it looked like they just moved in. Turns out they did. While they signed the lease in December 2015, they just opened their doors a few weeks before our visit. The moved from a tiny 800-sq. ft. facility to a whopping 9,000-sq. ft. facility, so we can expect to see plenty of beer pouring from Bunker in the years to come.

Inside Bunker's new facility. The colors, man. THE COLORS!!!

By the time we got to Bissell Brothers, I was beginning to feel a bit of a buzz combined with the pangs of hunger. Luckily for us, there was a adjoining chicken joint inside the brewery just off from the tasting room area. I think we ordered chicken tenders and sweet potato fries. Whatever it was, it hit the spot and gave us the fuel to continue on. Beer-wise, Bissell Brothers seems to be the trendy place in Portland. While I enjoy their beers, I'm more of a Foundation and Allagash guy personally. Bissell does the cloudy, turbid IPAs as good as anyone, which seem to be all the rage in New England. I've had quite a bit of their beers over the last year or so from friends and visiting there this past March when they were still across the street from Allagash. On this particular evening, I enjoyed a pour of Lux, a tropical rye beer, with my chicken dinner. The place was quite busy and by this time everything was a whirlwind. For some reason, I felt like I was at a hotel or casino. I can't quite explain it. I suppose I was on the verge of inebriation when we were there and needed to chill out a bit. So this was a once-and-done stop for us. It was good to fill my gullet with something substantial and, you know, solid. After our stop at Bissell, we parted ways with Vikki and Bill and were left to our own devices. There was still much to do. So, off to the next place.

Inside Oxbow's dimly lit quarters.
When we arrived at Oxbow, it was dead. The last time we were there back in March, it was pretty bumping and there was a healthy crowd of people there. Not this time. There were about five people at the bar and that was it. Not good for a Saturday night to say the least. Regardless, we pulled up a pair of barstools and perused the beer menu. This place is extremely dimly lit making it hard for someone of advanced age to read words on a page. Despite my struggle, I finally settled on a pour of Snowball 1, a Black IPA that was pretty tasty. Nothing much was going on here, and the bartender wasn't too chatty, so we finished up and split.

Stick a fork in us, 'cuz we're done!
Our last stop of the evening was Liquid Riot. We'd been here a few times in the past, including when it used to be called In'finiti. In addition to brewing some fine craft beers, they also are a distillery and handcraft spirits including a variety of whiskeys, rum, vodka and more. While we haven't tried any of the spirits, we do enjoy the beer quite a bit. The room is also probably my favorite of all the breweries in Portland for the ambiance. I like the bar and enjoy viewing the tap handles, which look like old-school faucets. For what we thought were our last beers of the night, we ordered a pour of IPAwesome Vol. IX, a rotating IPA brewed with a "generous dose of Mosaic hash," and The Killing, a cranberry Berliner Weisse dubbed their "Thanksgiving beer." In what seemed like a good decision at the time, I opted to close out the night with a pour of NSFW, a 10% Triple IPA that was mighty tasty and quite strong. However, this wasn't as sweet or boozy as other similar high octane, hopped up huge IPAs. Even after a full day of bludgeoning my palate, I could still taste this bad boy, although after this I must say that my tongue was douched. This was definitely our most ambitious day of the trip, and we handled it as any drinking professionals would... with decent judgement, a lot of fun, and perhaps just a bit of grace. It also helps when you have a monkey that isn't on your back. Pleeps definitely keeps us in line, although he's been known to get a little schwilly from time to time. You lay off those Imperial Stouts, buddy!

So there you have it! Stay tuned for details from the tail end of our trip including a quick jaunt around New Hampshire and the road back to PA. Until next time...

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The Pour Travelers thank you for reading about our beer travels!