Breweries are opening so frequently, I’m dizzy just trying to keep up with the new ones, never mind catching up with the brewers who have been around awhile. Two weeks ago I was a special guest on a Maine Brew Bus tour of four new places in Biddeford and Portland, two of which were waiting for final licensing from the State before brewing. We got to taste inaugural brews, though, and talk with the owners, all young, eager guys ready to usher in a new generation of craft beers. I’ll blog on those another day.
In an effort to get the research on my beer book rolling more to the north of the state, I drove yesterday to Bangor. First we stopped at Seadog Brewing Company and brewpub and had lunch. It was a clear, frigid day, but as I sagely realized last year, “sun trumps cold.” That’s as philosophical as I can get about Maine winters.
My husband tried the Old Gollywobbler, which Seadog describes as a traditional English session ale, and I had a glass of delicious Pinot Noir. No tattle-tailing on me: I love both beer and wine and lots of other spirits. They actually brew beer in Bangor. Not so in Topsham or South Portland. Seadog began as a family-owned business in the early 1990’s, then was acquired by Shipyard Brewing Company, which makes the beer for the latter two locations.
Geaghan’s Pub was a must-see, and there I spoke with brewer Andy Geaghan. We made an appointment for a phone interview on a non-brew day. Part of the challenge of writing this book is that brewers, when they are working, are straight out. It’s nearly impossible to grab them by phone or in person to talk about their beers. But when you do get that time, it’s well worth the scheduling effort.
And an unexpected surprise: Andy invited me to be a guest on his Friday morning radio show about beer with Don Cookson, host of The Pulse on 620 AM.
“Yeah, I’d love to be on the show,” I said.
“How about tomorrow at 8 a.m.?”
I felt like the Cokie Roberts of craft beer, sitting in my pajamas with a mug of coffee in one hand and the phone in the other while weighing in on the beer scene. Don asked me about my new book and the changes I’ve seen in the beer business in the past 17 years and gave my project a big plug. I came away grateful and happy that there are such generous people in this world.
That took care of the people brewing beer, so we stopped and browsed the books at Book Marc’s on Central Street. I could lock myself in a good bookstore and not come out for a week. My favorites? Blue Hill Books in Blue Hill and Stone Soup, which sells used books, in Camden. But the nice people at Book Marc’s rated right up there with the best with great banter about the detective and mystery novels we all liked. Until Kate Atkinson writes another Jackson Brodie novel, I wanted to start another series. I left with a Louise Penny mystery, Still Life, highly recommended by a friend. Just to keep it beer-related, I’ll mention that I saw Josh Christie’s 2013 book, Maine Beer: Brewing in Vacationland there. Josh is in the book biz, as well as being a beer aficionado, as bookseller at Sherman’s Books.
Back on task, we stopped at Bangor Wine and Cheese Co. and decided to take home a bottle of Friar’s Brewhouse Whoopie Pie Porter. After I told him I was updating my book, owner Eric Mihan kindly shared the brewer’s email address. I’ll follow up with Brother Donald, who brews at St. Elizabeth Monastery in Bucksport, to get the lowdown on his beers.
Bangor Wine and Cheese Co. also has a monthly wine class called Wine 101, an introduction to choosing, tasting and thinking about wine. Jess Rowan told me they sometimes include beer in the tastings, and occasionally have special beer-related events, such as a kick-off party for Friar’s Brewhouse when they premiered their beer.
Last but not least, no trip to Queen City would be complete without a stop by Central Street Farmhouse, an urban homesteading supply and education store. I haven’t home-brewed in a long time, and I plan to buy local when I begin again. The store has everything you need, including interesting combinations of grains put together there in jazzily decorated brown bags to get you started.
Stay tuned, and make Bangor a day trip. There’s a lot to take in.
**Photo of Geaghan’s beer, courtesy of Geaghan’s Facebook Page, permission by Andy Geaghan.