01 Jul 2009 @ 2:44 PM 

On our way up to Quebec, driving the Old Canada Road through Maine, we spotted a sign that said something like “Brewery Ahead.” We were trying to get into Quebec at a reasonable hour on the way up, so didn’t take much time with it, but on the way back down we had to stop.
Kennebec River Valley Sampler
“Brewery Ahead” turned out to be the Kennebec River Pub and Brewery (beermapping). We stopped in and had lunch. It was a small, maybe slightly kitschy, place that really screamed out “we want visitors to know that you’re in a lodge in the middle of the woods in Maine.” The main building is a big log cabin. It’s clearly a little resort dedicated to outdoorsmanship, white water rafting, and that sort of thing. There was a little deck with a pool out in the back, a little performance space inside next to the counter of Maine-themed t-shirts, and I’m pretty certain there were little rentable log cabins for people to stay in.

We stopped in for lunch. On a Tuesday at about 2:00 in the afternoon it wasn’t terribly busy. There were a couple of groups of french-speaking Canadians that filtered in and out of tables while we were in there getting what were probably the single largest lunch portions of anything I saw all week. I got a sampler (seen to the above and to the right here; unfortunately they were having problems with the IPA and I couldn’t sample any) and my wife got a porter which was awesomely served in a Ball Jar. The beers were excellent. They are all cask conditioned English style ales and were downright excellent. I understand that you can find 6-packs in nearby areas in Maine but that their distribution range and variety were very small. Not surprising, given the size of their brewing operation:

Kennebec River Brewery

If you want the full selection, you probably want to hunt down the brewpub. The only shame is that it’s so remote. I was happy to see the brewery represented on the Maine Beer Trail (PDF), but I would be surprised to find out that a lot of beer travelers in Maine would get up this far, given that so many of Maine’s breweries are clustered around the Portland area.

Anybody that can’t come up this far is missing some great beer.

That evening brought us to the Sea Dog Brewing Company (beermapping) in Bangor, ME.

I feel funny giving a review of the Sea Dog. I feel like they’ve been around for so long and they’re so well established and they make such good beer that everybody should know about them. But! Just in case! Here I go.

I’ve never been to their Topsham location, so I’m not sure how it compares, but their location in Bangor is wonderful. They’re located right on the riverfront in Bangor. It’s an enormous, roomy, yet homey, space, with ample outdoor seating. Their bar is large and comfortable with a couple of television screens that will pretty much never fail to have a Red Sox game on for you. The menu is a wide array of both pub grub and, as you would expect from nearly-coastal Maine, lots of good seafood. They also have the most intimidating sampler I have ever ordered in my life:

Sea Dog Sampler

Take note: ONE of those is marked “Seasonal” and ONE is marked “Cask.” That means a regular lineup of 10 excellent beers and, if I remember correctly, there were more available even after the waitress finished telling us what wasn’t on tap that day. For the food alone, the Sea Dog is worth it. The beer makes it an absolute must-stop if you’re in Maine.

Finally I’d like to include a little note on why I’m labeling this post as “Central Maine.” I think most people would call this part of the trip “Northern Maine,” but as I’ve noted before there’s very little in the way of craft beer in Northern Maine. So here’s my frame of reference:


View North Central Maine by Comparison in a larger map

See that spot way up at the top? That’s where I’m from. The spot to the center-left of the state is Kennebec River Pub and the spot in the center-bottom of the state is where Sea Dog is. The reason that there is very little in the way of craft beer in Northern Maine is that there is very little in the way of people in Northern Maine. It’s a matter of local pride that I reference these two wonderful pubs as belonging to Central Maine.

Sadly, our trip didn’t have any time for a stop in and around Portland, but Boston is coming up soon. . . [continued here]

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 10 Jun 2009 @ 1:27 PM 

A little while back, the Brewers Association came out with some crazy statistic that is still printed all around their site… because that’s what they do.

The majority of Americans live within ten miles of a craft brewer.

Okay, ignore for the moment that “the majority” is a amazingly non-specific term. This means that it should be incredibly easy for you – yes! you – to support your local brewery. Of course, the easiest way to do so is to Drink Local.

Why should we drink local?

Without getting into a huge rant: For the same reason that you should eat local and shop local. Local small businesses are the soul of your community. When you shop at a big box store, eat at a mass-market restaurant chain, or buy consumables that are not manufactured locally, the majority of the money that you’re spending is getting sent away from your community. In today’s world, a measure of that is inevitable, which is why it’s all the more important to buy local, eat local, and drink local whenever we can.

Only one thing up in Northern Maine?

Only one thing up in Northern Maine?

Thanks to the three-tier system (you don’t hear that often!), drinking local can be even easier for you than eating local, since small companies can be distributed over a large area using existing distribution networks. It’s almost like the system is there to help.

Step 1: Find out what’s local. The largest impediment in drinking local is not knowing what is available to you. Luckily, we have references that can help us out with this. You can check BeerAdvocate’s listing by state and city or Beer Mapping’s awesome use of Google Maps. Either one will put you on the right track of finding out what is near you to drink. How you define local is up to you. “In a 50-mile radius” can be local, and so can “in my state” or even “in my tri-state area” if you’re in one of those weird tri-state areas. If Your Local Brewery is a brewpub, your quest ends here.

Step 2: Check your grocery/package store. You may have noticed that most beer in stores is packaged in some sort of cardboard container that generally contains information about the product inside. If you pick up said container and look at the outside you should be able to find a 2-letter abbreviation that refers to the state in which the beer was made. In most states this abbreviation should be very straightforward, though it may be confusing if you live in an “M” state. They’re not always intuitive. If you’re really stuck try this list as a reference.

However, many small craft breweries, especially newer ones, don’t always have the capability of packaging in cans or bottles. You might have to find their stuff on tap.

Step 3: Check the website of Your Local Brewery Many small breweries will feature an active list of all the places that they are on tap in the local area in order to facilitate you drinking their beer. Failing a list, if you contact them they will be more than happy to tell you where you can find their beer.

Step 4: Ask for it in local restaurants. You know where you like to eat locally. Ask them if they have Your Local Brewery on tap. They may say no, but they may also have no idea that there’s a local business to represent, or that people would be happy to drink said local beer in their establishment. Not only does this make it easier for you to Drink Local, it makes it easier for other people to Drink Local, as well.

Step 5: Spread the wealth. Bring local beer to parties; bring friends to local brewpubs. The more you do this, the more local beer you’ll have in your life. Others will go out of their way to emulate you because it’s so cool to drink local. You know how when you bring home some awesome vegetable from the farmer’s market, someone will inevitably taste it and say something like, “You just can’t beat fresh veggies!”? It’s the same way with beer. And if you’ve never run into that previous sentence, then all the more reason for you to get on board with this because you’re missing out.

Go forth, and Drink Local.

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Categories: industry, op-ed
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 10 Jun 2009 @ 01 27 PM

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 30 Mar 2009 @ 8:13 AM 

Found a couple of interesting maps via the twitternet, and since maps and beer cities have been on my mind, I thought I’d pull ’em out.

made by lyke2drink.blogspot.com

lyke2drink.blogspot.com


The first (on the right and clickable), is GABF winners by state over the past 20 years. Fascinating. Again with that furrow down the middle of the country, and yet another case for Texas in the poll for Favorite Beer City. I should say that this map represents an enormous amount of work. I’ve been working on a little side project for a while that looks at breweries that have won medals at the GABF and just sifting through that information is hours and hours worth of work, to say nothing of the attractive graphic design. Mike Wirth over at Lyke2Drink: Kudos. That’s pretty.

North Dakota and Oklahoma both have 1 medal. In my heart of hearts I’d like to imagine that it’s because there’s some fantastic tiny brewery squirreled away somewhere in each of these states that are one some sort of “Best Kept Secrets” list. I hope that’s true. Is it strange that the states with the most space for farmland where they can (and do) grow thousands of acres of barley have very few breweries?

Anybody else feel bad for West Virginia?

http://www.sloshspot.com/

http://www.sloshspot.com/


The second (on your left and also clickable), lists the Top 50 Craft Brewers in the Country by Sales Volume (Brewers’ Association press release) and mapped by sloshspot.com. This one sheds a little bit of insight on some of the choice of cities in the Favorite Beer City list in my last post. Take a look at the cities popping up here: Missoula, MT! Fort Collins, CO! No wonder they’re there. Too bad they have a collective 67 votes between the two of them. It kinda under represents Big Sky and New Belgium in terms of popularity.

Even more interesting are cities on the Beer City list that don’t show up here: Cincinnati, Albuquerque/Santa Fe, and Asheville, NC (the current leader in the poll) among others. That makes you want to take a trip to see what’s going on in these cities that got them on this list, doesn’t it? I can personally attest to Asheville being a great beer town.

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 30 Mar 2009 @ 09 04 AM

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 28 Mar 2009 @ 8:13 AM 

In preparation for this year’s American Craft Beer Week (May 11 – May 17) American Homebrewer’s Association and Brewer’s Association High Poo-bah and general beer ambassador Charlie Papazian has opened up a poll: Vote for your Favorite Beer City. Polls are open ’til May 7 and the winner will be announced in time for Craft Beer Week.


View Larger Map

It’s a good set of cities, mostly. I can’t help but feel like who ever put this list together for Charlie just pulled a list of the locations of 30 popular breweries in the US. I’m a little surprised (but happy) to see so much on the East Coast, and even more surprised to nothing in Texas. In fact, looking at that map there’s a pretty sad furrow down the middle of the country. Somebody should get on that.

Some cities are at a distinct disadvantage. There’s a vast difference between San Francisco/Oakland/Bay Area and, say, Boulder, CO which is just a few miles outside of its competitor, Denver, CO. No doubt, there are a ton of breweries in each of those, but sheer population alone puts the Bay Area up by, oh, 6 million people. Consider, too, that Fort Collins and Colorado Springs are also listed.

Kansas City (Kansas Cities?) gets especially screwed by being listed in both states – they don’t count as a greater metropolitan area? Albuquerque and Santa Fe are getting listed together and they’re 60 miles apart.

Charlie says that if any particular city gets more than 50 votes in the “Other” category he’ll put it on the list as an official choice. So do you see your city on there? If not, rally the troops and get your vote in.

I’m glad to see Asheville, NC, but, I’d love to see Raleigh/Durham, NC on that list. I think you’d be hard pressed to find an area in the country that’s going through a comparable beer culture explosion. It’s pretty fantastic.

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 28 Mar 2009 @ 09 36 AM

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