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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