The astute reader may want to jump right to the comments section to note that Maine Beer Company is not in Portland Maine. While this is true, the beers are widely enough available in Portland that a review of what I had at the tasting room can be useful for someone planning a trip out to Portland Maine. Oxbow is also not in Portland, the brewery itself is further north, but they have a tasting room available that you can visit where you can buy bottles and try tasters. Sadly, like many trips the number of breweries i could visit was limited by both time and the day of the week when I visited so certain other breweries were not an option either.
Oxbow Blending and Bottling
Oxbow has a tasting room in Portland Maine where they have a good number of beers on tap and offer flights. They also have some guest beers on tap and in bottles that you can drink while you are there. I stuck with the house beers. The basic farmhouse ale was earthy with a nice mix of fruit and funk and some mild hop flavor coming through. Both this and the Loretta are quite low alcohol and yet manage to deliver plenty of flavor. Loretta is also quite subtle but it has some tasty earthy hops, mild fruit notes, and a dry finish. Freestyle 37 is a tasty farmhouse pale that blends the earthy farmhouse malts with fruity hops quite nicely though you might want to skip this and the Domestic Farmhouse IPA if you don’t care for hops.
Domestic Farmhouse IPA is a flagship of theirs and sadly wasn’t availble in bottles when I visited because it was delicious. The beer blended really nicely with the subtle earthy farmhouse malts and delicious juiciy hop character the area is known for. The Biere de Garde was quite complex with notes of dark fruit and caramel and some mild bitterness from the hops.
Domestic Farmhouse IPA
Maine Beer Company
Though not in Portland Maine directly, it is a short 30 minute drive or less to Maine Beer Company where you can order flights, buy bottles, or do some full pours. I stuck to the hoppy options because they are most hyped for them. The Beer II Session IPA was quite nice for a session and not too bitter with lots of hop character. The Mo Pale was slightly stronger than the session and added on some fruit notes but was otherwise not drastically different than the session.
Another One IPA was smooth and low on bitterness though I didn’t detect any specific hop flavors. Lunch was a little smoother and has a nice balance of malt character and citrus and resin hops. Lunch would fit right in with the various San Diego IPAs and is quite a tasty beer. I chose to not leave with any bottles, despite their high trade value, because I thought a few of San Diego’s IPA offerings are better and I prefer to only buy individual bottles of hoppy beers if they are quite exceptional especially on a trip where I brought back quite a bit of hoppy beer in cans.
Though Maine Beer Company does brew a stout, it was not available on tap at the time so I am glad we stopped in Vermont and picked up a bottle to taste. It was quite a nice stout with notes of vanilla, tons of roast, and mild smoke character.
What to drink:
If you are going out to Maine Beerc Company, look for Lunch and Dinner, their two most popular IPAs. If you don’t value the tasting room experience you can usually find their beers around Portland Maine quite easily to bring back with you.
I only tried two beers at Bissel Brothers because they were not selling any cans. I found out the hard way that they don’t sell cans on Sundays. The two beers I had were quite good and both made me wish I could buy a few cans. The Rye Pale was super juicy and cloudy with some herbal notes, very impressive. The IPA I tried, their flagship, was juicy with tons of grapefruit and some mild spice. I thought overall the beers at Bissel Brothers and Foundation were more impressive than Maine Beer Company. The tasting room is also quite noisy and tends to get loud even with a small number of people.
What to drink:
Come to Bissel Brothers for IPAs and to try the signature North East style juicy IPAs.
I almost didn’t visit Foundation but since the tap list was limited at Bissel Brothers I wanted to hit another brewery. I tried their Afterglow IPA, Epiphany Double IPA, and imperial stout. The Afterglow was smooth and juicy and not too bitter with some nice orange notes, like drinking orange juice. Epiphany was extra juicy and fruity with lots of citrus character and super smooth, also not very bitter. I thought Epiphany was the best beer I had on tap for the trip and was up there with the Trillium Double IPA cans I brought back with me. They also had an imperial stout on tap, a first for the area, and it was fruity with notes of bitter coffee and a bitter finish, quite a nice stout. My husband ended up having two tasters worth because he liked it so much.
The tasting room at Foundation was a bit small but had a good sized outdoor area open where you could enjoy the beers. Some locals I saw indicated that there is usually more room inside for you to drink. Foundation is also in an area where you will find a bunch of other breweries including Allagash, which happened to be closed the day I was in town. If you make a trip to visit Allagash, keep in mind that doing tours is the best way to taste the most beers.
What to Drink:
Like Bissel Brothers, this is a brewrery you visit for cloudy juicy North East style IPAs.
Towards the end of my time in Maine I visited Trillium and picked up some cans in Boston. It is easy to add on a visit to pick up cans at the end of a trip if you are returning your rental car at the Boston airport. The store Trillium has in Boston doesn’t get very crowded and so you can quickly buy cans and get on your way.