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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Queen City Quaff

On the banks of the Penobscot Rivers’ Eastern shore lays the City of Brewer. Often referred to as the Queen City it’s much smaller than its big brother Bangor just across the river. As I enter Brewer I’m shocked to learn of a new brewery, one of the first in downtown Brewer. My “Navigator” quickly fires up Google and we are on our way. I opt not to change my shirt despite the fact that I remain covered in lobster remnants. No time for wardrobe changes when beer is involved.
We find Masons Brewing Company with little difficulty despite the fact that there are no signs. Google comes through again! The brewery sits at the end of Hardy Street, which dead ends at the river. I’m astonished by the size of the building. The large parking lot is filled with cars. Masons is my kind of place, with room for approximately 150 people and an outdoor seating are overlooking the water. It’s downright gorgeous.

The beer list is somewhat eclectic with wheat beers pilsners, saisons and even a weizen. The vast majority of Mason’s beer is in the sub5% ABV range, unusual in this day and age. I take the safe route and order their IPA. Mild by today’s IPA standards at only 5.6% ABV it’s a well balanced example of what an IPA should be. Equally eclectic is the food menu. Arugula and goat cheese abound throughout the menu.  I unwittingly order a bratwurst and sauerkraut pizza, hold the “Arugula”. The pizza is as good as the beer.
 As we are paying our bill the waiter informs us that the owner is in the building, and I rush to try to get a word with him but I’m too late.Never to be dissuaded I return to Masons two days later intent on catching up with the owner. Stalkers are rarely dissuaded. As I creepily scan the crowd I sample their West Coast Pilz, an American spin on traditional German beer using both German and American hops. At 4.3% ABV the beer is crisp and dry which is a refreshing change on such a hot day. Suddenly I see an unshaven man in a baseball cap in the brew house. The owner Chris is in the house and begins busily cleaning around the fermenters. After several minutes of awkward motioning he comes to the bar and I introduce myself.  He pours us each a beer and we retreat to a table. Chris started as homebrewer, like many in the craft beer industry. The brewery was five years in planning and Chris designed the building himself. I’m shocked to learn they have only been open 11 weeks. He tells me “This is my mid-life crisis” to which I reply, “If you are going to have one I can’t think of anything better!” Masons Brewing Company is a must visit for both foodies and beer lovers alike. As part of the Maine Beer Trail one needs only to make reservations on the Maine Brew Bus to visit all the local breweries, including Masons. You will undoubtedly find that one stop at Masons just isn’t enough. During your visit please keep an eye out for a scruffy guy in a baseball cap who will undoubtedly be working behind the bar or in the brew house, enjoying his mid-life crisis.

Until next time,

Stay Crafty

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Three-Headed Sasquatch

Welcome to the next installment in the continuing saga of my farewell tour in Maine. Whilst traveling from the coast to central Maine, after consuming not less than six pounds of lobster, I began searching for breweries. Alas, Belfast Bay Brewing is along my route. Yes Please. As my “Navigator" researched the route I wondered aloud why I had never visited the brewery, or even sampled their beer during my many trips to Maine. A quick phone call to the brewery revealed the reason why. Belfast Bay does not have a taproom, and tours are by appointment only. Not the best business plan, in my humble opinion. We pressed on.
Approximately 30 miles north of Belfast is the town of Winterport, home to Penobscot Bay Brewing. Apparently it’s a big bay, hence so many “Bay” breweries. As I enter the brewery my first thought is “This is not my kind of place". Penobscot Bay originally started as a winery, expanding to beer a couple of years ago. Bottles of wine adorn the walls, with a small “Sampling” bar on the far wall. The atmosphere is a cross between a museum and a library. We are the only customers. With  10 days of facial hair and a shirt stained in lobster juice and lobster remnants I look and smell like a lobsterman that was lost at sea for years! The “Taproom” manager looks at me apprehensively, as if a three-headed Sasquatch had just walked in. He nervously asks if I would like to sample some beer. I grunt in approval. I am quickly rewarded with a” Mountain Man” DIPA. How appropriate. 
At 9.5% ABV this beer I surprisingly well balanced, with only a hint of bitterness and hops out the wazoo. I eagerly suck it down. The manager then asks if I would like to try “Humble B”, a Honey Wheat Ginger beer, more grunting. I have had several beers of this type but this one is by far the best I have ever had. “Humble B” is the ultimate easy drinking “Lawnmower” beer.
Fortunately Penobscot Bay Brewing distributes locally, making it less awkward for all the three-headed sasquatches like myself. While their taproom draws low marks I do give them credit for at least offering samples. That being said, it’s painfully obvious that they remain focused on wine. While I don’t recommend visiting the “Brewery” I do recommend picking up a couple bottles of their beer at the local grocery. You won’t be disappointed.

Stay Crafty

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Farewell Pour


As a native of the great state of Maine I can think of no better place to start my farewell "Pour" as I anxiously await my return to Europe . Maine is home to more than 60 breweries placing it in the top 5 of breweries per capita  in the United States.
In 2015 while attending a wedding in western Maine I had the privilege of sampling Maine Beer Company's (MBC) "Dinner",  an oft sought after, limited release IPA. Fast forward one year later to my first stop on my "farewell pour", MBC. Truth be told I made several stops prior to this but my doctor says this is a normal part of the aging process, but I digress. MBC opens at 1100 am, I arrive at 1120 to find the parking lot filled with cars adorned with license plates from across the country, excluding Maine.   I entered the smallish taproom expecting the worst and quickly ordered a flight of all eight of their beers, receiving them in short order. Obviously they recognized me from my blog, a problem I encounter frequently.

As I sipped my beer I watched in amazement as tourists ravaged the cooler, carrying case after case to their cars. I spoke with the taproom manager,  who shall remain nameless primarily because I have forgotten his name.  Not unusual when I'm drinking. The manager explained that MBC's crush of visitors is the norm during the summer as tourists flock to the state. Of the eight beers I sampled a couple stand out. "Zoe" is an Irish Red Ale with a very distinctive "Bock-like" taste. Its probably my favorite beer, second only to their "Dinner" IPA. Coming in a close third is "Lunch", an unassuming IPA, not overly hopped and very easy drinking. The remaining six beers in no particular order included  "A Tiny Beautiful Something", "Mo", "Beer II", "Mean Old Tom"  "Peeper", and "Another One". All equally good, averaging three out of five stars on my personal scale.
The sign at the Maine state line reads "Maine, The Way Life Should Be". MBC's motto should read "The Way Beer Should Be". For anyone planning a beercation to Maine, Maine Beer Company is a must visit. 
Until next time, stay crafty.