Looking at Batson River Brewing and Distilling’s exterior, you know you’re in for a special experience. You pass a vintage truck as you climb past torches and an outdoor fireplace, then walk under cozy strings of lights through curtains into a screened-in patio with heat lamps and blankets.
Not feeling the outdoor love? Step inside into the beautifully-decorated tasting room, outfitted with a bird dog theme (minus the fur and poop). Whoever did the interior design clearly paid close attention to every detail, and the end result is stunning: dark wood, perfectly-chosen artwork, appropriate lighting and a wide variety of comfortable seating options, including some sofas upstairs, where there’s also the coolest Scrabble board ever – it’s giant and magnetic and hangs on the wall.
Batson River opened in November in downtown Kennebunk and advertises itself as “Maine in a bottle.” It grows its own hops and botanicals, and sells its own beers but, when I visited last month, was not yet selling its own spirits. That day is coming soon. But no need for your liver to panic in the mean time; there’s a full bar full of other distillers’ products.
Tasting Room manager Molly Nevens, formerly of Liquid Riot, runs a terrific operation. Our server was one of the most knowledgeable servers I’ve encountered and genuinely passionate about the offerings. Beers (there are seven) were $8, and cocktails (six gin-based and six vodka ones) were $12 – that’s what we get for drinking before happy hour started. I knew day drinking would get me into trouble at some point! Had we waited just a little longer, beers would have been $5, and cocktails would have been $7.
I went with the Tarkington, a delightful mixture of vodka, cranberry juice, lime, vanilla, garam masala and Crème Yvette. (I could write an entire article about my love of Crème Yvette, a French digestive liqueur made from blackberry, raspberry, blackcurrant, wild strawberry and dried violet petals, but I’ll spare you.) Anyway, phenomenal. One of my drinking companions had a mule (the drink, not the pack animal); the other went for a $12 flight of four beers. Four percent of the profits at Batson River benefit Maine animal shelters, so we were filled with a sense of well-being and do-goodery as we enjoyed our drinks.
The food menu featured 13 small plates ranging from $4 to $12, as well as a few desserts. Most intriguing menu item? The $5 caramel “hopcorn,” a sweet popcorn with hop and pepper. We tried the $8 skillet mac and cheese with Gruyere and cheddar and the $6 millionaire’s shortcake with caramel, dark chocolate and sea salt. Six thumbs up.
WHERE: 12 Western Ave., Kennebunk
PHONE: (207) 967-8821
HOURS: 4-11 p.m. Thursday and Friday, noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
AMENITIES: Social hour 4-6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday ($7 cocktails, $5 beer and $5 small bites), indoor and outdoor fireplaces, three patios, classes on certain Saturdays, merchandise store, darts, shuffleboard and magnetic Scrabble.
BOTTOM LINE: The drinks, food and service all live up to the elegant and welcoming décor. Worth a visit the next time you’re anywhere remotely near Kennebunk. Plus, how could you not love a place that is offering a $25 class on beer cocktails?
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes and no. A ramp allows wheelchair users to enter, but all the seating is high, so a wheelchair user would be forced to sit below his or her drinking companions if unable to make it onto one of the high-up seats.