The last two weeks at the Thirsty Pig in the Old Port has been really busy. In addition to hosting several events for Portland’s Beer Week, open mic nights, a pumpkin carving contest and nightly happy hours, this craft beer bar has also prepared nearly 1,000 pounds of house made sausages.
Self-dubbed as Portland’s original craft beer and sausage bar, the Thirsty Pig makes an average of 300 pounds of specialty links a week – including a vegan option – and more for special events and holidays (a turducken sausage will be featured for Thanksgiving).
Owner Allison Stevens opened the Thirsty Pig four years ago after spending the bulk of her career working for breweries, distributors, or as an event planner. Shipyard hired her to open a brewery in Florida and she’s remained close friends with the company ever since (and she features $2.50 Shipyard beers for happy hour Monday-Friday from 4 to 7 p.m.).
Stevens happens to be the original creator of Portland Beer Week, which is partly why they’ve been so busy – they take each event, such as the IPA blind taste-testing event, very seriously (in a unserious kind of way).
“Beer Week started off as a way for me to meet other bar owners who love beer as much as I do,” Stevens said. “I wanted to bring Beer Week to Portland in order to encourage people away from the binge drinking mentality and really enjoy quality beers.”
Stevens has made it a top priority for the Thirsty Pig to serve the highest quality of local craft beer in its best state. One way she ensures this is by having the tap lines cleaned every two weeks (typically it’s recommended to have them cleaned just every month).
“Breweries know that I do this and respect it,” she said. “They’ll often bring me their newest beer because they know I’ll serve it the right way – they know I pay attention to how they’d like it to taste.”
The Thirsty Pig won’t keep a beer around for longer than a week – and if it’s not selling, Stevens will knock down the price.
“I want the beer sold at its maximum freshness,” she said, “I want to respect that even if I don’t make any money on it.”
The clientele at the Thirsty Pig is mixed, depending on the time of day, but you can expect beer aficionados, restaurant industry folks, and good ‘ole regulars who have come to depend on a beer and sausage lunch for under $10.
The bar seating is snug and is usually occupied by loyal customers or friends of the bartenders – although the bartenders are so friendly, everyone seems like pals.
Stevens has the bar decorated with knickknacks to help people relax. The same is true for the corner full of used board games – there must be over a dozen versions of Trivial Pursuit available.
“I want people to put down their phones and talk to each other,” Stevens said, “the games help to get people talking.”
Expect to find the latest in Maine’s craft beers at the Thirsty Pig and a weekly “guest tap” from out of state – Ommegang and Evil Twin breweries were recently featured.
Stevens is excited to see how the craft beer scene evolves in the next few years and plans to be around to feature the best Maine has to offer. As for her hand made sausages, her dream is to one day expand to wholesale.
WHERE: 37 Exchange St., Portland
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 8 p.m. Sunday
SPECIALS: 4 to 7 p.m. happy hour Monday to Friday; open mic night Tuesday; different weekly beer specials; seasonal/holiday beer and sausage specials
AMENITIES: Board game corner; outdoor seating (until it’s too cold); booth seats; TVs; clean bathrooms
PARKING: On street
BOTTOM LINE: The Thirsty Pig in Portland’s Old Port neighborhood is serious about local craft beer, but not in an off-putting, pretentious way. The staff is friendly and talkative, and the atmosphere encourages a laid-back crowd. Owner Allison Stevens has made it her mission to offer great tasting craft beer and handmade sausages at an affordable price.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes