When grandma used to scold grandpa for spending too much time at the “beer joint,” she could not have imagined the modern day beer movement, where shiny fermenters, aluminum kegs and bags of grain are part of the trendy décor.
The old gal might even have approved of a place like Two Gramps Brewing in downtown Gardiner, which feels more like a light airy café than a dark and smoky pub.
On a recent late Saturday afternoon, a family gathered at a large table in the front window, apparently celebrating a birthday. On the other side of the restaurant, the beer and burger crowd huddled around pints of handcrafted brews and tater tot appetizers.
In the back, the brewer and his crew toiled with the brewing equipment as an attentive waitstaff worked the room to make sure orders were taken promptly and questions were answered quickly.
For me and my two dining companions, the objective was clear: start off with a flight that featured all eight beers made on site and finish with some grub.
The flights came on two numbered paddles, which made it easy to follow along with the beer guide on the table. No. 1 was Moosail, described on the beer list as “the beer that started it all,” an American brown ale brewed by one of the gramps, Joe Gould. Smooth and easily drinkable, it was a nice way to start our journey through all the samples.
It’s worth noting that the beer menu also lists IBU (international bitterness units) and ABV (alcohol by volume), in addition to price per pint. Pints were either $5 or $6, and our Flight of Eight was $15, a real bargain considering all three of us could get enough of a taste out of each portion to know whether we’d like to order a pint later on.
After Moosail, the beers on tap included a cream ale, a smoky brown IPA, a double IPA, an American pale ale, a traditional stout, a sour made with wild cherries and a dessert beer called Choco Razzle Dazzle, described as a “sweet stout with raspberry and chocolate flavors.” That beer lived up to its razzle-dazzle name, especially for the beer drinker in our group who normally favors super strong IPAs.
For me, the Jax’s Buck Double IPA, made with grains grown in Mapleton, was the pick of the litter. It was flavorful without being too strong, but my dining companions noted that, for true IPA folks, it might not be as citrusy – they described it as “juicy” – as you might expect for a double IPA.
And, for those who are just getting into the craft beer scene, the Sun Up Ale is a good starter beer to help smooth the transition from mass-produced beer that shall not be named.
After the paddle, it was onto dinner. We started with a small order of tater tots ($3) with salt and vinegar seasoning. The portion was huge – more than enough as an appetizer for three people – and although they could have been cooked a little longer to bring out that crispy coating, the flavor was spot on.
From there, our orders ranged from a chef’s salad ($8.50, which included chicken) to a classic burger ($7.50, using local beef) to Alyssa’s Seafood Burger ($9.50), which the owner explained was the brainchild of his daughter when she was a young girl. The sandwiches come with chips or you can upgrade to tater tots for $2 more, but since we enjoyed the generous portion of tots as an app, we stuck with the chips.
By all accounts, the chef’s salad was good and the seafood burger (crab, haddock, scallops) with homemade tartar sauce was delicious. I ordered the classic burger, which was cooked perfectly (I like it medium) and had good flavor. For my part, next time, I’ll be a little more adventuresome, maybe by trying the Maine Maple Bacon Burger ($9), which comes with a maple and sweet onion marmalade.
The menu features a variety of tater tot options (including tater tot poutine), as appetizers, in addition to chicken fingers, bacon-wrapped scallops and a few other items. Two Gramps is community-minded as well, donating the profits from the sale of Tiger Tots (tots with cheese, crumbled bacon and chives) to the local sports boosters, who expect to lose more than $3,600 this season because the high school gym was significantly damaged in the freak October windstorm.
Once you get past the apps, there are burger options in addition to beef and seafood, including an interesting looking veggie burger that will definitely be a contender on my next visit. There are a few other main course items, including a meatball sandwich and chicken sandwich.
Our server offered to tell us about the dessert options, but quite honestly, after the beer, tots and burger, we were all too stuffed to consider something sweet.
WHERE: 266 Water St., Gardiner, 592-0776, twogrampsbrewing.com
HOURS: 4-8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; 4-9 p.m. Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday
AMENITIES: Pints and flights of house-brewed beers, full menu, family-friendly, community-minded
BOTTOM LINE: With an airy cafe feel, this brewpub works just as well as a family joint as it does for the craft-brew crowd. If you are heading up to Gardiner, check out whether there is a show at Johnson Hall, which is next door to Two Gramps. Built in 1864, it’s the oldest opera house in the state of Maine.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes