It shouldn’t blow your mind when I tell you that beer is a pillar of the ski industry. That’s like saying that when you go to heaven, you get to see Jimi Hendrix in concert. It’s common knowledge.
Now, let’s do some math. Maine’s storied ski mountains, plus the craft beer boom, equals some of the best après-skiing in New England.
And one need look no further than Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry to bliss out on alpine skiing and craft beer.
You can’t swing a ski pole at Sunday River without hitting a tap handle. But when I’m skiing, just any beer won’t do. After making hard turns down Vortex, I don’t want a watery Bud Light or the impostor of craft beer, Goose Island IPA.
What I pine for is a pint of locally brewed craft beer. And if you know where to look, you can après-ski with some of Maine’s best brews at Sunday River. Here’s a guide for tracking down great beer, after making tracks on the resort’s eight peaks.
Last winter, I shuffled into Sliders on a blustery day and was astonished to see Bissell Brothers’ Bucolia on draft. I soon discovered that the unassuming ski-in/ski-out bar, nestled in the Jordan Hotel, slings some of the choicest beers in Maine. Bar manager Mike Martin explained that Sliders has two taps dedicated to Maine microbrews, which means skiers can count on great beer all winter. On a recent Sunday, I enjoyed a creamy pint of Norweald Stout from Banded Horn Brewing, while I powered up with a Crunchy Peanut Butter Clif Bar.
“We’ll drive to a brewery to pick up a keg if we have to,” Martin said. “We’re always looking for what’s hot in Maine beer.” It’s that kind of dedication that puts Sliders at the top of this list.
As the name suggests, the pub located in the refreshingly laid-back White Cap Lodge is dedicated to Shipyard taps. This gets my pick for the best outdoor space to drink a beer on the mountain. The spacious fire pit offers warmth, ambiance and a killer view of the steeps of White Heat. A Shipyard Blue Fin Stout in a plastic cup has ne’er tasted better than with my ski boots kicked up on the concrete fireplace at White Cap Lodge.
Positioned at the base of the access road, Sunday River Brewing Co. has hit its stride. Though it’s gone through multiple owners and brewers since it opened in 1992, the beer is back to fighting shape. Offering a full range of brews from porters to ales, there’s something on the menu for all beer drinkers. The warm woods and trail signs on the wall make it a great place into tear into a Mountain Mamma IPA when the lifts close.
Though located off-mountain in the quaint town of Bethel, Suds is a must-visit for craft beer. The cozy basement pub has a townie-bar-meets-ski-town vibe, and it’s packing some serious heat when it comes to microbrews. On my last visit, the menu of 29 draft beers included brews from Foundation, Rising Tide, Maine Beer Co., Sebago and Allagash. This is a list dedicated to what’s good in Maine beer. I opted for a Maine Beer Co. Lunch, poured in a Labatt Blue pint glass, and I loved everything about it.
Peak Dining, positioned mid-mountain off the chondola line, and the Matterhorn, found on the access road, deserve honorable mentions. Both have strong ski-mountain character and taps dedicated to Maine beer.
And if you’re looking for beer to go, stop in to the Good Food Store on Route 2 in Bethel. The inventory of bottles and cans is shockingly impressive.
OTHER BEER HAPPENINGS
Field to Glass: Fruits of Fermentationat Norway Brewing
7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, 237 Main St, Norway. $5 cover. mainefarmlandtrust.org
Maine Farmland Trust, Pietree Orchard and Norway Brewing join forces for this event at the Oxford County brewery. Sample beer from Norway Brewing made with locally sourced fruit from Maine farms while the farmers and brewers discuss the process of going from the field to the beer glass. There is a growing trend of Maine brewers working with local farmers to source ingredients, and this is a great way to support this movement while tasting the fruits of their labor.
Woodland Farms Brewery Grand Opening
1 to 8 p.m., Friday, 306 Route 1, Suite C, Kittery. On Facebook
Bring on 2017 by celebrating the opening Woodland Farms Brewery, Maine’s newest brewhouse. The Kittery brewery will be pouring six beers on this weekend, including a pilsner, a lager, two India pale lagers, a pale ale and a classic Canadian mild. Woodland Farms is dedicated to brewing handcrafted lagers and sours, filling a welcome niche in our brewing scene. The brewery celebrating its grand opening all weekend, so be sure to stop by and sample the goods.