The summer is approaching. It may not feel like it, but soon Maine will settle into those euphoric months of endless sunshine and sublime trips to the beach. With summer in Maine come coastal trips to the iconic harbor villages along Route One.
Here’s my issue with leaving the Portland area and heading up the Atlantic Highway: I hate leaving behind the good beer of southern Maine. I know a lot of Maine breweries distribute up the coast, but not enough. When I’m in a coastal Maine town on a Saturday afternoon feeling blissful, I want to sit down to an artfully crafted Maine beer. That is not always an option as one moseys on up the coast.
In recent years, the mid-coast beer-scape has greatly improved. Marshall Wharf continues to crush it in Belfast. Monhegan Brewing Company is establishing itself as a beer destination. Oxbow has their farm-based brewery in Newcastle.
And now in Rockland, Rock Harbor Brewery and Brew Pub is upping Maine’s coastal brewing game.
Quick confession: I’m hesitant about beer from brewpubs. An establishment that makes both food and beer, in my experience, usually pours beers that are merely passable. Brewpub beer often lacks the magic of beer brewed in a proper brewery.
These are the thoughts rolling through my beer critic head as I walk into Rock Harbor Brewery and Brew Pub on an early April evening and see the copper brew tanks in the window. My trepidations are furthered when I spot the bar swag on the walls advertising Samuel Adams and Guinness and Gritty’s. Why would a brewpub advertise other beer?
My desire for a burger and a fresh brewed beer lead me to a barstool. I order a Beacon IPA. When it’s placed in front of me, I lean in and take a whiff; any good IPA worth its weight in hops must have a great aroma. Wafting off this house-brewed IPA – shattering my myopic brewpub prejudgments – is a citrusy, floral bouquet that makes me salivate. I lift the pint glass to my lips and take a gulp. A well-balanced hop, malt flavor rolls over my tongue, leaving a citrus coating. It finishes with subtle pine undertones. This is a well-made IPA.
From drink one, it’s clear that owner/brewer Dan Pease doesn’t want to settle for mediocre brewpub beer. He wants to make bona fide craft beer.
Following the Beacon IPA, I sample the Rogue Wave Double IPA. Though it’s a bit malty for my palate, it has vibrant citrus and pine flavors. A bartender tells me her favorite beer is the Imperial Stout. I give it a try. The result is a robust, smoky stout with a balanced alcohol backbone. All down the tap line, Rock Harbor is brewing good beer.
When this summer hits and Maine’s seductive mid-coast sounds her siren song, know there’s a delicious pint of craft beer waiting for you at Rock Harbor Brewery and Brew Pub.
416 Main St, Rockland | 207-593-7488 | rockharbor.me
HOURS: 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday
ON DRAFT: Beacon IPA, Rogue Wave DIPA, Imperial Stout, and other rotating house brewed drafts
PHoBiC: Photographing Bicycles & their Cyclist
4 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, Rising Tide Brewing Company, 103 Fox St., Portland
3 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Maine Beer Company, 525 Route One, Freeport
Cyclists are a crowd as obsessive and dedicated to their sport as craft brew fans are to their beer. On Friday at Rising Tide and Saturday at Maine Beer Company, if you’d like a photograph of yourself and your bicycle, then head to the breweries. This event is a fundraiser for photographer Ronald J. Gillis as he raises money for his Trek Across Maine. There’s a $25 suggested donation for the photo.