Let’s do some math: Great Beer + Great Setting = Euphoria. It’s a simple equation to earthly nirvana. If one side of the equation is off, happiness can be found, but not euphoria. It’s just mathematics.
Here’s the equation in real life: Cant Dog Imperial IPA from Marshall Wharf + The Deck at Three Tides in Belfast = Euphoria. Got it?
Many Maine breweries have locked in both sides of this equation by brewing great beer and serving it in an inspired setting. Oxbow’s bucolic brewery in Newcastle has it. Bissell Brothers’ industrial chic tasting room in Portland has it.
This beer-plus-setting-equals-euphoria equation was running through my head as I gawked at the façade of the newly built Nonesuch River Brewing Company in Scarborough. An ascension of wood beams appeared to rise endlessly toward the peaked roof. The second floor deck boasted a smattering of patrons sitting on metal chairs, laughing as they raised pint glasses in the air.
The inside was equally as striking. Wood flooring ran across the expansive brewpub. A latticework of exposed wood beams interlaced above my head. The open kitchen exposed chefs in black aprons plating dishes. And at the far end of the room, a wall of windows offered views of sexy stainless steel brewing tanks used to make the beer that flowed from the taps.
Nonesuch River Brewing has nailed the “great setting” part of the equation of beer drinking euphoria.
As I ogled the architecture, a friend who was there for happy hour slapped my shoulder, breaking my trance. He told me he’d just had a burger, and it was great.
Suddenly, I’m reminded of why I’m here: It wasn’t for architecture or for burgers — my mission is beer.
I ordered a flight of the four beers on draft and took it back to a high-topped table made from a gorgeous plank of wood.
After working through the flight, I can only say that the brewing vision seems to lack the inspiration of the setting. Let me explain.
The first beer was a blonde ale simply called Blonde. It had a nice golden appearance with a light malt aroma. At 4.8 percent, the flavor had graham cracker notes with a slight bitter hop finish.
The Blonde, a beer that the menu touts as a “beer to convert the light beer drinker,” set the stage for the other four beers: easy, clean flavors, alcohol content under 5 percent, all verging on boring.
In this vein, the extra special bitter, called ESB, was easy to drink with hints of copper and molasses from the malts, but it didn’t have any characteristics that stood out.
The Red Ale was more of the same — a red ale with muted flourishes of malts and hops, and at 4.4 percent, it was a little thin in body.
The menu noted that the India Pale Ale (named, as you can guess by now, IPA) was described as an “over the top IPA.” It is decidedly not. It is clean. It is refreshing. But it is not over the top — especially not when compared to Maine’s vast catalogue of IPAs. This beer was more bitter than juicy in hop profile. Also, at 4.9 percent, it tasted more akin to a session ale than an IPA.
This beer lineup is a new brewery playing it safe — which is a strange contrast to the bold, daring architecture. The building screams, “Look at me! Aren’t I something!” while the beers whisper, “We don’t want to offend anyone.”
Nonesuch River may just be getting its footing on the new brewing system. It’s not uncommon for a new brewery to take a couple months to a year to hit their stride. I plan to return in a few months to see if the beer is gaining a distinctive voice, because if the beer ever manages to match the striking setting, the experience will be euphoric.
WHAT: Nonesuch River Brewing
WHERE: 201 Gorham Road, Scarborough
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
ON DRAFT: An offering of easy drinking beers, including a blonde ale, an extra special bitter ale, a red ale and an IPA
FOOD: A menu of elevated pub fare, from appetizers to entrees
MORE INFO: nonesuchriverbrewing.com
OTHER BEER HAPPENINGS
Noon to 7 p.m. Saturday, 10 Shapleigh Road, Kittery. $16 per bottle
Mott the Lesser Russian Imperial Stout from Tributary Brewing is one of the best beers in Maine. Period. Tod Mott’s barrel-aged brainchild is a powerhouse of the senses. I can’t gush over this beer enough. On Saturday, Tributary releases 1,500 bottles of Mott the Lesser at the brewery in Kittery. Expect a line, so show up early to get your spot. As the temperature drops, I can think of no other beer better to warm your bones than the liquid masterpiece that is Mott the Lesser.
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 106 High St., Portland. On FacebookIf it seems like I’m continually covering events at Little Tap House in Portland, it’s for good reason. I am. You know why? Because this tap house is fiercely dedicated to bringing great beer to Mainers. Oktoberfest is another great chance to head to the cozy pub and toss back craft beer. For this event, Little Tap House is showcasing 14 seasonal beers along with house-made brats. Expect great beer with a great vibe. (Remember the equation above? You know where this leads.)