Sugarloaf is a state of mind as much as it is a ski resort. Turning onto the Access Road off Route 27 flips a switch in the brain. The shoulders relax. A permanent smile graces the face. You’ve entered a new time zone where the ski turns are true, and the nightlife is truer.
There’s a laid-back air to the Carrabassett Valley ski resort, both on the slopes and off, during après-ski hours. It’s as if everyone on the mountain has made a silent pact: Let’s be awesome and have a hell of a time.
Sugarloaf is teeming with bars serving up beers to ravenous skiers. But as readers know, I can’t get my beer fix from macrobrew swill (though a Bud Light on “The Beach” during Reggae Fest ain’t too bad).
On a recent trip to the mountain with some longtime Sugarloafers, I sought out Maine craft beer to pair with the breathtaking views of Bigelow Mountain and the sharp drops into the Snowfields. Luckily, I found what I was looking for.
Located mid-mountain, Bullwinkle’s called our names with its siren song of joy and early afternoon beers. At the insanely packed bar, we perused the beer list: some macrobrews with a sprinkle of Maine beer, including selections from Baxter, Geary’s, Shipyard and Funky Bow brewing companies. We opted for cans of Funky Bow G-String Pale Ale and dry-rub wings out on the deck. The crisp, clean American pale ale and spicy wings loosened the joints from a hard morning of skiing. There’s nothing better than a few loping runs on blue trails after a beer at Bullwinkle’s.
THE BAG AND KETTLE
If you’ve never had a legendary Bag Burger, stop reading this and go get one. Seriously. It lives up to the hype. In addition to having a burger lauded as the Best Mountain Burger by Skiing Magazine in 2008, The Bag serves up a lineup of beers that are (at least partially) brewed in-house. Found in the Village Center, the beers are English-style ales à la Alan Pugsley-inspired brews. The cozy pub atmosphere and constant thrum of revelry make The Bag our first stop at the end of the ski day.
Located in the backside of the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel, this unassuming sandwich shop offers the best Maine craft beer on the mountain. The impressive list of bottles and cans at the newly opened Slopeside Provisions includes beer from Foundation, Allagash, Funky Bow and Rising Tide. The last of which is well represented with four styles available, including the beautifully-crafted double IPA, Cutter. We snatched up cans of Afterglow IPA from Portland’s Foundation Brewing Co. The fresh flavor of the citrusy hops and the clean malt bill hit the spot as we traded in our ski goggles for some après-ski beer goggles.
THE RACK BBQ
This Access Road restaurant and bar is a Sugarloaf institution. In addition to having the most killer nightlife scene in the Valley, centered around live music and debauchery, The Rack also serves up some of Maine’s best beers on draft. The selection often features beers from Maine Beer Co., Orono Brewing, Peak Organic and Sebago Brewing, among others. An added bonus: Sometimes you can drink a craft beer while shooting the breeze with two-time Olympic champion and Sugarloaf denizen, Seth Wescott. (Sadly, there was no sighting on this visit.)
One last tip: When you drive through Farmington on the way to and from the mountain, be sure to stop at Ron’s Market near the fairgrounds. This small store with a townie vibe carries some of Maine’s finest suds.
OTHER BEER HAPPENINGS
Foulmouthed Brewing named among BeerAdvocate’s 34 Best New Breweries
Brewery hours: 3 to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 15 Ocean St., South Portland. https://www.beeradvocate.com/mag/14961/class-of-2016-34-of-the-best-new-breweries-in-the-us/
The South Portland brewpub has made a big splash on the national beer scene. In a few short months, head brewer Craig Dilger proved to Mainers that he could crank out an eclectic lineup of beers. Locals glommed on immediately, and now BeerAdvocate has joined the ranks of the Foulmouthed faithful by including the brewpub as one of the 34 best new breweries in America. Stop by the brewery and congratulate Dilger and his wife, Julia, on a great few opening months.
Oxbow Brewing’s Catalyst Farmhouse Ale raises money for Midcoast Conservancy
Earlier this month, Oxbow Brewing released its first 2017 barrel-aged farmhouse ale. Catalyst is brewed with estate honey from the brewery’s Newcastle farm. A portion of the proceeds of Catalyst sales will be donated to the Midcoast Conservancy, a nonprofit aimed at promoting healthy lands, waters, wildlife and people in Maine’s midcoast. Expect refined funk-forward flavors in Catalyst, along with a smooth sweetness from the honey.