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Susan Axelrod

Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business before turning to journalism more than a decade ago. By day, she is an online content producer for and the Portland Press Herald. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs, preferably followed by a cocktail. Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or On Twitter: @susansaxelrod

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Things to do This week

Posted: March 30, 2014

Maine’s best beer bars: 10 great places to drink local

Written by: Susan Axelrod - staff writer -

Clockwise from top left: Infiniti Fermentation & Distillation; Little Tap House; The Great Lost Bear; Three Tides; Lion’s Pride; Novare Res Bier Cafe. Novare Res and Great Lost Bear, Press Herald file photos; Lion’s Pride, file photo; all others, Ted Axelrod

The 35-tap Ebenezer’s Pub in Lovell got a shout-out in Travel & Leisure’s latest round-up of “America’s Best Beer Bars.” This isn’t Ebenezer’s first rodeo; in the past year, the Western Maine “pilgrimage point for international beer geeks” has been similarly touted in Men’s Journal, Draft Magazine and Beer Advocate.

Ebenezer’s is certainly deserving of the praise. But if you don’t live in Western Maine and you’re not up for the trek (Lovell is about 90 minutes west of Portland), chances are there’s a beer bar closer to home that’s equally worthy.

Here are our favorite places in Maine to drink beer. The “Read More” links are to recent reviews in the Portland Press Herald.

The Black Birch

2 Government St., Kittery
The Black Birch may have been the first restaurant in Maine to make a thing of deviled eggs, with iconoclastic fillings like foie gras, Italian grinder and harissa and dried apricot. The eggs and other creative small plates (which make up the bulk of the menu) are perfect go-withs for the well-curated line-up of 24 beers on tap. Don’t be put off by the undistinguished brick exterior of the building — a former U.S. Post Office. Inside, the mood is warm and convivial.

FOG Bar & Cafe

328 Main St., Rockland
A relative newcomer to downtown Rockland, 2-year-old FOG Bar has developed a following for its sizable draft and bottled beer list, art-gallery art-inspired decor and gastropub menu. It’s the antithesis of the dark, low-slung watering hole with bright white walls, high ceilings and strings of white lights. Old black and white movies play silently against a back wall, adding to the art-house vibe.

Manager Mike Dickson at The Great Lost Bear. Press Herald file photo.

The Great Lost Bear

550 Forest Ave., Portland
A Portland institution (and nationally known beer landmark) just off the peninsula, this multi-room, memorabilia-stuffed bar has a whopping 69 taps, primarily pouring beer from the Northeast, including 15 craft breweries in Maine. Five taps are dubbed “Allagash Alley” — they feature a rotating selection from Portland’s renowned Allagash Brewing Co. — and four are hand pumps dedicated to cask-conditioned ales. The ginormous menu boasts seven varieties of chicken wings, burgers, sandwiches and the signature BBQ Hot Mess: mac and cheese, coleslaw, baked beans, pulled pork and fried pickles layered in a Mason jar. For the not-so-gluttonous, there are salads, seafood and vegetarian fare too.

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Infiniti Distillation & Fermentation. Photo by Ted Axelrod

In’finiti Fermentation & Distillation

250 Commercial St., Portland
From the same folks who brought the city Novare Res, In’finiti has the advantage of a waterfront deck, where in good weather, you can savor one of eight house-made beers or another one of the 16 total brews on tap. Inside, the gleaming copper and stainless steel workings of the brewing and distilling operation are in full view of the two level dining space and bar, which has a dark and funky-industrial vibe. Bar snacks include inventive pizzas and the popular chorizo topped with potato crisps and quail eggs; the modern-gastropub menu also features burgers on pretzel buns and dynamic desserts.

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Little Tap House. Photo by Ted Axelrod

Little Tap House

106 High St., Portland
LTH may not have the big beer selection of Novare Res or the Great Lost Bear, but its tap line-up is always well-rounded and the menu was created with beer in mind. Laid-back and friendly, it’s a favorite of West-Enders who want to stay out of the Old Port fray. Parking can sometimes be tricky, but if you’re willing to walk a couple of blocks, there are spots to be had. Worth noting is “Bar & Barrel” – a substantial appetizer with a craft beer pairing served on weekdays from 4 -6 p.m. for about $5.

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The taps at Lion’s Pride. file photo

Ebenezer’s Brewpub (formerly Lion’s Pride)

112 Pleasant St., Brunswick
If you’re not looking for it, you could miss this standout stop for beer on a car dealership and cheap motel-pocked stretch of Route 1. Owned by Jen and Chris Lively, proprietors of Ebenezer’s Pub in Lovell, this location in Brunswick has recently changed its format to offer only the made-in-house Lively Brewing beers on tap. The menu, which goes beyond pub food to include such entrees as roast duck and lobster ravioli, gets as many raves as the beer.

Nocturnem Draft Haus

56 Main St., Bangor
A bright spot for beer drinkers in Bangor, this friendly bar features 15 beers on tap and an impressive bottle list. Food-wise, you can go traditional with a burger, pub cheese and crackers, or something a little different such as the smoked salmon plate or Korean BBQ. There’s often live music in the dining room, which is also used for events; the bar is a more intimate place to have a conversation.

Novare Res Bier Cafe. Press Herald file photo

Novare Res Bier Cafe

4 Canal Plaza, Portland
It’s “secret” location adds to the huge appeal of Portland’s beer geek paradise. If you’re seen wandering around Exchange Street looking thirsty, don’t be surprised if a local takes pity on you and directs you through the black wrought iron gate (there is a sign, but it’s easy to miss). Inside, the low-ceilinged, cozy rooms with communal tables are more like a European beer hall than an American bar, in the very best way. In good weather, the deck is a perfect place to wile away a weekend afternoon. The size of the beer list is astounding, but what many don’t know is that the food on the limited menu is all very good too. Strollers and baby carriers welcome.

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Three Tides’ beer garden. Photo by Ted Axelrod

Three Tides

2 Pinchy Lane, Belfast
Three Tides is home to Marshall Wharf Brewing Co.; the distinctive beers are made right next door and the bar features 17 of them on tap. While there is a cozy indoor bar with a few booths open year ’round, the best time to visit is in the summer months, when the charmingly oddball, riverside beer garden, with its towering oyster shell midden and old bus station benches, is in full swing. You can also sit on the second-level deck under a sail-like awning to wash down a pizzette, quesadilla or bowl of local mussels with a Cant Dog Imperial IPA or Tug Pale Ale.

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