Take a break from the music and festivities and sit down – outside, of course – with a cold Maine beer.
The Old Port Festival is one good reason we live in Portland. After the snowy winter and rainy spring, it’s time to celebrate the impending summer and the city that cradles a vibrant culture filled with great food, music, and, of course, one of the best beer scenes in the country.
Here’s a guide on how to tap into some great Maine beer on Sunday as you wind your way through music stages and food vendors in the Old Port.
It’s mandatory that I make a stop at Novare Res Bier Café during every Old Port Festival. A stop at Novare hasn’t just become a tradition because of their dozens of local beer options – though that certainly is a siren song in itself. I pull friends and family into Novare for a beer because their deck is the perfect place to sip a cold Maine beer during the Old Port Festival – plenty of sunshine, cornhole and the sounds of music echoing off the brick walls.
Novare Res Bier Cafe
4 Canal Plaza, Portland | novareresbiercafe.com | 207-761-2437
MY PICK: Cypher IPL (Bunker Brewing, India Pale Lager. 6.5-percent ABV)
Across Exchange Street, The Thirsty Pig is hosting an Old Port Festival deck party with a bounty of beer from Bissell Brothers Brewing. Deck Jam, as it has been dubbed, will boast iced-down cans of Lux (a spicy rye ale), The Substance (their flagship American ale) and Baby Genius (a session ale). Baby Genius packs tons of hop flavor and clocks in at a mere 4 percent ABV, making it possibly the perfect Old Port Festival beer.
The Thirsty Pig
37 Exchange St., Portland | www.thirstypigportland.com | 207-773-2469
MY PICK: Baby Genius (Bissell Brother Brewing, Session Ale. 4.0-percent ABV)
At 3 p.m. you will find me at Monument Square bobbing my head to Spose’s obligatory rooftop set on the Town Square Media stage. The best place to grab a cold beer in Monument Square is Shays Bar and Grill. Though I’d love to see Shays rock a draft list that offers more Maine beer, you can always find a couple local offerings on tap. You might have to elbow your way into the outdoor area at Shays, but it’s worth the effort.
Shay’s Pub and Grill
18 Monument Way, Portland | www.shaysgrillpub.com | 207-772-2626
MY PICK: Allagash White (Allagash Brewing, Witbier. 5.0-percent ABV)
The three above selections offer outdoor seating and put you within earshot of the five main music stages during Old Port Fest. Sometimes, however, I like to slip away from the crowds for a moment of beer drinking Zen. I have three picks for Old Port Fest getaways where you can duck out of the craziness and into a Maine beer.
Central Provisions (414 Fore St.) always has great local beer offerings in their cozy Wharf Street bar. The indoor-only seating should make this a local beer oasis in the middle of the festival.
Liquid Riot Bottling Company (250 Commercial St., formerly In’finiti) on Commercial Street offers an array of house-brewed beers in a beautiful space. They even have an outdoor deck on the water. It’s a short walk from the festival area and a great escape from the crowds.
And if you’re already down Commercial Street, you might as well head into The King’s Head (254 Commercial St.) for a quick pint. These guys work hard to keep the tap list filled with fresh Maine beers. It’s a stone’s throw from Liquid Riot and a quick jaunt from the festival.
Enjoy another great Old Port Festival, and add a pint of delicious Maine beer to kick an already brilliant day up a notch.
Noon to 1 a.m. Saturday, Novare Res Bier Café
Smuttynose Finestkind IPA was one of the first beers that injected me with the craft beer bug in the early 2000s. As the craft beer revolution has exploded with atomic force, the New Hampshire brewery has grown and adapted with the shifting tide. On Saturday, Novare Res will have 29 Smuttynose beers on draft to celebrate this pioneering brewery. Expect a smattering of sours, barrel-aged beers and hoppy offerings.
BALLAST POINT BREWING COMPANY DISTRIBUTES TO MAINE
Since late winter, six packs of Ballast Point Brewing have been appearing on local beverage store shelves. The San Diego-based brewery has long been legendary for its Sculpin IPA, a 7.0-percent ABV citrus fruit burst. I recently found a six pack of their Grapefruit Sculpin – a version of their fabled IPA made with grapefruit juice. This beer is excellent. Six packs go quickly when they appear on shelves. Ask your local beverage store manager when they receive their shipment and grab some of this much-celebrated beer.