Ah, Thanksgiving. A day of overindulgence when we celebrate and reinforce the idyllic myths America was founded on. As a fat kid, I revel in feasting on root vegetables smashed in butter, rolls slathered in butter, turkey basted in butter, all blanketed with thick gravy made with, yup, butter. I love to follow that butter-smothered feast with a menagerie of pumpkin pie, pecan pie and minced meat pie. All washed down with a tall glass of artery-clogging Smiling Hills Farm eggnog.
But there’s one problem I have with Thanksgiving: I’m often too full to drink beer. Sacrilege, I know. I can drink a beer or two after the obligatory feast, but since beer is basically bread in liquid form, it often pushes my gut to dyspeptic heights.
That’s why the Native Americans and Pilgrims invented whiskey on that first Thanksgiving. (Hey, if sloppy historians can peddle mumbo-jumbo about Thanksgiving, I can make up my own myths, too.)
Maine is now home to a dozen distilleries up and down the state, making spirits ranging from potato vodkas to blueberry gins. Local stills are also churning out impressive whiskeys perfect for post-feast sipping to keep your spirits high and your gut happy.
Here are three Maine-made whiskeys to reach for this Thursday as we celebrate how Native Americans helped European settlers survive early winters, and in thanks, the Europeans took all their land. You can find out where they’re sold at mainespirits.com.
This complex whiskey is as locally sourced as a spirit can get. It’s made with malts from the County, smoked with locally harvested peat and seaweed, and aged in barrels from a local cooper. All that locavore stuff is great, but it’s the flavor of Fifty Stone that lands it on this list. The amber whiskey exudes a smoky, peat-forward nose akin to a Scotch. When sipped neat, Fifty Stones has flavors of butter caramel and vanilla with a smoky finish and a slight alcohol burn. Adding a couple of ice cubes mellows the burn and enhances the buttery notes. A gentle peat smokiness lingers on the tongue after each sip.
STYLE: Highland-style whiskey
AVAILABILITY: Purchase at select stores and at the tasting rooms in Portland and Freeport
Maine’s only brewery and distillery, Liquid Riot knows how to craft an adult libation. Old Port Bourbon Whiskey is crafted with Maine-grown corn, rye and buckwheat and has a classic clean, smooth bourbon profile. A sweet buttery aroma wafts off a neat pour of this bourbon. Aged in new charred American White Oak barrels, the first sip of Old Port Bourbon Whiskey releases notes of vanilla and a subtle smokiness. There is little to no alcohol burn when sipped neat, requiring only one ice cube for my palate. This bourbon finishes with smooth buttery notes coating the tongue. Being America’s official spirit, bourbon is a natural drink of choice for Thanksgiving.
AVAILABILITY: Purchase at select stores and at the distillery on Commercial Street in Portland.
And speaking of bourbon, New England Distilling’s recent launch of Tidewalker Bourbon is catching the attention of spirit seekers around Maine. Already known for their Gunpowder Rye Whiskey, a spicy Maryland-style whiskey, New England Distilling’s Tidewalker Bourbon is a remarkable spirit mashed by deft hands. Made with 70 percent corn, 20 percent barley and finished with wheat, this bourbon boasts an aroma of sweet fruitiness with notes of caramelized oranges and vanilla. While New England Distilling’s rye whiskey is an orchestra of spicy complexity, Tidewalker is more subtle, more refined with flavors of butter caramel, vanilla bean, and a fruity, sweet finish. With the addition of one ice cube, this bourbon settles in the throat with a warm honey sweetness perfectly complimenting a salty, buttery Thanksgiving repast.
AVAILABILITY: Sold only in Maine, purchase at select stores and at the distillery in Portland
6 to 10 p.m. Friday, 11 Mill Brook Road, Saco. $20 per team of two. brownpapertickets.com
Cornhole and beer drinking are the ultimate soulmates. You can’t hit up a tasting room in Maine without the sweet slap of a bag meeting the wooden surface of a board. Barreled Souls is taking this experience to the next level with an indoor cornhole tournament this Friday. The top three teams receive some choice prizes, including the first-place team earning two Souls Society Mug Club memberships for 2018. And best of all, half of the money collected from the entry fee will be donated to the Saco Food Pantry, so you’re tippling beer and tossing bags for a good cause.
Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, 130 Mill St., Lewiston. On Facebook
Black Friday officially opens the holiday shopping season, and, as always, Mainers should buy local as much as possible for truly unique gifts and to support the local economy. And when you can add beer to the mix, it’s truly a win-win. On Saturday, Baxter Brewing hosts the 5th annual Crafts & Crafts, a pop-up craft show featuring handmade items from local artisans such as Generations Textiles Maine, Slice of Maine Designs and Full Tally Personal Care Products. Baxter will be pouring from its lineup of taproom drafts all afternoon.