Everything great has an intoxicating birth story. The universe has the Big Bang. Life on Earth has the primordial soup. Civilization has the Fertile Crescent. The Beatles have Hamburg. And Apple has a garage in Los Altos, California.
As the Maine beer renaissance roars on like an engine at full-tilt, no one can deny that our craft brewing scene is thriving.
But from what primordial soup did these magnificent ales, porters and sours first crawl? Where is the Fertile Crescent of brewing in Maine?
Well, if the universe has the Big Bang and the Beatles have Hamburg, then craft brewing in Maine has the Industrial Way neighborhood on the outskirts of Portland.
Brief history lesson: D.L. Geary brewed Maine’s first legally sold, post-Prohibition beer in this neighborhood in 1986, Allagash started crafting their hazy Belgium style brews there in 1995, and One Industrial Way is the birthplace of Maine Beer Company (now in Freeport) and Rising Tide Brewing (now in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood).
Earlier this year, Bissell Brothers Brewing, Foundation Brewing and Austin Street Brewing each opened a garage door in One Industrial Way.
Perhaps this neighborhood is the Mesopotamia of Maine craft brewing because of Portland’s pure water supply or zoning codes that make commercial brewing possible or, just maybe, D.L. Geary opened up a mystical portal when he brewed his first batch of Geary’s Pale Ale. (I’d like to believe the mystical portal theory myself.)
Regardless of the forces responsible, the Industrial Way neighborhood is infused with a brewing voodoo that is as strong today as it was 30 years ago. Nay, dare I say, stronger?
Here’s how I suggest experiencing this brewing motherland: Start at One Industrial Way. Go to Bissell Brothers. You’re insane if you haven’t tried the Substance yet. This American ale is brimming with floral and tropical fruit hop notes, but doesn’t wreck your palate like a big IPA. If they’re selling cans, buy as many as you can. Next, walk the twenty steps to Foundation. Try their array of farmhouse-style beers. The saison yeast they use gives the beer a distinct Belgian style that is bright and clean. I suggest purchasing a growler of Blaze, their farmhouse IPA. Now walk around the backside of the building and visit Austin Street. Marvel at their humble 31-gallon system while you sip Patina Pale, a citrusy American-style ale. Of course, buy a growler before you move on. Next, make your way across the street to Allagash. The recently expanded compound might make your head spin after seeing the small operations in One Industrial Way, but don’t be scared. Try a free paddle of samples. Take a tour. Buy a bottle of Curieux, their Tripel Ale aged in bourbon barrels, and the runner-up in the Maine Madness Beer Tournament.
On your way out of the neighborhood, drive by Geary’s on Evergreen Drive. Though they have yet to open a tasting room, watch the way the building seems to glimmer with the aura of an enchanted artifact.
I promise that you will leave the Industrial Way neighborhood feeling invigorated, as if you’ve just dipped your toe into the Tigris River of Maine craft brewing.
Dave Patterson is a writer and musician from Cape Elizabeth. He is on Twitter @PattersonWriter