I bet you’ve heard this one: Biddeford is the new Portland. It seems laughable the first time you hear it. Biddeford typically conjures images of dilapidated houses and abandoned mills. It’s often perceived as the scrappy side of the Saco River you don’t want to be on.
But the times they are a-changing, and at a closer look, it might seem that the at-first laughable comparison to Portland actually holds some weight. No one is giving more street cred to this bourgeoning hip city than Ian McConnell at Banded Horn Brewing Company.
McConnell’s story has been covered many times since Banded Horn opened late last year. He’s a Mainer who moved to Brooklyn, became head brewer at Sixpoint Brewing for five years, and moved back to his home state to start his own brewing company. Everyone loves a good homecoming story.
The story about Banded Horn now, however, is that they’ve honed their recipes, established their brand, have a killer tasting room, and are about to start bottling and distributing throughout New England.
All the pieces are in place for Banded Horn to explode.
McConnell isn’t a homebrewer new to the game of brewing on a commercial scale. Au contraire, this guy is armed with a deep knowledge of the brewing business from his years at Sixpoint. Banded Horn currently has eight beers they can consistently knock out. For being open less than a year, that’s no small feat.
Do the world a favor and drive down to Biddeford. Cross the Saco River and stop at the mill on the right. You’ll see the Banded Horn sign next to the door. Follow the sound of ping-pong balls down the corridor. The wood-floored, loft-style tasting room will open up, equipped with a bar, stainless steel brewing kettles, two ping pong tables, and a couple of off-the-clock employees playing a heated game of Risk.
On my last visit, I tried their Pepperell Pilsner, Green Warden Spruce Tip Ale, Veridian IPA, and Bineary Double IPA. Here’s a quick run-down. Pepperell is a spicy German pilsner that has a sharp bite. This is the perfect gateway beer for Bud drinkers looking to join the micro-brew revolution; i.e., the side of the good guys. Green Warden is a pale ale brewed with locally harvested spruce tips. It’s wonderfully sprucy in a clean-tasting, playful way. The Veridian IPA is a balanced West Coast style IPA that uses three classic American hops.
The winner for me is the Bineary Double IPA. This beer is a monster in terms of hop aroma, flavor, and alcohol, weighing in at a healthy 9.1 percent ABV. What’s impressive (and dangerous) is that Bineary doesn’t drink like a typical 9.1 percent beer with an overwhelming boozy flavor. The hop character of this beer is a citrus dream: notes of oranges and mango.
While saying Biddeford is the new Portland might still be a stretch, Banded Horn Brewing Company is certainly bringing the old mill city one step closer.