There is something about a morning spent on a bucolic farm, followed by lunch at a friendly pub, that warms my Anglophile heart. This experience, however, was not in Surrey or Shropshire, but right here in Maine.
A recent Saturday foray out of town took us to the Webb Family Farm in Pittston (one of the MOO Milk family of farms), where we hung out in the barn during milking, chatted with the farmers, tromped around in the newly snow-free fields and let, Dixie, our young border collie-corgi mix, chase cows to her heart’s content.
Afterwards, feeling the need for refreshment, we ventured into Hallowell, a charming small town on the Kennebec River just outside of Augusta. Water Street, the main drag downtown, seemed to be just waking up from a long winter’s nap. Lined with a mix of antique shops, bars and restaurants, it is picture-perfect Wiscasset’s funkier cousin — with a good deal more going on.
We had scoped out the cozy pub, The Liberal Cup ahead of time online, unaware, until we saw the sign in the window, that it’s the sister to The Run of the Mill in Saco, which we visited in early February. The beer board, with a list of familiar names, was also a clue.
Each pub brews its own, however, with The Liberal Cup’s brewery a fraction of the size of the operation at Run of the Mill. We both ordered the cask-conditioned Brickhouse Bitter, hand-pumped from a British-style tap. Cool but not frosty cold, and lightly carbonated, these beers aren’t for everyone, as the gregarious bartender pointed out to another patron. They tend to be low in alcohol, though, a plus at lunchtime.
Buffalo wings are the benchmark of any pub menu, as far as Ted’s concerned. I’m happy to go along for the ride, and found The Liberal Cup’s wings to be just right: not absurdly spicy and served with top-notch blue cheese dressing.
The couple sitting next to us at the bar (who were kind enough not to mention that we wafted in wearing eau de cow) was enamored of the roast pork banh mi special, prompting me to order it. The sandwich was delicious: juicy, flavorful slices of pork with sriracha mayo and pickled vegetables on a just-right French roll. Ted raved about his hearty fishwich too, although I did catch him gazing longingly at the cheeseburger ordered by another bar patron.
Beyond pub food, The Liberal Cup gets high marks for its dinner specials, listed daily on its Facebook page and more sophisticated than you might expect. Wagyu beef tartare with green peppercorns, shallots and parsley; fresh local redfish pan fried with lobster pierogi, lemon brown butter and arugula pesto; and grilled lamb loin with spiced white bean salad and harissa: all offer inspiration for a return trip.