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Carla Jean Lauter

Carla Jean Lauter is a craft beer lover and investigator of all things beer. She started a craft beer website and blog in 2007, sharing her thoughts as she explored what was new in beer, as well as brewery visits, trips and "beer adventures." Moving to Portland in 2009, she found herself surrounded by the Maine beer community and has been exploring it ever since. In her blog, Carla profiles craft beer (and some mead and cider, too) being brewed in Maine, as well as looks into the people, places and stories behind the beer that makes the community so vibrant. Join Carla on her beer adventures and advice on where to get the best, newest, and most interesting fermented drinks around. Carla can be contacted at askthebeerbabe [at] or on twitter at @beerbabe. Subscribe: RSS Feed for The Beer Babe

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The Beer Babe with Carla Jean Lauter
Posted: June 13, 2014

Maine craft beer road trip: Go west!

This is a continuation of the “Maine Craft Beer Road Trip” series which post every other week on Fridays.

Warning: Some of these trips involve a significant amount of driving in-between locations. Because drinking and driving is never a good idea, I strongly recommend that you bring a designated driver with you to ensure that you are enjoying this adventure safely. 

Ok, now that we’ve had the warm up trip a few miles north of Portland, let’s venture west. Like the pioneers before us, there is some unknown territory to the west and south – along with some scenic drives through some more of the open spaces in Maine. I went to preview this trip on a warm, sunny day and we kept the windows rolled down the whole trip.

Maine Beer Day Trip #2 – Limerick, Saco, Biddeford

Total Stops: 3 (+1 optional/bonus stop) – Roundtrip mileage to Portland: 85 miles

On this trip, I decided to hit several breweries that I had never visited, despite them being not too far out of reach than others more familiar to me. The town of Limerick is home to Gneiss brewing, that opened last year, and the Biddeford/Saco area has recently experienced a boom of beer activity (and will soon be adding to its beer landscape with a few more breweries in planning there).

Stop 1: Gneiss Brewing Company, Limerick [Map]

Hours:  Friday from 2:00 – 7:00 pm and Saturday from 12:00-6:00pm

Gneiss Brewing Company (pronounced “nice”) has been showing up on tap in Portland for a while, and is gearing up for the summer season. Now offering growler fills, tastings and pints right at their own brewery. The location, which is on a hill in Limerick, features views of rolling hills and a brewery-focused garden where hops are already beginning to creep up some lines. The combination of a farm and brewery space even extends to pigs – which are also being utilized to help clear out some of the areas for underbrush. The brewery itself does a lot of German style wheat and rye based beers, including the Weiss, which has a great banana and clove aroma to it. There are rock references all around – a map of the geology of the U.S., the tap list written on a wonderful piece of slate, due mostly to the geology background of co-owner and head brewer Dustin Johnson.

Tips, tricks and notes: They have outdoor seating at a picnic table, and will show you around the farm if asked. On a beautiful summer day, it’s an awesome place to sit and drink a small sample or a pint. They are also dog friendly (and there are a few that run around) and told me that dogs are welcome to come as long as they get along with those already hanging around the place.

Stop 2: Run of the Mill Public House and Brewery, Saco [Map]

Hours:  Monday – Sunday 11:30am – 1:00am

If you want a taste of what Maine is really like, here’s the place to do it. Located in an old mill building, The Run of The Mill has been an institution in Saco, and remains the area’s only brewpub. The inside is very familiar feeling – with wood and brick making you feel like it’s a place you’ve always known. The beer lineup is not fancy or trendy, but it is diverse, offering hoppy options like the Impact Pale Ale or their flagship Alewife Ale, to darker and maltier favorites like the For Richer or Poorter. In addition to sampling the wide variety of beer that they cycle through each year (25 different ones are usually put out in a year – that’s a lot!) they usually have a few other local guest taps on, which contributes to the community feeling. Find the time to have lunch here, too. The food is pub fare, but is served in hearty portions (there’s even a “I’m Really Hungry” part of their menu) and includes comfort favorites like shepherd’s pie and mac and cheese. There’ no pretense here -and sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

Tips, tricks and notes: The Run of The Mill often offers casked version of the beers, so check those out if you’re a fan of those ales. There are also trivia nights, open mics, and live entertainment on different nights of the week – check out their website for more info on the schedules.

Stop 3: Banded Horn Brewing Company, Biddeford [Map]

Hours: Wednesdays, 3:00-8:00pm, Fridays 4:00-9:00pm, Saturdays 1:00- 9:00pm

Continuing on the “hey an old mill building would be a perfect place to put a brewery” theme is Banded Horn Brewing Company, located in the center of Biddeford. They have the honor of being Biddeford’s first brewery – and were embraced by the community as a positive force long before they even opened. They opened up with a broad lineup right from the start – the Pepperell Pilsener, Veridian IPA and  Norweald Stout. Each of them are well executed, with my favorite probably being the Veridian. Since opening, they’ve added to that list, including The Mountain – a rich imperial stout that’s smooth and packed with rich roasted flavors.

Tips, tricks and notes: If you’ve always kind of crinkled your nose up at the idea of visiting Biddeford, stop it. This makes it worth it, and it’s a more interesting town than you’d think.

Bonus Stop: Elements, Biddeford [Map]

Hours: Monday 7:00am – 6:00pm, Tuesday-Friday 7:00am – 11:00pm, Saturday 9:00am – 11:00pm, Sunday, 9:00am – 6:00pm.

On a rainy night, I went down to Elements to attend a beer book signing. Author Ben Keene was there with his book, The Great Northeast Brewery Tour. I had never, at that point, been to downtown Biddeford before, and didn’t realize that the place was both a bookstore… and a bar. But I instantly fell in love with it. It has all the feelings of a coffee shop (and does, indeed, sell coffee) but has an impressive selection of local beer on tap. The literary atmosphere and obvious love for beer kept me there longer than I had originally planned to hang out. While I was there, a few local brewers popped in and out – and I was delighted to see that each of their beers were being enjoyed by other patrons around me. It’s also basically across the street from Banded Horn, so it’s an easy add-on for your beer trip.

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Tips, tricks and notes: They have 8 tap lines, which are almost always completely local. But beyond that, there’s an impressive bottled beer list that includes even more beer from New England and beyond, as well as a special gluten-free section.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s trip – which takes you to less familiar places (or in some cases, places you might not have thought to go) for good beer, and a warm reception from friendly farm dogs, locals, and beer lovers. A side note – there are a couple of other breweries in planning in the Saco & Biddeford area – including Barreled Souls in Saco that just received their license to brew. Stay tuned for more details on those.

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