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Beer in Maine

22 Oct

I spent a week biking 400+ miles in Maine recently, a convenient excuse to try a broad selection of local beer. From scribbled notes / quick memories:

3 tides bikemaine

3 Tides / Marshall Wharf Brewing (Belfast):

  • Cant Dog Imperial IPA: By far my favorite beer of the trip. IPAs aren’t even one of my favorite styles– I don’t like them too bitter, piney, or one-note (and I’m not a fan of the Cascade and Columbus hops used so frequently). But this 10% ABV beast was nearly perfect– the alcohol helped subdue the bitterness, there was a nice balance of citrusy hops (but not overly grapefruity– more orange/pineapple?), and a bit of malt sweetness. To compare to gold standards: I’d choose this over Pliny the Elder any day, and it’s getting near my favorites Maharajah and Pliny the Younger. Bravo! (A+)

  • Sexy Chaos (a Chaos Chaos Russian Imperial Stout, further aged on vanilla and toasted oak). 11% ABV but still balanced– a warming, robust, bourbon-like beer that I could sip in front of a winter fireplace for hours.) (A)

  • Ace Hole APA: A fine american pale ale, modest bitterness but nothing special. (B+)

Plus, an outdoor fire / stove and crushed oyster shells under foot..

3 Tides Fire Pit

Black Bear (Orono):

The brown ale (brewed specially for BikeMaine?) was decent, malty, robust (B+), but I didn’t care for their Pale (hoppier than I’d like).

Penobscot Brewery:

The beer served at our Dover-Foxcroft camping stop included (good labels, decent beer):

penobscot brewing

  • Red Flannel Ale: A solid brown ale, malty and a little nutty/spicy without being too sweet, I liked it. (B+)

  • Building 5 Rye India Pale Ale: A nice bold, chewy rye flavor… but a really generic astringent-bitter hop aftertaste. Meh. (B-)

Atlantic Brewing (Bar Harbor):

Atlantic Brewing

Really friendly people, free tasting, I took a detour to go here… and none of the beers interested me. The blueberry beer was about as sickly/blunt as I feared.

Allagash Brewing (Portland):

They give an excellent brewery tour, well worth the visit, and were just starting up their new building:

Allagash Barrels

Allagash Tasting

Alas, the tasting room selection was nothing special:

  • Allagash White (the satisfying old standby– it’s 80% of their business for a reason)

  • Allagash Four (good / fine)

  • Allagash Tripel (ditto)

I did later buy a bottle of the Allagash Fluxus 2013 seasonal ale with blood oranges which was very good– and I expect would be great with food (A-)

Other beers, here and there:

  • Baxter IPA: Eh, generic IPA, some harshness and pine. (C)

  • Manly Man New Guy IPA: A mid-range IPA, a little bitter, not too harsh… but nothing special. (B-)

Novare Res:

At the end of the trip I managed to catch up with an old friend from high school at this bar, which I’d heard about from so many people I know (Maine residents, former Amherst patrons of the Moan and Dove, …)  An astounding selection, Including one of my all-time favorite beers from Belgium, which I thought you could only drink in one cafe there (De Garre):

de garre tripel

Quite a week. Vacation.

Long Grain Thai Cuisine

17 Sep

This was by far my favorite Thai(ish) restaurant in the US. I like it far more than already good Pok Pok or the (I feel somewhat overrated) Lotus of Siam.

First, the “stir fried rice cakes with green garlic”:

rice cakes garlic

A surprisingly smooth, creamy, stiff texture almost like a fried rice pudding, with fresh, flavorful green garlic. A good start. And then:

noodles etc

The pad see ew was fantastic– their homemade wide flat noodles with just a little chewiness and a smoky flavor, a locally-made tofu, wild mushrooms, and some toothy greens sauteed in soy sauce.

The kim chee and pork belly stir fry was also exceptional: their kim chee (more in the tart fermented direction than chili spicy), with tender yet not too fatty pork belly and greens.

The smoked mackerel fried rice was a bold move– so very fishy-fish-forward that I wouldn’t want to eat it as my only dish, but it was great to share.

The kicker? It’s in small-town Maine. I first heard about it through the NY Times review a year ago and it wasn’t until recently that I was within 100 miles of it, with time to visit.

Local Maine Thanksgiving (2012)

22 Nov

A delicious, modest, simple-ingredients dinner with family:

A 4 lb local chicken (no turkey this year), squash, beets, brussels sprouts, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Most of it grown / raised within about 500′ of where we were eating it .

Wild cranberries found by chance in the woods!

Brussels sprouts picked an hour before dinner (one of the last crops alive in the garden, covered with bits of ice and frost as we picked them):


Backyard chickens provided the eggs:

A cold frame keeps greens growing past the end of the season (we also used greens from the supermarket):

And, for fun, here’s a list of everything that went into the dinner sorted by location:

Grown / Raised by one of us:

  • Butternut squash
  • Beets
  • Raspberries
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Eggs
  • Potatoes
  • Sage
  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary

From within a few miles:

  • Chicken (raised by a neighbor)
  • Cranberries (foraged from the woods)
  • Maple syrup (my sister made her own from backyard trees, but sadly we weren’t using it)
  • Pumpkin

From Maine:

  • Greens
  • Honey (Oakland, ME)
  • Butter (Old Orchard Beach)
  • Milk (Westbrook)
  • Bread, for stuffing (Portland, ME)

From the US:

  • Celery (North Carolina)
  • Red wine (Willamette Valley, Oregon)
  • Orange zest (Florida)
  • Flour (Kansas wheat)
  • Chestnuts (Ohio?)
  • Shallots
  • Vinegar
  • Salt (assumed)

From outside the US, though used in small quantities:

  • Olive oil (Italy)
  • Sugar (Brazil?)
  • Molasses (Guatemala)
  • Coconut milk (Thailand)
  • Chocolate (Madagascar beans, though processed in San Francisco)
  • Coffee (unknown)
  • Savory (unknown)
  • Nutmeg (Sri Lanka?)
  • Ginger (India?)
  • Black pepper (Vietnam?)

Or, as a map (in the spirit of Local Thanksgiving 2009):

Local Thanksgiving: 2009 Edition

22 Nov

Many years ago I started a “buy local” blog, but other parts of life intruded and it petered out after a few posts.

But at the time I did somewhat obsessively catalog where every ingredient in that year’s Thanksgiving dinner came from, and many of the non-spice ingredients were from a 40-mile radius of where we were cooking:


This is just a warm-up for doing the same thing for this year’s dinner.

Five Islands Lobster Wharf

21 Jun

My favorite place in the world to eat lobster is Five Islands Lobster Wharf on the coast of Maine, an hour East of Portland.

It’s very informal– you can take live lobster away or have them cook one for you on the spot. Then you sit at picnic tables on a working dock, with lobsters boats coming and going, piles of traps, and the freshest, most flavorful lobster I’ve ever had.

The lobster roll is also very good, though the bread (a hot dog roll) and fries are nothing special, and there are places that do the “accessories” better. This place is really all about the quality and freshness of the lobster.

Depending on the time of year, you can also get soft shell lobster– lobsters that recently shedded a shell and are growing a new one. It’s a sweeter lobster, with a thinner, slightly translucent shell you can peel off by hand with a bit of effort, though there can be less meat. It’s worth trying if you’ve never had it.

I was probably last here 15 years ago, and it’s not as ridiculously cheap as it used to be (it made it onto some tourism lists), but they still have a good thing going.

Portland (Maine) Beer

26 Nov

If I’m going to rave about great beer in Portland Oregon, I should check out the beer in the original US Portland (which, for your local history tidbit of the day,  was the site of the first law banning sale of alcohol except for medicinal or mechanical purposes, in 1851, far before Prohibition).

I stopped by The Great Lost Bear, which sells tasting sizes of the 40+ mostly-local beers they have on tap, and tried 8 Maine beers I’d never had or even heard of. And at $1-$2/taste I didn’t feel bad taking a few sips and abandoning two I didn’t like at all.

My favorites:

  • Sheepscot Pemaquid Ale: supposedly a Scotch-style ale, it was bright, barely sweet, very slightly toasty, and reminded me of the better stouts I’ve had. Excellent!
  • Allagash Black: Black but not bitter like the black IPAs I’m so tired of. The sweet smell of oatmeal, and a taste of roasted grains (not just oats), balanced without any one dominant flavor. Bravo!

Also good:

  • Atlantic Bar Harbor Real Ale: a dark but not strong beer, with a taste that reminded me of black tea, and very little aftertaste. Good, though I also used it as a palate cleanser between other beers.
  • Sheepscot Boothbay Bitter (cask conditioned): a slightly lemony and funky flavor, minimal carbonation and served closer to room temperature, and a bit watery in texture… but while those may not sound like complimentary adjectives, I liked the overall effect (though others didn’t).

Less exciting:

  • Belfast Lobster Red Ale: this has nothing to do with lobster other than the color (at least, I hope). A solid but unmemorable red ale.
  • Allagash Thing #1: a light, crisp ale with a powerful dose of cloves and probably other spices. Too heavy on the spices for my taste.
  • Rising Tide Atlantis Black IPA: Quite bitter, malty, and I liked it even less than the 21st Amendment Back in Black IPA. It looks like I just don’t like the black IPA style.
  • Allagash Big Little: a light-colored beer with a smell like a wheat beer but a strange taste- a hint of sweet fruit and mint? I didn’t like it at all.

I’d hoped to also make it to the highly recommended Novare Res beer cafe or take the Allagash Brewery Tour (since I like their White, Curieux, Tripel, and now Black), but didn’t have the time or fluid capacity. Next time.