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Here’s to Octo-beer!

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BANGOR – Here in 2019, the beer scene continues to shake things up.

The craft beer landscape in the greater Bangor region is as robust as ever these days. Over a dozen breweries are plying their trades in the vicinity, bringing their delicious and diverse beers to the masses. Plenty of thirsts are being quenched as these businesses – some just a few years old, others with decades-long histories behind them – offer up a wide variety of tasty brews.

And make no mistake – this boom is good for business, too. These breweries, large and small, are helping to drive the area’s economic engine. They’re providing jobs and spending money and paying taxes. They’re drawing people in, and not just to their tasting rooms – there are plenty of local restaurants and bars that have taps pouring locally-sourced suds.

It’s not just locals either. Beer tourism is real. Spend any amount of time in a local tasting room and you will inevitably hear someone mention being from Massachusetts or New Brunswick or some other even father-flung locale, talking about how they’re here for the beer. Sometimes, the beer is a reason to stop over in the Bangor area on their way to their destination. Increasingly, however, it turns out that the Bangor area IS the destination, thanks in no small part to the beer scene.

(For the record, the longest distance traveled by anyone I have overheard while eavesdropping at a tasting room was the trip taken by a lovely older couple from South Carolina. They had come to do Portland and apparently heard such good things about the Bangor scene that they extended their trip to come check it out.)

Here’s the thing: The Maine Edge digs beer. We cover it a fair amount in these pages. We feature it on our cover at least a couple of times a year. We’ve run a beer column in the past (and may yet in the future – stay tuned to see what might be coming down the pike).

Here’s the thing: I can sit here and tell you what I think about the various breweries in and around Bangor, but it’s all going to be some vague variation on “Beer good.” I’m not a sophisticated enough consumer to offer a great deal of actual insight. I’m pretty basic – my favorite brews are essentially the pumpkin spice lattes of the beer world.

And so we continue our tradition of recruiting someone else (who is not me) to offer up a different, more thoughtful perspective.

What follows comes from a trusted beer expert, one familiar with the local scene and the beers it produces. We wanted thoughtful and honest appraisals about some of the local operations. Considering the nature of the craft brewing scene – even as it continues growing, it remains a small world – it seemed that it might be easier for our expert to be fully forthcoming if they were allowed anonymity.

Thus, we offer up our Mystery Beer Expert, or MBE. The title was initially Anonymous Beer Expert, but we quickly realized that the acronym (ABE) might point the finger at someone local who, while definitely an expert, is not THIS expert.

Here’s MBE offering up some quick-hit thoughts on a number of area breweries. If you do happen to figure out who it is – and you might, if you’re familiar with the scene – please keep it to yourself. It’s not like there are any hit jobs – it’s all very nice, actually. The person just wanted to be discreet and we’d like to honor that. No one likes a suds snitch.

And now, enjoy these Octo-beer thoughts.

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BANGOR

Geaghan Bros. Brewing

What was once a small addition to a beloved local pub is now an institution unto itself. Geaghan Brothers Brewing has rightfully earned a reputation as a brewery that can produce a range of beer styles with consistency and quality. Whether it’s at the pub or the Brewer tasting room, there’s good beer to be had. Bangor Brown and Stein Song and Refueler and everybody’s favorite Smiling Irish Bastard, plus special offerings like Aroostook Hop Harvest and Commemorate (brewed to mark the two-year anniversary of the tasting room) show that GBB certainly isn’t sitting still!

2 Feet Brewing

You'll find 2 Feet Brewing just off Main, and when you get there, you'll find their beers are somewhere just off mainstream. 2 Feet Brewing have been operating on Columbia St. in Bangor now for coming up on three years; in that time, they have become s go-to spot to grab a bite and a pint. But be wary, because that pint might bite back. Barn Burner, a dark saison with ghost peppers added, has become the must-try beer when at 2 Feet - if you can take the heat, that is! Keep an eye out for Ale Brady, an eagerly anticipated red IPA coming to mark the anniversary of the legendary Al Brady shooting in Bangor.

Bangor Beer Company

Bangor Beer Company has turned more than a few heads with their offerings to date. From well-constructed IPAs (in all of the various and sundry permutations that IPA comes in these days – check out Catchphrase) to clean and nuanced beers like their helles lager Brite and their unique stout standby Oddball, Bangor Beer Company is producing a solid variety of beers that all taste like the house specialty – head brewer Jared Lambert has quickly made his mark on the local scene. Oh, and try the Bang Bang Cauliflower while you’re there.

Sea Dog Brewing

The brewery that started it all! What was once the only place to get a fresh-brewed pint of beer in Bangor has become one among the crowd of upstart breweries. While their beer may remind you of a time many beers ago, there is something timeless about a quality-made beer from a well-maintained Peter Austin brewing system. With so many new offerings kicking around, you might drink Sea Dog beer a little less often than you used to, but when you do, I recommend going right to the source and having a beer at the pub. The freshness is really what brings those Ringwood fermented beers home. 

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BREWER

Mason’s Brewing Company

The Bangor side of the river gets the attention, but there are big things brewing on the Brewer side of the river worth swimming over for (or you could take one of the three bridges, if you’re a coward). Mason's Brewing Company is not only a great place to belly-up and grab a pint of some of Maine's tastiest IPAs, but it is also a fantastic spot to grab a bite to eat with the family, friends or even people you don't like very much. While Mason's has gained notoriety for their Hipster Apocalypse IPA and the varieties therein, don’t ever doubt that Mason's has plenty of tricks up their sleeves. And they’re on the verge of completing an expansion to boot!

Blank Canvas Brewing

They might not be Brewer's largest brewery, but Blank Canvas Brewery has turned out an impressive list of innovative beers. The Roasted Garlic alt, the Dill Cucumber Pale, other beers that feature mustard or cinnamon or maple bacon or … Blank Canvas has a way of taking ingredients you've never seen in a beer and blending them with the right malts, hops and techniques to make those non-standard flavors work. Blank Canvas is all about making creative choices and pushing the brewing envelope; if you like beers that will surprise you, they’re a great place to visit. Odds are, they’ll have something you’ve never tried before.

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ORONO

Orono Brewing Company

Few breweries have enjoyed the early success that OBC has, and that success has come mainly because of one thing. Damn. Good. Beer. From their modest beginnings at the old Dr. Records location in Orono to their lovely space on State St. in Bangor to their massive and magnificent spot on 61 Margin St, OBC has maintained a reputation for making quality beers and having a damn good time while doing it! Head brewer Asa Marsh-Sachs is one of the bright lights of Maine brewing, creating all manner of interesting sours, wild ales and more to go with their exceptional and popular IPAs like Tubular. They’ve always got something new to accompany the standbys – there’s always good beer to be had from OBC.

Black Bear Brewing

Anyone that went to the University of Maine at Orono - or lived in the Bangor/Orono Area back in the early days of craft beer - has not only a soft spot, but a reverence for Black Bear Brewing. In a time when fresh, local beer in Central Maine was just not a thing, Black Bear made it a thing - and we’re better off because of it. It’s not easy for breweries to pivot with the changing industry and stay relevant, but with their ever-evolving draft list (and a loving commitment to old favorites) to go with two lively tasting rooms – one in Orono and one in Bangor – Black Bear is one of the few that has figured out how to change with the times.

Marsh Island Brewing

Operating out of the Swett's Tire building, just a stone’s throw from Burby and Bates in Orono, Marsh Island Brewing has been making a wide variety of beers for some time (they’re celebrating four years!), and you know what? For a tire shop, they make pretty good beer! Jokes aside, MIB is one of those breweries that you walk into and you know instantly that there is an immense passion for beer there. The brewers are always innovating and coming up with fun beers like Pulp Truck and Gronk Spike and PB You, Who? Stop into their tasting room and you'll see what I mean right away.

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FARTHER AFIELD

Airline Brewing Company

An authentic British cask ale in Amherst? Well, yeah – what else did you expect! Airline Brewing Company is making the kind of beer that you just don’t normally find, and everyone should love them dearly for that. Many beer lovers have to go far out of their normal circles to find a properly made, properly pulled pint of cask ale, but the folks at Airline make is oh so convenient for Bangor/Ellsworth area drinkers. Their offerings are clean and simple while also being sophisticated. Stop in at either their Amherst brewery tasting room or their Ellsworth pub, grab a pint and be transported to the British Isles!

Fogtown Brewing Company

Fogtown Brewing is the kind of brewery that every small downtown in Maine should have. Located in Ellsworth, they make an excellent, ever-changing variety of beers that explore many different areas of the flavor spectrum, and they are focused on creating a fun and inviting community gathering space that is about so much more than beer. But at its heart, it IS about the beer and that is why Fogtown is absolutely crushing it right now. Stop in and see for yourself! Try their NEIPA Notion or their Yellow Submarine kettle sour.

Atlantic Brewing Company

Maine is known for blueberries, but there is so much more to Maine. In this way, Atlantic Brewing Company and Maine are similar. I'm sure you have had the Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale, and when someone mentions Atlantic Brewing, that’s the brew that comes to mind. That said, do yourself a favor and get to the Atlantic Brewing Company space in bar Harbor ASAP and drink all of the dark beers. ABC has a way with the dark malts, and it shows in brews like the Cadillac Mountain Stout and the Coal Porter. While everything Atlantic puts out is worth the experience, the dark beers always steal the show for me.

Penobscot Bay Brewery

Winterport’s Penobscot Bay Brewery is one of those breweries that, when it pops up on your radar, you’re always glad. One of the longest-running breweries in the area, Penobscot Bay Brewery has been bringing delicious beer to the area for over a decade. Operating in tandem with Winterport Winery, they’ve got a nice selection of excellent brews – I’m a particular fan of the Red Flannel brown ale and the Humble B lager (brewed with honey and ginger), but they’re all good. And with their simple, yet distinctive cans, they make an impression on the shelf as well as on the palate.

Bissell Brothers Three Rivers

Sure, Bissell Brothers is best known as a Portland operation – and one of the better ones at that. But the titular brothers have built an additional operation in Milo, near where they grew up. The Three Rivers location offers up all manner of Bissell beers, including the popular standards, but they also are known to have some Three Rivers exclusives on tap. Milo is a little more off the beaten path than some of these other offerings, but here’s the thing: you can leave Bangor and have a beer in your hand at Three Rivers in under an hour. And considering the quality of product, from their flagship Substance to the experimental beers that are the focus of the in-house brewing operation, it’s well worth the trip.

Last modified on Tuesday, 08 October 2019 10:14

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