Located in Freeport, ME near the giant L.L. Bean headquarters, Maine Beer Company boasts what I consider probably the best quality beer of the breweries in the area. Offering a $10 flight of four or $18 for a flight of eight, this brewery is pretty no-nonsense when it comes to naming their beers (e.g. Four of their beers are called Beer I, Beer II, Beer III, and Beer IV). While the $18 may seem a little steep, their pours are very generous and the beers are very strong, so you’ll be feeling nice and good by the end of it.
They have a wonderful seating area outside next to the giant solar panels that power the place and offer pretty good pretzels from a local bakery called When Pigs Fly that would’ve been better if they found a way to serve them hot.
Allagash is probably the most popular company to come out of Maine since most people know of their Allagash White. It’s located technically in Portland, but resides in an office park outside the city; you’ll think you’re lost until you roll right up to it. Allagash offers a free tasting of a flight of four that they choose for you. Their beers are very good, though I could have done without the sour one, and Allagash’s tasting area/patio probably offers the most “fun” since there are games such as Cornhole, playing cards, Jenga, etc. available for the patrons.
Shipyard is the least well known nationally of the Portland breweries we visited, but it is a local New England favorite. Their brewery is located in the city itself, and their tasting room feels more like a tourist gift shop than a brewery. That being said, in addition to all the souvenirs you can buy, they offer a free tasting in the back tasting room and unlike Allagash, you can pick which four you’d like to try. Their beers are unspectacular, but solid. They could up their glass game a bit though as the tastings were served in dixie cups. All that being said, the server was the friendliest of the three breweries we visited, and I did come away with an awesome Shipyard beer bucket.
43 Middle St, Portland, ME 04101
Hours: Sun-Thur 11-9; Fri & Sat 11-10
On a somewhat related note, Shipyard is a block away from Duckfat, a local Portland favorite eatery. All I need to say is this: Get the Poutine fully loaded with duck and egg. That is all.
A few weeks ago I was out on the west coast for work and decided to take an addition few days to visit Portland, Oregon while I was out there. Having heard a lot about the little city’s hipster vibe and seeing episodes of Portlandia here and there (pun intended), I figured a weekend trip to see what it was about was in order.
Portland definitely lives up to a good amount of the stereotypes that I’d heard – lots of plaid, very relaxed/outdoorsy people, dogs everywhere, and a pretty good food scene for a small city. Sadly though, I didn’t really see that many “bird” things – another one of those Portlandia inside jokes.
Portland is a great weekend trip, but I wouldn’t go out of your way to fly out there from the east coast unless you plan on doing an entire west coast thing. The city is easily walk-able since the main part of the city you’d want to see is about a 3 square mile area, or you could travel around using the very convenient (and dog-friendly) $1 streetcar.
The city is so jam packed full of microbreweries that you can easily spend a day just brewery hopping. Deschutes was my favorite. The vibe was lively, the space was rustic/hipstery/laid back with a ton of natural lighting. The beer flight at Deschutes I thought had some of the best samples (but that of course is entirely my own opinion) and they had a very “earth” friendly menu which included a fantastic pear and goat cheese pizza. Also, you can stop by Powell’s City of Books afterward – the most ridiculously large bookstore I’ve ever been to. Second favorite was BridgePort, which was a little more modern, almost a little more chain-y, but still a very good beer selection (not as robust as Deschutes though). Try the pretzels there as well. And Rogue came in third, not because the quality was bad. Far from it. It may have just been a victim of the drank too much and didn’t know what was happening by the time we got there scenario…
To the north and west of the downtown districts of the city resides these beautiful outdoor landmarks of Portland. It is totally random but at the same time totally makes sense that Portland would have these outdoor, serene, lush floral parks with no sign of urban life a few blocks away from the bustling city. Adjacent to one another, the Japanese Garden is probably worth visiting before the Rose Test Garden since there is an admission fee (you’ll want to make the most out of your money). Tip – if you do go during the last half hour it’s open, they will waive the standard admission fee and let you pay what you think is fair for the last half hour.
The Japanese Garden is like walking into a zen paradise – the waterfalls, rock sand gardens and lush fauna and flora really offer you an indescribable relaxation feeling. You could just do nothing but sit and be happy in there. The Rose Test Garden down the path is more like a public park with rows and rows of different species of roses from around the world. It is also very nice, but not as serene with all the activity of people playing Frisbee, taking wedding pictures, etc. A large amphitheater is located next to the Rose Test Garden as well where couples and families can lounge around or picnic.
Additionally, this was unintentional on our part because we got lost, it’s worth finding your way to the Oregon Holocaust Memorial down the street from the two parks. While it’s obviously a somber place, it’s something you won’t regret viewing. Once you’re done with the gardens (or before you go) you can easily walk down into the Nob Hill district to do some boutique shopping and grab an ice cream at Salt and Straw. Try as many flavors as you want, they’re very generous with their samples because their flavors are so unique. They also offer an ice cream flight.
If you go to Portland on the weekend, check out the bustling Portland Saturday Market. Rows and rows of tents hold different arts & crafts, beer/cider tastings (if Atlas Cider is there, give it a try), local clothing, etc. for you to meander through. There are also several of the food trucks that Portland is known for there, and I would highly recommend the Greek gyro truck. When we were there, various street acts were also performing magic and doing other weird…things…(not sure how else to describe a man putting his body through a tennis racket while juggling swords)
Near the Portland Saturday Market is the famous Voodoo Doughnut shop. It’s open 24/7 and was made famous by being on pretty much every Travel Channel show documenting Portland and featured in several others because of their unique doughnuts and unmistakable pink boxes (No joke, I was accosted by 9 different people when I brought a box back to D.C. asking if they could have one or in the case of one business traveler telling me “You brought that from Portland? That is f**king awesome). The line will be long – be prepared to wait.
I suffered that cognitive dissonance that traveler’s often face. I wanted to visit Voodoo because it was so well known and a “Portland” thing to do. On the other hand, living in D.C., I hate seeing the long-ass line outside of Georgetown Cupcake and the stupidity of waiting in line for an hour for – a cupcake. So, we were being those people. Fortunately for us, we stopped in at a down hour (4 PM on Sunday) so the line was only about 15 minutes long (it can be an hour during peak times). The doughnut list is so extensive, we just got a dozen of the “Employees Choice” where they just pick good ones for you. Tip: While I still recommend the Employees Choice if you can’t make up your mind, be sure to get one of the Voodoo doll doughnuts. It’s a doughnut shaped like a little man with a pretzel “pin” stabbing it. Our cashier didn’t put one of those in our box and I was sad. Also, the place is cash only.
If you’re in the mood for brunch, check out Mother’s Bistro for a meal. There’s nothing there out of the ordinary, but the food they’ve got is crowd pleasing and filling. I’ll also give a nod to their service – they live up to the “It’s all about the love” slogan. When we asked if we could have a couple of the biscuits that were part of other meals as an addition to our meal, they happily brought them to us free of charge (they probably would have sold at Starbucks for like $5 each because of how huge they are). The biscuits (and the blackberry jam it comes with) are legit awesome, with our waitress calling them “just plain stupid good”. The owner/Chef Lisa also came around to greet us and every other table to see how everything was.
555 Congress Street
Portland, ME 04101
Dinner served from 5-close, seven days a week
Brunch every Sunday from 9:30-2:00
Portland, Maine is one of those cities in America that still holds the hidden gem status. Most people don’t make it out to Portland due to its location and size, but for those who do make it up to Maine are usually pleasantly surprised at how much Portland does have to offer for a smaller city.
The downtown area has the vibrant energy of a seaport. With seafood restaurants left and right offering some of the best lobster in America to local bars bustling with locals and Southern Maine University students offering many of the local brews, Portland combines that quaint hometown feel with an urban setting. One restaurant in Portland that I tried recently skews on the higher end scale (higher end for Portland that is – there are no Tao Restaurant style places in Portland).
five fifty-five (yes, they spell the entire thing in lowercase) is considered by many to be one of the best restaurants in Portland. I’ll say this up front: for Portland, the restaurant is one of the nicer places to have a fancy night out. But don’t expect it to be anything ridiculously fancy. The venue itself is very intimate with low lighting and a lot of wood making up the furniture and walls. The wine list is quite extensive, almost surprisingly so. But if you’re a beer person looking for some local Maine brews you’ll want to head to another place since that list is far shorter.
The menu is pricey and although I’d like to say that the food is worth the price – I’m afraid I can’t. That isn’t to say that the food isn’t excellent; it’s just a tad overpriced in my opinion. I started out my meal with the “how do you like them apples” salad which was quite a nice starter of fresh greens, crisp apples, and perfectly toasted/salted walnuts. But for $11, I kind of expected a little more.
For the entree, I tried the lobster mac & cheese which was very tasty. Again, it just wasn’t $31 tasty. I will say that I was surprisingly filled by the portion. It came out in a very small bowl and my first reaction was “This is it?” But you know how Indian food comes out in a small bowl and you think you’re getting ripped off until you finish 2/3 of it and realize how full you actually are? Same scenario.
Another item on the menu that I tasted is a nice Maine salmon wrapped in a leaf of some sort. Its accompanied by several toppings (radishes, cashews, peppers) in small dishes for you to mix and match as you see fit and a portion of sauteed kale n the side. The fish was a little dry, which I found surprising, but overall with the kale and toppings sides the dish wasn’t half bad.
So while I enjoyed what I ate, I’ll probably stick to Maine does best, the lobster shacks, for my meals. five fifty-five doesn’t live up to the hype and is just little too overpriced in my opinion. But that being said, its still a nice place to go if you want to have a classy night out in Portland. The wine list is very good and the food is done well enough that you’ll be able to overlook the fact that you’re spending a few dollars extra than you should. Grade: B-