Welcome to our summer series that provides a 24-hour guide to the Midcoast for a variety of personalities, crafted by locals who know this place inside and out. You're not going to see the most expensive and the most obvious choices here. What you will find is the best of real Maine — where to go, where to stay, where to eat and drink.
MIDCOAST — You love the smell of fresh hops, you snort when someone offers you a Pabst Blue Ribbon and your ultimate vacation centers around a Beer Trail. Maine’s burgeoning craft brew movement began in 1986 (some say on par with Seattle’s beer scene) and is now home to more than 30 breweries and 200+ brands. Josh Christie, author of Maine Beer: Brewing In Vacationland told us: “The Midcoast is a wonderful microcosm of Maine's three decades of craft brewing. It has breweries like Andrew's doing traditional English ales, the style that launched the revolution. And it has an ‘extreme’ brewer in Marshall Wharf, which is at the forefront of Maine's continuing beer revolution. With strong support of these (and other) Maine breweries at beer stores and restaurants around the region, it's a fantastic place to explore the panoply of Maine-made beer.”
Morning: Rise And Shine Darlin'
Our beer lovin’ sources tell us that the best place to forge your own Maine Beer Trail on a 24-hour timetable is to stay at the The Captain Lindsey House Inn in Rockland, owned by innkeepers and captains Ken and Ellen Barnes. Before they were inn owners, they were full-time captains of the windjammer Stephen Taber. A quick bit on their history here. This adventurous pair have high spirit, share a lot of laughter and make you feel right at home — and their breakfast buffet is outstanding. Guests are invited to pick and choose from yogurt, homemade granola, assorted cereals, muffins and breads, cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs, assorted fresh fruit, juice, eggs to order and/or waffles. If you happen to be there on a day they make Eggs Benedict with asparagus and thick cut bacon, consider yourself lucky — for you will be well fed and ready for your journey.
Road Trip! This one’s going to require a designated driver or, if you feel like having someone else do the driving, contact All Aboard Trolley, which offers custom van trips at $85/hour (plus gratuity) and/or for large groups (8 to 10 people), a coach at $125/hour (plus gratuity). We’re carving out a section of Maine Brewers Guild’s Maine Beer Trail to start you off right. This ride up is a scenic coastal one-hour trip from Rockland and the first place we’re gonna hit is Penobscot Bay Brewery, in Winterport, which offers tastings Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. They offer seven hand-made brews ranging from a honey ginger lager to a stout ($3 for 6 samplings). They can also do tours by appointment or by chance, but call ahead first. Pro tip: under Maine law, they can't sell you beer into an unlabeled growler—but they do have growlers for sale.
Once you’ve gotten your fill, it’s time to toddle back down the coast for the rest of the Beer Trail. Next stop, Belfast and home of Marshall Wharf Brewery. Marshall Wharf is the quirky kid in the bunch, combining powerful brews with a flip sense of humor like their Ace Hole pale ale and their Cornholio Welsh inspired blonde ale. They also offer tastings Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can have up to eight choices of their handcrafted brews (3 ounces for $1 or 7 ounces for $2.50). They also do a “No cash for a splash”—that is, if you just want a mouthful, it’s complimentary. Like Penobscot Brewery, they also offer growlers. For future notice, at 4 p.m., next door when their Three Tides restaurant opens, you can get a sample paddle of any five beers at the tasting (3 ounces each for $6). But, we only have 24 hours and we gotta keep trucking.
Lunch Time, And You're Starvin' Like Marvin
Forget the shmancy places, the Craft Beer Lover will love a no-nonsense booth-and-tables joint like Rollie’s Bar and Grill (37 Main St., Belfast). With a simple, affordable menu, they sport a surprising amount of serious craft brew on tap. Pair with the Ale Battered Haddock sandwich ($9.49) or the Bacon and Blue Cheese Burger ($7.99). Rollie’s staff always hustles and they keep the mood light. Rollie’s Pro Tip: When you hear the clanging of the bell, that's not Clarence getting his angel’s wings — it’s probably because somebody tipped 20 percent.
Down the coast we go. It’s now time for a scavenger hunt. Along with the first two breweries you visited, a few other notable Midcoast breweries belong on this Beer Trail. These are: Belfast Bay Brewing Company in Belfast (which doesn’t offer tastings) and Liberty Craft Brewing Co. (off the beaten path). To accomplish this scavenger hunt, you’re going to have to gunk around to several off-the–radar and little known places in the Midcoast, such as Vinolio (an olive oil, beer and wine tasting room on Belfast’s Main Street) and the Belfast Co-op, (a community-owned health food store in Belfast with a killer craft brew section in back.) Here’s your scavenger hunt List. Try to find:
- Belfast Brewing Company's Lobster Ale
- Andrew’s Brewing Company’s English Pale Ale
- Marshall Wharf’s Ace Hole
- Penobscot Bay Brewery’s Half Moon Stout
On your way back to Camden, stop by Northport Beverage in Northport: Home of the Exotic Beers. (You’ll have to Google Map it as it’ll sneak right up on you on Route 1, heading south.) This is probably the most unassuming gem of a place Craft Beer Lovers will ever find. It looks like a redemption center (and part of it is) but the next building boasts more than 350 different kinds of craft beer from all over the world to choose from. And, you can buy just one and don't have to purchase the whole four- or six-pack. When you hit Lincolnville Beach, stop by stop by Andrew’s Brewing Company’s latest venture, a brewpub next to the Lobster Pound. When you get to Camden, duck into Lily, Lupine and Fern’s beer cooler in the back room, or Cappy’s Chowder House store or even Stop ‘N Go, the one-stop gas n’ shop for locals, which carries an interesting selection of Maine brews in the back cooler.
For Kicks, Try This
By the time you get back to Rockland, it will be afternoon. If you feel the need to chill out, go back to the Captain Lindsey House Inn. They have a guest refrigerator in which you can store all of your scavenger hunt items. You can drink anything you’ve brought with you on premises, so mosey on out on to their back patio surrounded by lush gardens. They’ll even put out an afternoon snack for you such as fruit and cheese plates, nuts, and homemade baked items like scones and cookies.
Happy Hour Activity
Once you’re feeling refreshed, all you need to do is take a stroll out the front door and you’re right back on Main Street, the heart of where the craft beer happy hour scene has taken off in recent years. You can do a mini-crawl, by hitting 3Crow Restaurant and Bar and FOG Bar and Cafe, two relatively new Main Street gastro pubs that take their microbrews seriously. “We sourced some of the best beers in the world, including those in Maine, and we made a special effort to get those on tap," said FOG co-owner Ashley Seelig. Don’t forget to check out the latest brew pub to hit the Rockland scene— (see our story here).
Dinner Time And What To Do After
We’re going to send you a little out of the way for dinner, but it will be oh so worth it. At this point we recommend a taxi—Joe’s Taxi has the lowest prices in town. About 15 miles inland in Union, The Badger Cafe & Pub, run by Mike and Christy Greer, is a little slice of microbrew heaven.
By the time you get back to Rockland, Rock Harbor Brewing Co. sits just down the street from Captain Lindsey House Inn, a stumble away. They often have live music and dancing — just the perfect end to a perfect day.
The Morning After
Time to head on out, but before you leave, make sure you fill up on another excellent Captain Lindsey House Inn breakfast. After your 24 hours are up here, take what you've experienced and tasted and bring it on home with you. What's that old proverb? “Give a man a beer and you can make him happy for a day. Teach him how to home brew and make him happy for a lifetime.”
Stay tuned for our next series and enjoy your summer!
Updated for 2014
Follow other suggestions in our Vacation - Staycation: The locals' Guide to the Midcoast on Pinterest.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.