No matter where I am, I try to explore the local scene, and vacation is certainly no exception. I’ve been spending my week in Maine eating, drinking, hiking…and maybe eating and drinking some more. While not Brooklyn local, these great finds are certainly worth sharing, should you have a trip planned to Maine, or maybe want to get one together after reading about these great restaurants, breweries and yes, even wine!
Rising Tide Brewing Company – Portland, ME
A newcomer to the Maine brewing scene, but certainly a force to be reckoned with. Rising Tide opened its doors in late October 2010 and currently only distributes in Maine. They did, however, just move into a larger space and plan to start distribution in Massachusetts later this year, so maybe New York soon (we can hope, right!). Unfortunately, when we arrived a bit late in the day to Rising Tide and there wasn’t much beer left for us to try. Good news for the brewery since their beer has become so popular, bad news for us since we were a bit thirsty. What we did try though was some of the best beer I’ve had in a while. Daymark is a classic American pale ale, brewed with Columbus and Centennial hops. The result is a clean, crisp beer with a bright floral aroma from the dry hop finish. Ishmael, an American copper ale, was my favorite. Now copper and red ales are usually decent but can often be unimpressive. This one had a pleasant balance of maltiness and bitterness. Quite tasty!
Maine Mead Works – Portland, ME
Now I consider myself an avid wine drinker, but I have to admit I’ve never had mead before (didn’t even realize it was considered a wine, actually…). The thought of sweet fermented honey really turned me off. But when I saw Maine Mead Works described some of their meads as dry, I figured I should try some. I’m not going to say I’ve converted entirely to mead, but I certainly could be swayed. We tried some delicious meads—floral, bright, crisp, and perfect for sipping on the porch on a hot summer afternoon. My favorites were the Blueberry, light and crisp, Dry Hopped, kind of like an IPA without the bitterness, and Lavender, bright and floral. We of course, had to pick up a few bottles while we were there, but were very excited to hear they are in the process of expanding their shipping locations, with New York on their list.
Sweetgrass Farm Winery and Distillery – Union, ME
Yes, Maine does make wine, and some good ones too! We visited a few wineries during our trip and while Sweetgrass Farm focused on fruit wines, rather than grape wines, I have to say they were my favorite by far. Who knew a blueberry wine could be so tart and dry? I All three of their blueberry wines were fantastic, but since we were short on space, we decided to go with the Bleujolais, a vibrant young blueberry wine, perfect for a hot summer day. We also tried their series of Smash dessert wines. My favorites were a tossup between the Apple Cranberry and Blueberry. In addition to their delightful wine collection, Sweetgrass Winery is also a distillery. Now, I’m not much of a spirit drinker, so these opinions come directly from my husband. He enjoyed their Back River Gin (and I actually liked the Cranberry Gin once you add a splash of tonic). He also was very impressed by their Apple Brandy, noting it was better than most brandies he’s had from New York—quite a claim!
Jasper’s Restaurant – Ellsworth, ME
It might not look like an impressive place to take a hot date, but don’t be fooled by the divvy bar and connected motel. Here we had some of the best seafood of our trip (and trust me, being in Maine, we’ve been eating A LOT of seafood).The restaurant is a family owned establishment and has been serving great Maine seafood for over 50 years. The location was great too—central to Bangor, Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, and just a few doors down from the L.L. Bean Outlet Store (very handy for hikers!). I highly recommend the Admiral’s Sampler which included a taste of fried clams, scallops and haddock.