As a quick overnight trip up to Northern Maine, this Examiner traveled to beautiful Northern Maine and the tourist community of Bar Harbor. Along the way, though a stop in Gray, Maine allowed for a sampling of the renowned lobster rolls that Maine has to offer. Now one might ask, and what does this have to do with pairing beer and food? The answer was next door to the Fishermen’s Net at the Hop Shop, a great home brew store owned and operated by Ed McDowell, who was able to answer questions on home brewing and brew styles. While two hours away from Boston, this was a great chance to try a “real” Maine lobster roll and a chance to learn more about the craft of brewing.
The next stop was Bar Harbor, and while three hours further, it is a gorgeous drive worthy of a day or overnight trip from Boston. Driving into the small coastal town, the village green hosts a variety of shops, a National Park Service visitor center for questions on the region (including trips into Acadia National Park), and for this Examiner, and those enthusiasts of great beer, the Bar Harbor Brewing Company. The small but down-to-earth and chill vibed tasting room offered tastings of four taps and, after some coaxing, a few of their bottled brews. The beers sampled included their pale ale (the Harbor Lighthouse Ale), a blueberry wheat (True Blue), a brown ale (Thunder Hole Ale), a stout (Cadillac Mountain Stout), and also a barleywine called the Pete Fen’s Finest Ale. At 8.5 percent, the beer is made with a cranberry concentrate and is a great beer that was recommended as pairing well with chicken or turkey or even to be used as a marinade.
Dinner that night included another round of lobster rolls which were decent but not nearly as good as the ones in Gray, Maine.
The return trip from Bar Harbor the next day led to a stop in Freeport, Maine at Gritty McDuff’s. Very different from their Portland, Maine bar, the brewpub was crowded and overall a major disappointment. Sticking with the lobster theme, a lobster roll and a lobster mac and cheese were paired with Gritty’s Red Claw Ale (a fairly hoppy amber), their Black Fly Stout, and their Halloween Ale (an ESB). Unfortunately, while the Red Claw and the Black Fly are great beers, the ESB was mediocre. In reviewing the place overall, the service was rude and the quantity of lobster received was a major letdown. Both the roll and the mac and cheese were supposed to have two ounces of meat. The roll, which came with some chips and very bland chowder seemed on par, but the mac and cheese had about half the amount of the roll (which was small as a main entree). The Red Claw was a little overpowering for the lobster roll, but paired well with the mac and cheese. With that said the calamari is a must try. It goes well with all three beers and and is fairly priced.
Overall, Bar Harbor is a great option for those looking for a day trip or something longer. Acadia National Park has some great opportunities for coastal scenery, hiking, or spending a day on a sandy beach. Definitely make a stop at Bar Harbor Brewing. They will treat you right.