Milestones in Maine Brewing
That evening, I boned up on Maine’s brewing history—while sampling the local product, of course. After Three Dollar Dewey’s got things rolling, the next milestone was a 1985 law making it easier for craft brewers to operate. There’s a bittersweet footnote to this story: pub owner Henry Cabot, who successfully lobbied for the law, never fulfilled his brewpub dream. But a year later, David and Karen Geary established the D. L. Geary Brewing Co. (38 Evergreen Dr.), the state’s first commercial brewery since Prohibition and the oldest micro east of the Rockies. Geary’s Pale Ale, with its trademark lobster on the label, soon became a beer icon.
The story of Maine beer wouldn’t be complete without Shipyard Brewing Co. (86 Newbury St.). In a little more than a decade, it has grown from a brewpub in Kennebunk to one of the East’s biggest craft breweries; its beer can be found in 25 states. Shipyard’s range includes 12 English-style ales; among them are Old Thumper Extra Special Ale, created by British brewing legend Peter Austin; Battleground Ale, a wheat beer with Civil War generals on the label; and Prelude Special Ale, a porter/Scottish ale hybrid honoring Portland’s own Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Even as breweries proliferated in the area, many locals sensed that something was missing. Their numbers included brew master Rob Tod, who found lots of British ale and German lager but nothing resembling the abbey ales of Belgium. In 1995, he addressed that problem by starting the Allagash Brewing Co. (100 Industrial Way). Tod’s flagship product, Allagash White, proved so popular that he added a dubbel and trippel, a Grand Cru, and the bottle-conditioned Reserve Ales. Allagash has been warmly received in communities throughout America; it’s even available in—you guessed it—Portland, OR.
The next morning, I returned to the Old Port for another history lesson at Maine’s first post-Prohibition brewpub, Gritty McDuff’s Brewing Co. (396 Fore St.). Gritty’s opened in time for Christmas in 1988 and has expanded since then. The front entrance leads to a copper-topped bar, behind which are rows of mugs belonging to those lucky enough to be admitted to Gritty’s Mug Club. Adjoining the bar are two rooms decorated with breweriana and rugby images, along with what’s been called an anatomically interesting mural of mythological revelers. The upstairs offers a sweatshirt-and-jeans environment, a perfect place to get comfy during a nor’easter. But on pleasant afternoons—like the day I dropped in—the cobblestoned patio in back is the place to be.
Gritty’s ales are brewed with a centuries-old yeast culture developed by monks in the north of England. Year-round selections include McDuff’s Best Bitter, Original Pub Style pale ale, and Black Fly Stout; the most popular seasonal is Halloween Ale, an extra special bitter.