Portland, Maine boasts a well-respected eatery ecosystem, an up-and-coming art scene, it’s walkable and historic, and it’s perched on the stunning Casco Bay.
But, this foodie darling of a destination offers more than just scrumptious bites for travelers. Maine’s largest city is also home to a vibrant and growing beverage scene, complete with a nationally-renowned craft beer pioneer, a creative rhubarb winery, fermented goodness at a kombucherie, a unique artisan gin operation, and so much more. Read on to learn about the quirk and innovation in some extra special Portland beverages.
First up, Allagash Brewing Company is likely a household name for beer fans. After all, it ranks in the top 30 for U.S.-based craft breweries by sales volume. But this hoppy titan’s inventive Coolship project is what has us really excited. Here, all the beers are produced using spontaneous fermentation, which is a traditional Belgian approach that takes years instead of weeks. Fans of beer will recognize the “lambic” style of production, and Allagash was the first stateside to do this. For additional Maine flair, the beers are aged in different kinds of barrels and sometimes using local fruits.
Hardshore Distilling Company also deserves a look on any Portland, Maine boozy tour. Unlike most distilleries that produce a bevy of spirits, Hardshore only wants to excel in one specific way: with their interesting artisan gin. Rather than the usual intense juniper sip, their flagship Original Gin is rosemary and mint forward.
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Another unique offering found in Portland, Maine, is at Cellardoor Winery’s Thompson’s Point Tasting Room. Here, visitors can sample multiple types of wine from the Lincolnville, Maine-country vineyard. One hard-to-find choice is Cellardoor’s ice wine. True ice wine is rare, cannot be from commercially frozen grapes, and requires perfect conditions from Mother Nature to produce. As such, only a few places worldwide can actually make this sweet dessert wine treat. Cellardoor was the first to do so in Maine, so be sure to try their 2018 Estate Ice Wine (if it’s not sold out!).
Rhubarb wine itself is not a Maine-specific drink. But Portland’s Eighteen Twenty Wines crafts some creative versions of the fruit wine. Owner Amanda has made a rare wild fermented rhubarb wine, named for her grandmother Dottie Mae. This delicacy has since sold out, but new inventive wines like the forthcoming “bloom” harness the power of wild Maine blueberries for a hyper-local twist.
No list of Maine drinks could possibly ignore the state’s most popular liquor, the down-home favorite Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy. Lovingly nicknamed “the champagne of Maine,” this concoction can be found in bars throughout Portland. Those seeking a quintessential, sort of gross dive bar should visit Mathew’s (yep, with one “t”) in the Old Port area. The city’s oldest bar serves an interesting cocktail called a “Fat A** In a Glass,” which combines Allen’s with milk and ice. For a more elevated option, there’s the cool Portland Hunt + Alpine Club, which uses Allen’s in their espresso martini for a playful twist on a classic beverage; this drink also features hometown brewing from Tandem Coffee Roasters. For an extra Maine-er swig, the Foxy Boxer at the Hunt uses Maine’s favorite cola, the herbaceous Moxie.
Another spot that embraces Maine’s signature wild blueberries is Root Wild Kombucha, found in the hip East End area. The proprietors focus on using all local products whenever possible. Noteworthy suggestions there include the canned Wild Blueberry Kombucha as well as the only on draft wild-foraged Elderberry with Munjoy Hill apples and Aronia berries.
Those seeking to hop on the trendy natural wine bandwagon should look no further than the eclectic Flood’s. There, oenophiles will find the Oyster River Wine Growers from Union, Maine, on tap. Most notable is their Morphos Pet Nat, an effervescent bubbly delight. The Oyster River operation uses actual horsepower (as in a horse-plowed field), gentle filtration, minimal sulfites, and spontaneous fermentation to craft their delightful wine portfolio.
Finally, travelers to Portland, Maine, should add Liquid Riot Bottling Co. to their wish lists. Located in the picturesque Old Port area, this restaurant, distillery, and brewery packs an ingenious punch. They actually craft their own version of Fernet, the herbaceous, Italian bitter, bartender favorite spirit. At Liquid Riot, it’s called Fernet Michaud, after the owner’s last name. The product is infused with a secret mix of 22 botanicals, herbs, and roots. Then, this funky Fernet is aged in Maine blueberry wine barrels for an extra unique twist.
Harnessing the magic of local Maine produce and the creative spirit of the area, Portland producers have crafted some totally amazing beverages.