I recently partnered up with Visit Maine on an epic 5-day adventure to experience the best summer activities in New England’s easternmost state. I’ve been traveling for 10+ years and regrettably had only visited nine U.S. states previously, so I was excited to get to my tenth state and see what Maine was all about.
Maine is known for its pristine forests, dramatic coastline and its biggest export –lobster. But did you also know that it has a booming craft beer scene? Or that you could actually catch your own lobster lunch? What about brewery hopping on a bicycle? The truth is I only did a fraction of the summer activities in Maine with a focus on Portland since that’s where I was based. Here’s a recap of the craft beer, lobster and beautiful nature I experienced!
If you’ve watched my episodes before, you know I’m a huge fan of craft beer, so I was surprised to learn that the state of Maine has over four dozen breweries, each producing its own distinct brews. Why is the beer so good? The pure waters from Sebago Lake and the underground glacial aquifer system are what Mainers attribute to the popularity and quality of their beers.
Baxter Brewing Co. Lewiston, Maine
Baxter Brewing Co. sits in the center of Lewiston, across the Androscoggin River from Auburn. Situated in an old mill, Baxter features an in-house retail shop and Tap Room. They also do tours and tastings of their brews, which are all canned because it’s their core belief that it should be enjoyed anywhere and everywhere, especially since Maine is an outdoor state.
Another unique thing about Baxter is their sustainable production – while it takes other brewers 7 gallons of water to make one gallon of beer, they have gotten that number down to 4. Also, their 100% aluminum cans are recyclable, which is another win for the environment.
A tour of the canning line and the fermenting tanks led me to the tap room, where I had the opportunity to taste the goods. Favorites included the limited edition Wicked Dark (Imperial Stout) and Windowseat (Coconut Almond Porter). Runner up would be the Stowaway (IPA).
Tours are conducted Thursday-Saturday at 2pm. Tours are FREE and include samples of our signature, commercially-available beers for those 21+.
Maine Beer Company Freeport, Maine
What started out as family owned and operated nano-brewery has evolved into a full-scale operation known as the Maine Beer Company, whose brews are among the top rated American IPAs.
When I travel, I love hearing stories from wine and beer makers, especially how they began their journey into this type of lifestyle (it may or may not be a secret wish of mine to quit my travel career and start my own winery in Tuscany).
Maine Beer Company was literally built out of nothing. Who would have thought that two brothers with a $300 home brew set they found on Craigslist would change the course of their lives and the American craft brew scene, forever. Maine Beer Company currently produces 10 brews, which include Pale Ales, Amber Ales, Porters and Stouts. Personally, I’m going to have to side with the masses on this one – their award-winning IPA called ‘Lunch’ was my favorite.
Maine Beer Co. doesn’t offer brewery tours, but their tap room has a close-up view of operations plus 8 beers on tap. Hours are Mon – Sat 11am – 8pm, Sun 11am – 5pm.
Foulmouthed Brewing Portland, Maine
Foulmouthed Brewing is a small brewpub located in an old auto garage in South Portland that pairs seasonal cuisine with their craft beers and unique cocktails. The name /ˈFOULˌMOUT͟HDˈ/ is a play on words dating back to the 17th century when the entire region of this seacoast was named “Falmouth.” The name also alludes to the salty language overheard on the docks and shipyards throughout Portland’s seafaring history.
But there’s honestly nothing foul about this place. Upon arrival I was given a private tour of the brewery, then I sat down to enjoy a delicious fish sandwich accompanied by a flight of beers. Just like the menu, the beers of Foulmouthed Brewing are seasonal, which means that the beer selection is never static for more than a few weeks at a time.
If a certain brew is popular, they’ll re-introduce it later in the year. This ensures all their products are made with the freshest possible ingredients. Standouts for me were the Coconut Cream Stout and the Blue Balls Belgian Strong Dark Ale.
I highly recommend this place for a casual lunch or dinner. I also suggest you take a moment to browse their shop for some gear to take home as souvenirs. The logo has a great design and is definitely a conversation starter.
Allagash Brewing Company Portland, Maine
One of the better-known breweries in the state is Allagash Brewing Company in Portland. They’re the second largest brewery in Maine and they specialize in Belgian-style beer, which includes their award-winning signature brew, the Allagash White wheat beer (gold medal winner World Beer Cup 1998, 2010, 2012). FYI: the Allagash White pairs perfectly with lobster (win-win)!
I took a tour of the brewery and learned about their different Belgian-inspired beers. Allagash actually ages some of their beers in French oak wine barrels for 1-3 years to produce their Coolship line, which are characterized by their fruity hints and tart, dry finishes.
My favorite beer at Allagash is the Black, a Belgian-style dark stout with hints of chocolate and caramel. It’s not their most famous, but it’s definitely my #1 pick. Runner up for me was the House, a Belgian Pale Ale. Allagash is open 7 days a week for tours and free tastings.
As you already know, Maine is known for its world-class seafood, which I gladly indulged in during my trip. I know that too much of any one thing is bad for you but YOLO, right? Here are some spots for you seafood lovers…
Gritty McDuffs Auburn Brew Pub in Auburn, Maine
Gritty McDuff’s was a sight for sore eyes. I had dinner here on my first night after a grueling day of flight delays. Upon entering I could see why they call it a brew pub – think long narrow beer hall-style tables, brick walls, comfort food staples like burgers and chicken pot pie, and of course plenty of ice cold beer on tap.
I couldn’t really appreciate the waterfront views at night, but I didn’t care. Hungry and exhausted, I got right to it with a flight of tasty craft beers, a haddock chowder and an awesome lobster roll. Be sure to check the Gritty McDuffs website for the upcoming live music show schedule.
Five Fifty-Five in Portland, Maine
I had heard about this award-winning restaurant from several people, who raved about its truffled lobster mac n’ cheese. So obviously I had to conduct my own investigation into the matter and made a reservation to try their 5-course signature tasting menu ($68 or $95 with wine pairings), which included the famed dish.
I definitely left 555 a few pounds heavier but delighted that I had the opportunity to sample some of Executive Chef Steve Corry’s creations. The mac n’ cheese was good but the seared new England scallops were divine.
The Holy Donut in Portland, Maine
With three convenient locations in Portland, The Holy Donut is known for its decadently sweet concoctions. The secret behind its success? Maine potatoes! The donuts are made with two-thirds flour and one-third mashed potatoes, plus local buttermilk and eggs.
I visited the Exchange Street location one morning for breakfast completely starving, so I ordered 3 donuts that caught my eye: Dark chocolate sea salt (a bestseller), coffee cake and a limited-edition Maine Blueberry filled.
All I can say is they were each quite delicious, especially with my iced coffee. Perfect breakfast or dessert spot if you don’t want to break the bank, or if you are traveling with kids.
The Porthole Restaurant and Pub in Portland, Maine
The Porthole is a casual seafood spot situated at Custom House Wharf where folks have come to enjoy their meal with a water view since 1929. The generous menu has tons of fresh-caught seafood that gets unloaded from the wharf directly to the restaurant by local fishermen.
I couldn’t resist ordering the twin lobster dinner special for just $24.95 (during summer only) with a glass of Shipyard IPA that they have on tap. The combination of the sweet lobster meat with the crisp beer was exactly what I needed after a full day of lobstering and exploring Portland.
The Porthole is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day from 7am to 10pm. Average prices for entrees range $10 to $20, which is a super deal considering the quality and freshness of their ingredients.
Blyth & Burrows in Portland, Maine
For those who want to part with the beer scene for a while, there’s the sophisticated Blyth & Burrows bar in downtown Portland, down the street from the Holy Donut. The night I went there were several couples canoodling over drinks, so if you’re in search of a place for a romantic date, this is it!
Their tempting cocktail menu has been carefully curated with exotic ingredients like blood orange agave, chamomile infused vodka, chartreuse spritz and crème de cacao, just to name a few.
If hunger pangs strike, pair your cocktail with a small plate like the half dozen oysters, Peruvian ceviche or bone marrow crab cake. If you want more privacy, go to the back of the restaurant, push the bookshelf and head downstairs to the prohibition-style secret bar.
Liquid Riot Bottling Company in Portland, Maine
The Liquid Riot isn’t your typical brewery. Their claim to fame as Maine’s first Brewery/Distillery/Resto-Bar has made them the go-to place for someone looking for a bit of everything to try. Delicious charcuterie, single malt whiskey, dark IPA beer, specialty cocktails – you name it, they have it!
I came in one evening for an early dinner and this place was packed. I loved the industrial décor and the view into the distillery. I grabbed a seat at the bar and ordered a lobster roll, a north spore mushroom toast and a flight of four beer of which my favorite was the Irish Goodbye stout.
Considering how many products are offered here, quality hasn’t suffered a bit. Their Albino White stout is rated as the #1 white stout in Maine. Plus, all their whiskeys are handcrafted.
Harraseeket in Freeport, Maine
I had seen this place on Food Network so I decided to try Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster Company for myself. Located along the waterfront in South Freeport, Maine, Harraseeket is all about fresh seafood – and I mean super fresh. All the lobster, clams, scallops and crabs are unloaded daily from their fishing boats and kept in live tanks on site.
I loved how simple the place was – a few tables inside and plenty of picnic table seating outside overlooking the Freeport Town Wharf. Just walk up to the window to place your order and grab a seat. Your food will come out freshly steamed, baked, boiled or fried.
Standout dishes were the boiled lobster, steamed clams, seafood basket and the onion rings. They don’t serve alcohol but guests are welcome to bring their own beer or wine to enjoy with their meals. Great place for authentic New England seafood without frills or fuss.
With national parks, miles of scenic coastline, islands, inlets, lakes and rivers, you’re spoiled for choice of summer activities in Maine. In addition to the ones I did below, you could also go sea kayaking, whale watching, hiking, paddle boarding, white water rafting, camping…the list of outdoor adventure goes on!
Mountain Biking in Mount Apatite
The New England Mountain Biking Association (NEMBA) was kind enough to give me a guided mountain biking experience through some of the trails in Mt. Apatite during my time in Lewiston/ Auburn. The park is 325 acres of moderately difficult woodsy terrain, which I found to be doable even though I don’t normally cycle or mountain biking.
From NEMBA website: “The trails are all natural surface ranging from old woods roads to sinuous single tracks. In all you’ll find just under 8 miles of trails. They are very well maintained by the city. You’ll notice many drainage features to keep water off the trails.
There are long armored “turnpikes” to keep you high and dry in perpetually muddy areas. There are even benches every half mile of so in case you want to stop and take a break. One highlight of Mt. Apatite is the abandoned mineral quarry. The quarry also has a couple of good spots to go for a swim if you’re so inclined.”
Bike and Brews Tour in Portland, Maine
After an exhilarating morning mountain biking through the trails of Mt. Apatite, it was time for a guided Bikes and Brews tour with Summer Feet Cycling. After meeting up with my guide and fellow bike tourists at a designation spot in downtown Portland, we got our bike gear and headed off on a 2-hour tour down the Eastern Promenade trail to Portland’s Bayside neighbor to visit several breweries and distilleries. We met the brewers and learned all about Portland’s rich history from the Rum Riots to Prohibition.
We visited Rising Tide Brewing and the Urban Farm Fermentory, which serves serve kombucha, jun, cider, mead, and beer with a focus on gruits (a beer style using few or no hops). They don’t produce large amounts of their mead, but I was able sample some in the tasting room and absolutely loved it! Overall, I would rate the Bikes and Brews tour a 10/10 for being so well organized and very informative – both about Portland and its wonderful craft beer/spirits scene.
Sunset Sail on the Portland Schooner
A sail along Casco Bay is an unforgettable experience, especially when you’re sailing on an authentic 20th century wooden schooner that’s been restored to its original glory. I went on the 3:30pm sail with Portland Schooner to enjoy some of Maine’s most beautiful sites from the water.
The schooner’s massive sails propelled us from Portland Harbor through Casco Bay to see Fort Gorges, the Portland Head Light, but mostly just to relax and enjoy the epic ride. Portland Schooner lets you bring along a packed meal and your favorite wine or beer to enjoy as you sit back as the crew shares their knowledge of the sea, sailing and local history. I recommend booking a sunset sail.
Lobster Boat Cruise with Lucky Catch in Portland, Maine
Having lobster in Maine is a must, but the experience of hauling up the traps from the depths of ocean is one I won’t forget! Lobstering is a way of life for many Mainers, so naturally I did a lobster boat cruise with Lucky Catch Cruises to feel what it was like, even for only 90 minutes.
I learned about the lobstering industry, what types of lobsters are to keep or throw back, and of course how the traps are hauled onto the boat and sorted through to choose the best specimens. Passengers also get the opportunity to purchase lobster straight from the boat to take home or have it cooked for them at the Portland Lobster Company across the pier.
Maine Brew Bus Tour in Portland, Maine
If all you’ve got is a couple days in Portland, the Maine Brew Bus is a convenient way to visit some local breweries without having to drive around and guess where to go. Maine Brew Bus was established in 2012, and has since welcomed over 15,000 guests aboard to explore local alcohol producers. In 2013 they became the #1 TripAdvisor Tour and Activity in Portland, so obviously I had to do it.
We visited three breweries: Sebago, Mast Landing, and Yes! The stops can change each tour depending on availability at each brewery. I love that this company offers a guided safe ride to drink local beer at different small producers. Plus, it’s a bargain at $65 per person.
Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth
The Portland Head Light is one of Maine’s most iconic images. It sits on the picturesque shores of Fort Williams Park and is the oldest in the state, dating back to 1791 when America was just a baby. Fun fact: Original construction cost of the lighthouse was just $2,250!
Fort Williams Park is in Cape Elizabeth Maine just south of Portland (10-minute drive). Originally constructed as a military defense system, Fort William wasn’t actually used in any battles. Walking around will reveal some of the remaining 19th century batteries. Cape Elizabeth purchased the beautiful 90-acre property on December 1st, 1964 for $200,000.
But the real jewel of this place is the Portland Head Light, which sits pretty against a dramatic backdrop of jagged cliffs and flowering trees. Admission is free and the park is open 365 days a year. Parking is available within the park.
And so there you have the list of everything I did during my trip to Maine. Not bad for a 5-day trip, right? The only thing I regret is not having more time to make my way around the state. Definitely a place for the outdoorsy traveler or the beer enthusiast. Thank you Maine for reminding this Miami boy just how charming New England can be.
Special thanks to all the people who made this trip possible!