13 Nov Maine Breweries Off The Beaten Beer Trail
Vacationland has become Beercationland with the explosion of breweries across Maine. While the Portland area is jam-packed with renowned tasting rooms from Allagash to Maine Beer Company, Maine has a growing number of destination breweries off the beaten path, more than worthy of a road trip. Some of these breweries have live music, some have cabins available for a weekend getaway, some are in charming towns, some are out in the woods, and some like Northern Outdoors’ Kennebec River Brewery have plenty of adventures to earn your beer. Northern Outdoors’ river guides have been brewing ales and lagers in the woods since the early days of Maine’s craft beer scene. These are a few of the breweries we like to visit when we’re out and about in the great state of Maine!
See the Maine Beer Trail Map
Skowhegan Beer Town
In 2003, Oak Pond Brewery kicked off Skowhegan’s beer town rep. Former river guide Rob Mac of Rolling Fatties (a Kingfield restaurant with Maine brews on tap,) likes to hit up OPB for a growler after a visit to Lake George Regional Park. A few years ago Bigelow Brewing Company came onto the Skowhegan scene with a remodeled horse barn, live music, wood-fired pizza, 7 hand-crafted beers on tap, and a growing number of canned brews. The snowmobile trail goes right to Bigelow Brewing, which also makes for a fun cross-country ski up to the brewery, and an easy ski back down to your car at Skowhegan High School. Check out lunch at the Miller’s Table at Maine Grains where you can sample all the craftiness of Maine’s grain makers.
The annual Skowhegan Craft Brew Festival solidifies Skowhegan as a beer town. If you’re traveling the Maine Beer Trail, Skowhegan is less than an hour south of Northern Outdoors on the Old Canada Road Scenic Byway.
Goods From the Woods: Oxbow Brewing
Oxbow Brewing has an annual festival titled the same as a phrase we often toss around at Kennebec River Brewery: Goods from the Woods. These guys are crafting an array of fine farmhouse ales that are so drinkable you should probably spend the night in their vacation rental. Their story shares our strong river beer connection (is Maine beer better because of our fresh waters?)
“The brewery is nestled in an enchanted forest amongst rolling farmlands and winding tidal rivers, of which the ebb and flow provide a constant reminder that the coast is near. The name Oxbow is inspired by the bends in these rivers, the Dyer in particular, which features stunning horseshoe-shaped oxbows where the river covers tremendous ground to travel what could otherwise be a very short linear distance. We employ a similar approach when crafting our beers, taking months or years to create a beverage that is commonly produced in a matter of days.”
On The Coast: Marshall Wharf Brewing
Rolling Fatties other half, Polly Mac calls Marshall Wharf “a longtime fav. The fire pit/beer garden is unique and comfortable rain or shine.” Watch sailboats in the harbor while you enjoy poutine, oysters and a flight of excellent beer. Belfast is Northern Outdoors’ closest coastal town, 2 hours away on scenic Route 201 (just over yonder!) Belfast has rail trails, boat tours, Moose Point State Park, a harborwalk, an indoor farmers market, and a cute downtown on the water. Marshall Wharf’s Cant Dog Imperial IPA is a rich way to top off a day on the coast, but at 10% ABV you might want to spend the night.
Home Brews: Strong Brewing Company
“Al Strong wants a visit to his microbrewery to feel like a picnic in a neighbor’s yard.” – Bangor Daily News. The Strongs started brewing beer in their home and still welcome people to taste in their yard. Since their home brew beginnings they’ve built an outdoor pavilion to host live music and food trucks on the weekends. In true Maine microbrew style they have a big rotation of seasonal beers with 3 year-round brews. I first tasted their Gose Paul Revere at Skowhegan Beer Fest, and kept going back for more (what a sweet summer brew!)
Sedgwick is not far from Belfast as the crow flies, but Maine’s beautifully irregular coastline makes it an hour’s drive along Penobscot Bay. Paddling, hiking, biking, and lots of great food (El El Frijoles!) on the Blue Hill Peninsula… where you can also have a beer picnic in the Strongs yard.
Gneiss: A Woodland Brewery
Beer from the woods… a theme among Maine breweries. Live music, cornhole tournaments, smoked meats, we like how these guys roll. With 10 rotating taps you’ll have trouble deciding which German-inspired beer you like best (they’re all great!)
In the foothills of the White Mountains, at the edge of the Sebago Lakes Region, Gneiss is not far off the beaten path. But where else are you going to find a German Dunkelweizen in the woods?!
Bissell Brothers Three Rivers
While Bissell Brothers taproom at Thompson’s Point in Portland may be the biggest in Maine, it’s their Three Rivers location in the brewers’ hometown of Milo that shows their big heart for Maine’s small communities. You’ll find their flagship beer, The Substance Ale, in cans all over Maine. While it’s a reliably good beer, what I really like about Bissell Brothers is their seasonal selections like Angels with Dirty Souls, a maple porter that should be in every beer lover’s Christmas stocking.
Bissell Brothers Three Rivers sits on the road halfway between Northern Outdoors Adventure Resort in The Forks and the Katahdin Adventure Basecamp next to Baxter State Park. Raft, beer, raft, hike, beer. Summer beerventures across Maine!
Breweries on the Road
Shoutout to Cushnoc Brewing Co on the Kennebec River in downtown Augusta. While Augusta might not be a draw for travelers, Maine’s capital city is on the way everywhere. And Cushnoc is the perfect lunch stop with some of the best brick-oven pizza in Maine, good salads, and great beer. My husband’s a big fan of their Kresge Kölsch.
On the “you’re probably driving by definitely worth a stop” list is Woodland Farms Brewery in Kittery. Clean, crisp lagers that clearly say, “Welcome to Maine: where the hops are fresh and the beer runs wild.” Have a Cerveza Medico Mexican lager, doctor’s orders.
Take the Maine Beer Trail to Kennebec River Brewery
Wrap up your hoppy Maine road trip with a stay at Northern Outdoors Kennebec River Brewery. From cozy to group-sized the Adventure Resort’s log cabins are a short walk in the woods from the brewpub with full restaurant and 7 freshly crafted brews on tap. May through October the brewpub is extra lively with happy rafters, beer games, and river guides playing tunes. With direct access to ATV trails and snowmobile trails (plus rentals on site,) year-round adventures make for a beercation like nowhere else. A walking trail runs through the riverside campground, and the Appalachian Trail is 2.5 miles away. Trail to ale options abound… because beer is tastier after a day on the river or the trails!