The Beer Babe inspired me to visit all Maine breweries this year, a venture that almost no beer enthusiasts in the state has achieved. I don’t blame them either, some breweries are a few hours away or more. Lubec Brewing company is a great example of a soon-to-open brewery that’s going to be a challenge to get to. This idea of visiting all the breweries in Maine has been in the back of my head since the Maine Brewers’ Guild created the Maine Beer Trail in 2009, as I’m sure its been for many beer geeks in the vacationland state. I know for certain that my view of Maine beer is skewed because all I ever visit is breweries that are an hour away from me at most. To really get a good look at what our state is producing for craft beer I have to travel.
Carla and I decided to go north and drive to the Skowhegan & Farmington area and visit Tumbledown Brewing Company, Bigelow Brewing Company and Oak Pond Brewing Company. I’ve had a beer or two from each of these breweries before but I never had the chance to see where they were made.
Our first stop was Tumbledown Brewing Company in the quiet mountainous city of Farmington, Maine. I’ve been to Farmington before a few times to visit my favorite Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gi manufacturers, Origin. Farmington is very much a town in the middle of nowhere. We must have drove for a good hour with very little sign of inhabitants until we made it to Tumbledown. When arriving we were greeted by Sebastian, the tasting room manager from The Netherlands. Tumbledown had a pale ale, red ale, stout and a black IPA on tap, all of which I tried in that order.
Tumbledown seemed like a very small production located in a mini strip mall in Farmington, next to a tattoo parlor and martial arts dojo. They sold t-shirts, baseball and winter hats, hoodies, and onesies for infants (because why not deck your baby out in Maine craft beer gear?), and classware. They also sold 32 ounce and 64 ounce growlers, which was the only place of the 3 breweries we visited who sold 32’s (growlettes). We quickly noticed the weather outside going to and from rain and snow due to being in the mountains.
The pale ale was really enjoyable and light with the red ale being the perfect follow up. The red ale had just as little hops to it as the pale ale but with that red malty taste that I love. The stout was nice and mellow with a bit of roasty flavors to it. The Black IPA was my favorite with smokey and hoppy characteristics. I bought a growler of the Black IPA to take home. Like all breweries in Maine, Tumbledown has aspirations to expand their brewery to brew more beer. They are self distributed and would love for more people to enjoy Tumbledown beer.
We typed in Bigelow Brewing’s address into the GPS and it was only 20 minutes away from Tumbledown. We got there and it seemed reminiscent of Oxbow Brewing Company in Newcastle, Maine. Bigelow Brewing is located on a 15 acres of farm. The brewery itself is in a custom build horse barn which lends itself to a nice rustic and homely atmosphere. The driveway was long and muddy with wood laid out going to the brewery so you don’t step in inches of mud on your way there.
Bigelow Brewing is a 3 barrel brewhouse inside of a beautiful horse barn. They sell t-shirts, sweatshirts, and hats alongside 64 ounce growlers and glassware. The Dementia Dog Double IPA was so good I had to buy 2 bottles of it. They had a chili chocolate stout that was very interesting. The chili didn’t come through as a burn but as a nice flavor with the chocolate being very subtle.
I’ve met the owners of Bigelow Brewing Company during Portland Beer Week’s Freshmen Orientation event last year. They were extremely hospitable to our group of craft beer travelers. We tried all 4 of their beers on tap; The Lying Bastard Pale Ale, Bigelow Brown Ale, Dementia Dog Double IPA, and Jailbreak Chocolate Chili Stout. They had popcorn available to snack on while hanging out.
The entire brewery seemed to be built as a hangout spot. The brewery is has a homely open atmosphere to it. The owners plan on roping the outside area so you can enjoy some Dementia Dog IPA in the summer sun with a band playing. There was talk about future plans for Bigelow Brewing Company and expansions. They want to expand the brewhouse and buy a canning line one day as well as a means to cook wood fire pizzas for their customers.
The last brewery we visited on our beer trail road trip was Oak Pond Brewing Company. There were just 20 minutes away from Bigelow Brewing company by car. Oak Pond has been around since 2003. I’ve had their beer a few times during the Maine Brewers’ Guild beer fests in the past. Oak Pond’s signage from the road was nearly non-existent. If you’re looking for it, there is a small sign on the barn where it’s located.
You walk into the brewery to a few lagering tanks and fermenters. Oak Pond is one of a few breweries in Maine brewing lagers on a regular basis. In fact, they had a lager, dopplebock, and an India Pale Lager (IPL) on tap as well as 3 other ales. Unfortunately the brewery is cash-only so I couldn’t enjoy as many samples or bring home beer like I was planning on. The IPL was the most interesting of the few samples I tried. It was nice and refreshing with a great hop flavor. Since Oak Pond’s lagers need up to 3 months to ferment the hops from an IPL are subdued and mellow.
At each location we took a selfie of the 3 of us to remember the trip. What I noticed overall is that beer people are good people. Everyone we ran into that day at breweries were polite, respectable, and friendly people. I also noticed every brewery has a healthy ambitious drive and have plans for expanding. Most of their beers are distributed within 50 miles or less of where it’s made. Most never make it as south as Portland, Maine.
Their demographics are much different than breweries south of Lewiston. The breweries up in Farmington and Skowhegan are delivering to local pubs, mom-and-pop stores, and general places that want to carry their beers to the locals. Everything up in the Skowhegan area are spread out, compared to the more compacted city of Portland. I love the fact that small breweries can still thrive without a bigger city like Portland to bring beer to.
Here are all the photos from the trip: