Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On the Road with The Brew Lounge, Part 2

A Solid Maine Dinner I'd discovered Local 188 online while doing my homework before our trip north. From their website, it seemed to be the kind of place that I wanted to make sure that we checked out at least for small nibbles and drinks. We got a second opinion from the Brynldson Party of Two that it was a top recommendation from the crew over at Allagash as well. In this case, no one was wrong. The restaurant is billed as having a Spanish Tapas approach, with a focus on locally-sourced food ingredients and drink. The atmosphere is a smart casual one, but really just about anything goes. Some more Shipyard, a Dogfish, and Unibroue all went well with the Grilled Scallops and the flavor-bursting Paella dish. But, our travels and non-stop activity was taking a toll on us; we were fading. Plus, we knew we had a big day ahead of us with a trip to Allagash and finally to Ebenezer's where more food and drink was awaiting us. We knew we'd better rest up. So, we grabbed our blueberry crisp to go, got a couple of glasses of port from the rooftop lounge to take back to our room and called it a night. Novare Res Bier Café would have to wait until next trip. This was one last place that I wanted to check out in Portland. Partly for the stellar looking beer list, but maybe even more so for its "hidden" location, tucked away behind and underneath the tall downtown buildings of Portland. I suppose that's why they invented "next times". The Rest of Portland Speaking of nexts...The next morning, I took off on a 6 mile run around Portland, hoping to see more of the "real" Portland. I'm sure many of you have heard me say that when I travel I try my best to stay away from the more touristy side of the city. I go for a run, I attend a local baseball game, and I visit the bars and brewpubs. These are all ways that help me to identify the real soul and see what an area is really made of. After my run which took me past Shipyard, Patty and I packed up our things and checked out of the hotel. We made a quick stop at Shipyard (wow, what a gift store), then headed down to the water where we did the touristy thing (well, sometimes you've just gotta play the game!) and grabbed some lunch of seafood and Allagash White. A more perfect lunch I've not had in a while. Plus, there were local union workers and others that just come in off the water to suggest that we had chosen the less-touristy of the waterside restaurants (phew, I feel better about myself now!!) When in Portland... Now the clock was really ticking. We still hadn't stopped at Allagash...and this was an absolute must. I mean, seriously, what beer traveler goes to Portland and doesn't stop at Allagash? Skipping Novare the night before, fine. Missing Allagash, no way. We decided enough was enough and finally settled up on our lunch tab and left the idyllically charming lunch. By the time we got to Allagash, Rob and Jason's chauffeur was waiting. Yes, my friends. Some brewers are living the high life. You've heard the term rock star before, right? You know what that means, right? Ah, but I kid. They were doing the responsible thing. They needed to get back to Portland still that evening. So, when you're heading to this kind of feast that Ebenezer's was hosting, the responsible thing to do was to have a driver. Still, it was fun when we pulled up to Allagash to find the Town Car waiting out front and Patty said "I'll bet it's here for Rob!" We had enough time for Jason to give us the 5-cent tour. Typical brewery? Perhaps...until we were led out back to the spontaneous fermentation building. Check out the pictures on their website (use that little linky thing that I put in the last sentence). You'll see a local Philly guy (Mr. Peters) in there helping with some of the brewing process and, of course, the quality control. To call it a building might be a bit generous. A room? Maybe that's better. In any case, it's home to the Cool Ship (koelschip if you want to sound really kool) that was installed a couple of years ago for a bit of experimentation to find out what might be found in the cool Maine air on the outskirts of Portland and how it might help the character of some of their beers. With that and a few beers from the retail shop, we were off. Ebenezer's, Are We There Yet? Our trip to Ebenezer's from Portland seemed to indicate that life in Maine may proceed at just a bit of a slower pace. With two-lane roads and traffic that generally stayed at, or just below, speed limits, we realized that we weren't going to be getting to Ebenezer's nearly as early as we had hoped. This was not good. Too much was riding on this dinner at Ebenezer's to be strolling in late. The drive from Allagash to Ebenezer's in Lovell took a little over an hour and we pulled up a little less than 45 minutes prior to the dinner's "official" start. I say official because there were some pre-dinner rare beers being passed around. We needed to set up our "campsite" before the evening's debauchery, get changed, and mingle with Sean Paxton, Chris Lively, and the scores of other industry folk, beer geeks, and foodies that had gathered for this monumental event. I put some more juice in the camera's battery while I changed clothes, then was shown the way to our dining table seats as the night was about to officially begin.

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