is an award winning
member of the North
American Guild of Beer
Writers. His column
Adventures in Beerland
is now a regular feature of
|It was a rare Wednesday when I stopped into the Lighthouse pub. It wasn’t that the Wednesday itself was rare; after
all, one Wednesday is not that much different from other days that end in "y". No, it was rare because I usually stop
there on Thursday. You’d be surprised what a difference a day makes. Not one of the usual pub denizens were
there. In fact there were only two other people, neither of whom I had ever seen before, in the entire place. My
Thursday bartender wasn’t there either. I knew it wasn’t him because the person behind the bar actually had on a
clean shirt. None of the waiters looked familiar but at least I could take some comfort in that like the Thursday group
they too spent most of their time hanging out in the corner pounding away on their phones. Some things never
The juke box was playing an array of unrecognizable songs by unknown bands who, if talent was any sort of criteria,
would remain unknown forever. Even the fish in the fish tank seemed to using a swimming stoke I had never seen
before. I was ready for Rod Stirling to walk in at any moment as the juke box eerily switched to playing the Twilight
Someone did walk in but it wasn’t Rod though he turned out to be a sterling person too. He was a sales rep from a
distributor there to take a beer order. I watched as he huddled with the owners in the corner and entered a few
notations on his iPad. There were handshakes all around, an “I’ll see you next week”, as he headed toward the door
only to turn and take the stool one away from me. He had decided to stay for a beer. Using my superior beer extra-
sensory perception and not because of the big “Lunterton Distributing” embroidered on his shirt, I sly asked “so, do
you work for a beer distributor?” Needless to say, I was right again. In fact I’m usually right about beer stuff. One
time I thought I was wrong but it turned out I was right. It’s a gift.
I got us off on the wrong foot by asking why so many of the beers I see in stores are old. Things got worse when I
added I try not to buy any New England IPA that’s more than a month old.. Before he could respond I hit him with the
fact that the brewers I complain to about outdated beers being sold blame the distributor. Ouch, you might have
though I called him a Bud Light with Orange drinker from his reaction. He didn’t deny there is old beer being sold but
blamed everyone from Santa to Snoop Dog, everyone that is except the distributor. His number one culprit however
was the “beer geek” who has no idea of how long shelf life really is. I didn’t take it personally.
Of course he was wrong but since he offered to buy me a beer I deftly changed the conversation to something else.
Oh it was still about beer, but instead of bad beer now it was good beer.I asked if he had anything new coming in. He
leaned over, looked stealthy around, and whispered “I just got in 10 sixtels of Maine Dinner for the entire state.”
What? There are thousands of bars in the state. I know that because I once began a mission to visit each one of
them for an eventual BeerNexus article but when management ended my expense account I did the same for the
Finding a place pouring Maine Dinner, not lunch, breakfast, or lobster, is considered a great coup by true beer
hunters. Beer Advocate gives it 4.7 / 5 stars and a “World Class” designation. In all my years of beer drinking it’s
one I had heard about but was never able to find on tap. Now I had access to the one man who knew. As a
hardworking journalist who cares only about the public good I felt a duty to ask just who got a sixtel.
I could tell he was unhappy he let the amount of Dinner available slip out so it would take a very subtle approach to
get more information. He turned the bribe down. Then I tried a different angle by asking just how he decides which
places get the chance to purchase a precious sixtel that is guaranteed to sell out , bring in a fast profit, and earn a
reputation among craft beer aficionados as a place to go.
I wasnt surprised at his answer, just at his candor.The beer, he said, is offered to Lunterdon’s largest accounts. It
doesn’t matter if they are floundering and beg for a beer that would generate business , a new place needing to
attract a following, or have been loyal customers for decades. If you’re not a current top customer then the best way
to drink Maine Dinner is to drive up to the brewery’s tasting room at 525 US-1, Freeport, ME 04032. And be sure to
check the hours they’re open.
My pleading fell on deaf ears until I finally offered to write an incredibly glowing article about Lunterton Disturbuting
right here on BeerNexus. We had a deal. So let me get that out of the way right now – “Lunterton is a nice
company”. In fact to show my sincere enthusiasm I’m now officially adding an exclamation point (mentally) to that
He said the place closest to my perch at the Lighthouse was the Riverfront Grille, only 20 minutes away according to
Google. I got there in 16 minutes and only had to run two red lights. The Riverfront is a neighborhood upscale dive
bar. I say upscale because none of the chairs were ripped too badly, the glasses looked they are carefully washed
(periodically), and there is an easy to find and read sign that says in no uncertain words, “Restrooms This Way.”
I walked into the Riverfront and was seemingly transported to an old west barroom where a stranger is greeted by
sudden silence and the glare of 41 eyes – there was a guy with an eye patch. The only things missing were the
swinging doors, sawdust on the floors, and snoring drunks sleeping at the bar. The drunks here were not snoring. I
found a lone seat under the TV on the far side of the crowded bar near the place’s two tap towers.
Fortunately this bar uses brewery tap handles, not generic paddles. These were works of art that let everyone know
just what beer is flowing through the line. I started looking - Bud, Bud Light, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Coors, Coors Light,
Blue Moon, and some sort of cider. All are dive bar mandatory requirements. I turned to the other tower and low and
behold it had 5 decent craft brews plus a Maine Dinner tap handle. Paydirt!
The overworked bartender finally brought me a menu. It was confirmed. The whale from Maine was here. I ordered
the beer just as the bartender rushed to three thirsty regulars which clearly meant don’t expect your beer anytime
this month stranger. I looked more carefully at the menu as I waited. There it was – Maine Dinner…… blah, blah,
blah … and then the operative information: 10 ounce glass - $12.
At that price I hoped the beer would come with the Hope Diamond or at least a signed 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball
card. It didn’t. Ah, but fate was smiling on me. My bartender had mistakenly put my beer in a pint glass, giving me
60% more of liquid nirvana than she was supposed to. I thought about pointing out her mistake. After careful mulling
over what to do for at least a thousandth (0.001 or 10−3 or 1/1000) of a second I decided not to say anything since it
would severely embarrass her in front everyone. Hey, I’m a nice, considerate fellow.
My glass emptied quickly. I pushed it forward to catch the bartender’s eye. She recognized the universal signal
which roughly translates as “I Need More Beer” and hustled over only pausing to chat with three people, knock down
a shot of Jameson, write a text, and bend over to tie both of her shoes….with double knots. When she arrived I saw
she was a tad winded. To save her any further excess exertion I said, “no need for a new glass, just give me
another of the same” and handed her my shaker pint. She dutifully filled it proving thinking of other people first has
I was ready to settle in for an evening of pint after pint of Dinner reveling in beating the system, undermining the Man,
dotting the “i” in iconoclastic when my phone buzzed with an anonymous message. It was a simple picture and just
one word – SHAPE.
The picture was of a beautiful beer, perfectly poured. The word Shape meant only one thing – Neshaminy Creek’s
Shape of Hops to Come. It’s admittedly not in the league of Russian River’s Pliny the Younger, Tree House’s King
JJJuliusss, Alchemist’s Heady Topper or any of the other deservedly celebrated DIPA icons of craft beer. It is
however my favorite beer and almost as hard to find on tap as any of its more famous cousins.
Fighting off several headaches due to using a torrent of deductive reasoning, I finally figured it out. The beer was
likely being poured at the close by Hat Tavern. The key though obscure clue was that the wall behind the beer had a
large glowing sign that said “The Hat Tavern”. Sherlock Holmes couldn’t have done it any better. The issue now was
clear. Do I stay and revel in a once in a lifetime run of pints of Maine Dinner or rush to The Hat for 12 ounce pours of
Shape of Hops at an unknown price. I got to The Hat faster than a politician’s promise on Election Day, or any other
day for that matter.
I took a seat as a bartender began asking me what I wanted. I could barely speak from the excitement when I noticed
Scott, a Hat bartender of my acquaintance, walking toward me with something in his hand. “I think you want this" he
said. It was of course, a perfectly poured glass of my favorite beer.
I sipped and wondered how I had wound up here after such an adventurous day. I could come up with only one
reason – it’s the power of Shape.
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