A TRIP UP NORTH
By Glenn DeLuca
Every year my wife’s family has a reunion in New Hampshire in late August, which
we make when we can. This year we got lucky, a friend knew some folks who rent
their home in Maine and it was open the following week, so we’re combining two
events in one trip and will be hanging with a couple of friends after the reunion. I
already have a plan for some of the “necessary” stops for the high spots in the
beer and food circuit, but hopefully they’ll be some surprises.
We left Friday about 9:00 AM; first stop, Rein’s Deli in Vernon, CT, just east of
Hartford off Rt 84. If you like corned beef and/or pastrami you need to put this
place on your bucket list. We arrived at 11:45 and there was a line for tables
already, luckily we found seats at the bar. After a delicious overstuffed corned
beef on rye and a draft I was fueled up to continue the journey.
Next stop, Yankee Spirits on Rte. 20 in Sturbridge, MA which is where Rte. 84
runs into Rte. 90. I lived in Worcester, MA for 7 years so that route and Yankee
Spirits are well known to me. I had noticed on a stop back in May they had
Berkshire Brewing growlers. I’ve been debating getting a growler to carry around
for those emergencies when you find a beer you have to have more of; so for $9
+$2 deposit (seriously, a 12 oz bottle is Lucy’s favorite $.05 deposit and a
refillable growler is $2, thank you MA legislators or whoever rationalized that
one!) I have a Berkshire IPA we can drink in ME and a fairly reasonable growler.
They have a great selection and reasonable prices so I proceed to scope out the
beer. Woo, what’s this, a closeout on Anderson Valley Summer Solstice cans for
$5 a six. For a name brewery, which I did visit on a trip to Mendocino, CA back in
‘89, and at that price I’m game so I grab two sixes; one goes in the cooler I
brought with the growler for pre-dinner drinking.
So we’re staying in Portsmouth, NH and we typically contribute beer and wine to
the reunion, the wines for the Friday dinner and the beers for the Saturday
bbq/feast. I opened the Summer Solstice before Friday dinner and was surprised
it was not the typical citrus/lemony summer. The can said it is “ale with natural
flavor added.” Jason has one and describes the taste as “cream soda.” That
night I log into avbc.com to find out what the deal is. So the natural flavor is
caramel with some spice and they describe it as “adult cream soda”, so my kudos
to Jason who nailed it.
So Saturday AM I’m up and over to Gary’s Beverages on Deer Street in
Portsmouth. They always have an amazing selection of beer, used to have very
good prices, now competitive. So I find three 12 pack varieties; Mayflower (out of
Plymouth, MA which I’ve never had and weren’t that exciting), Geary’s, a well-
established Portland brewer and Flying Dog out of MD. I’m also scoping for
different Oktoberfests for our next Draught Board 15 meeting. So way in the back
corner I see a stack of boxes with Oktoberfest stamped on it. Some have already
been pulled out so I pull one out to check; it’s Moat Mountain, which is a smoke
and brew house further up in NH; guaranteed no one else will find this one!
As I’m weaving my way to the register I take note of the sign above the Sam
Adams, All Varieties, 12 pack cases, $22.99! I haven’t paid $23 for a case of
Sam in about a decade, so Sunday morning I’m back and grab two cases,
Latitude 48 and Boston Ale, and btw no deposit or tax in NH, what a deal! And
just down the road, a NH Liquor store which have VERY good prices on liquor
and wine; I stocked up on my Grey Goose.
Sunday afternoon we mosey up about a half hour up to Biddeford, unpack and
catch up; there’s already some cold brews in the fridge as our friends arrived
Saturday. We decide to do a major shop tomorrow and go out. We find the Run
of the Mill brewpub in the next town over Saco. There are lots of mills all over
MA, NH and ME that are being converted to any use they can find and shopping
and restaurants are two of the bigger choices. The food is good; they have a 7
paddle taster, but only 6 available; unfortunately their beers are aptly described
by their name…Run of the Mill…
My friend brought a bunch of “taste tests” including Sebago, Shiner and Gritty
McDuffs, a popular brewpub started in Portland in ’88. Years ago I worked with
our ME office and had the opportunity to go up and visit the Portland Office a few
times; Gritty’s was one of our more popular after-work stops. I didn’t realize they
were now bottling; a pleasant surprise. Sebago is also a ME brewer/brewpub
started in ’98; their Frey’s Leap IPA is very nice and the Runabout Red, a
Wednesday afternoon was off to tour Kennebunk/Kennebunkport, which are a big
tourist attraction being quaint, but also with former Prez George H. W. Bush’s
Walker’s Point residence there. We did pass by on the way home and I’m told
you know he’s there if the Presidential flag is flying, which it was. I certainly would
have been glad to bring a few taste tests for the Prez, but I guess he didn’t know I’
d be in town, so the invite didn’t make its way to me while there.
Kennebunk/Kennebunkport are separated by…the Kennebunk River (a good
question for Jeopardy’s Isn’t It Obvious category), so you walk across a very short
bridge and you can roam back and forth. And if you love lobster (or if you’re from
alittle further south…LOBSTAH) there’s the Clam Shack and Bartley’s Dockside
right next to each other on the Kennebunk side, both very highly rated. We were
more interested in a libation and snack, but did go back to Bartley’s on Saturday
and had an excellent lobster roll.
There’s a sign for Federal Jacks, which is the home for Kennebunk Brewing
Company. We walk up to it and see posters for all the Shipyard beers, so now I’m
confused as Shipyard’s in Portland. I ask and we’re told they work together and
they can brew the Shipyard beers there. So we had a paddle of 5 and then a pint
and some oysters as we sat outside watching the activity on the river and its
banks. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
I’m inquisitive about the connection so now that I’m home I do alittle research and
the Shipyard site says they actually began brewing Shipyard in Federal Jacks in ’
94 and after outgrowing capacity opened Shipyard Brewing in Portland. What’s
even more interesting is the “extended family business” which includes Sea Dog
Brewing, Capt’n Eli’s soda and a few brewhaus/resort type places. Sea Dog was
started in ’93 so I guess they acquired it at some point. And Sea Dog has opened
a brewery in Clearwater, FL where I’ll be in December, how convenient. So I
guess it’s true, you never stop learning.
We want lobster rolls for dinner, so the rental home owners told us if we want a
good lobster roll go to Pool Street Market in Biddeford. So this is just a little street
market in an okay section of town. They have 5 sizes, but they’re each on the
same size roll; the difference is the amount of lobster, so I pick the middle size. As
we’re waiting I check out their cooler and have a much better understanding of
their neighborhood/clientele when I see a fair amount of 24oz Steel Reserve and
25oz Nat Daddy’s. We are not disappointed; the lobster roll is amazing, tons of
lobster, a touch of filler and DELICIOUS! And for the price it blows away the
Friday it’s a trip into Portland, so lunch at Gritty’s and yes it’s a cup of chowder
and lobster roll and a pint of their Halloween Ale. Wow very nice and come to find
out it’s an ESB.
Saturday is the final beach visit and a lot of packing as we’re headed home
tomorrow. The place nearby we thought we’d go to breakfast is actually closed
for the season, so we hit the Net. Hum, here’s the Palace Diner in Biddeford,
Maine’s oldest diner, with great reviews.
Sunday morning, it’s the final packing and we’re off to find the Palace and what a
surprise. This nearly century old rail car is very quaint with half for counter and
servers, all of 15 black vinyl swivel stools and half for the kitchen. Well its
Sunday so there’s a wait, we decide to tough it out, a couple ahead of us decides
to leave and the server brings out cups and hand out coffee; nice touch. The
coffee is excellent and I learn it’s from a roaster in Portland. So a half hour later
we’re in. A simple but interesting menu; the bacon & egg sandwich sounds and
looks great, which all my comrades go for but I go for the ham & feta omelet. All
come with Palace Potatoes (red-skinned potatoes boiled, seasoned, then
smashed and seared on the griddle to create a home fry that is soft and creamy
on the inside, crisp and crunchy on the outside), no one is disappointed,
everything is delicious.
Come to find out one person owned and operated it from 1927-1962 and it just
reopened with new owners this past spring who worked in NY, note the Taylor
Ham on the menu. If you’re in the neighborhood don’t miss it!
One more stop before hitting the road, Pool Street Market for the next size larger
lobster roll, put it in the cooler and after a long drive had it for dinner with a nice
chardonnay; what a way to end a trip!
So remind me why I scheduled a blood test after a vacation when I ate lobster
Glenn DeLuca writes about beer and culture of drinking. He may
be reached by writing email@example.com.
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Outtakes from a life of beer.
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Welcome sign at Gritty's