This is Part Six of an ongoing series chronicling the Maine Beercation of late July, 2011. To start at Part One, click here.
The Old Port section of Portland is great and all, but I grew up in a coastal New England town. I get it. I’ve seen it. It’s lovely, but only when the tourists migrate back to their homes in the winter. Sure, tourism sustains the economy and triples the summer population of a lot of New England destinations, but some of us have to live here, and get really tired of the word “quaint.” Ironically, having moved to Massachusetts, I’m now an embodiment of the dreaded Masshole that invades such scenic little Yankee locales. My mission isn’t the beach, or trinket shops, or “lobstah,” “chowdah,” or “outlet shopping.” I’m on a mission for drinkables.
What’s interesting about our Maine Beercation, is that Maine has a history of an anti-imbibing nature. The State of Maine was one of the first states in the country to pass a law prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcohol in 1851. Some assclown named Neal Dow decided that because HE thought alcohol was bad, that NO ONE should have it. (Actually, at the time people drank 3-5 times more liquor than they do today, and it was a bit of a problem). He got his way and Maine went dry. People finally got fed up and mobbed Portland City Hall where Dow had stashed a supply of “medicinal” rum. The militia was called out and fired two broadsides into the crowd, wounding seven and killing one man. For reference, only 11 people were hit during the Boston “Massacre.”
This basically started to turn public opinion against Dow, and the law was eventually repealed the next year. In an M. Night Shyamalan style twist, Dow himself was charged with illegally procuring the rum in the first place, though he was eventually acquitted.
Anyway, following dinner, and more importantly, a sampling of beers at the Sebago Brewpub, as is our 21st Amendment right, the Lady Friend and I sauntered down Fore Street in the heart of the Old Port. It had been raining, so the other pedestrians were scarce. Passing cobblestones and Customs Houses, we searched for our next target: Novare Res Bier Cafe. Unfortunately, it lies off the beaten path, behind a fence in a pseudo-alley/courtyard area just off of Exchange Street, between Fore and Middle. We walked right past it, until, not unlike Ace of Base, we saw the sign.
If you’re looking for Novare Res, on a rainy night, keep an eye out for that sign. Once past the fence, you’ll see the building.
We went in and took a look around. The main tables are long, with benches creating a more communal style seating arrangement. We scored some seats next to an older group of two couples, and started the impossible task of choosing a beer. I know I’ve said that before, but this was really a challenge; Novare Res comes from the Latin “to start a revolution,” which is apparently what they’re trying to do. They had roughly 24 draughs and 500 bottles available. The beer list was 13 pages long.
Our waitress, Sarah, was patient, and came back several times to see if I had finally made up my damn mind. Lady Friend went with a Dogfish Head Sah-tea on tap, and I got a North Coast Acme IPA from CA, clocking in at 7.1 abv. It had a stale, earthy nose with a very slight essence of floral hop. Bitter taste, very hop forward, but smoothed out to a nice finish. Delish. Lady’s Sah-tea was a 9% abv in an 8oz pour described as a “Finnish beer with rye, juniper, ginger, cloves, and tea.” Ok then. It nosed as a Belgian, with wheaty banana fruit and a touch of spice. The taste was Belgian sweet and a slight ginger start. Banana certainly, but Lady Friend was hoping for something with a bit more punch, and wanted more of the ginger to come through. She moved on to an Einbecker Schwarzbier at 4.9%, with a malty nose, and slightly pils taste above malty sweetness. She enjoyed it.
I unintentionally stuck with North Coast for my second drink, an Old Stock Ale, which was a 12.5% abv barleywine. MALT nose. Nothin’ but malt brotha. And the taste… well in my notes I just wrote “wowsers.” Syrup MALT. Very tasty, like liquefied caramel. I nursed that for the rest of the evening, and Lady Friend moved onto her third, a Southern Tier Southern Hemisphere, which was supposed to be a brown ale. I’m suspicious now, because I’ve seen Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere, and wonder if someone mixed up the names. Whatever it was, it wasn’t a brown ale. It had a HOPPY nose, and tasted like a pale ale, with no roast, and a hoppy/malty finish. It was good, but I’d like to know what it was for sure.
As the evening went on, the crowd got a bit more… granola. Dreadlocks started appearing, and the Burlington vibe started wafting in, along with the bouquet of bud, patchouli and underachievement. Like a live band setting up, we took this as our cue to skedaddle, and prepared to leave. It was, however, a Maine Monsoon outside, and while I had brought along a raincoat, Lady Friend had to make do with a copy of the Yankee Brew News paper to ward off the rain, with little success. We ducked into Gritty’s with the thought of having a last beer, but the place was PACKED with plaid shorts, popped collars and bootleg Prada sunglasses, so we ventured back into the typhoon. We dashed to another bar, whose name I forget, and the bouncer had a stick up his ass about my camera bag, and wanted to store it “in a closet.” Yeah, my gear stays with me, thanks. I don’t want your Corona that badly. Grabbed a cab and went back to the hotel to wring ourselves out, and get some sleep before the next day’s travels.