Friday, October 09, 2009

Unemployed in Vacationland, Part 2

Bar Harbor is a little port town on the eastern shore of Mount Desert Island, the second largest island on the eastern seaboard, with New York's Long Island being the first. Acadia National Park comprises 47 of Mount Desert Island's 108 square miles, although it seems to me that it takes up more like two-thirds of the island's acreage. I first visited the area in the mid-90s, and fell in love with the combination of Bar Harbor's quaintness and Acadia's spectacular mix of rocky shorelines and mountainous terrain.

Rocky shoreline of Mount Desert Island
Our Maine weekend's primary destination is the easternmost point in the United States that both KJ and I have ventured. In fact, I realized recently that it's the furthest east that I've ever been. Yes, it's true. I've never been to Europe, but I have a feeling that my relatively new traveling companion will play a major role in rectifying that situation.

Our first evening on the island, we stopped by Bar Harbor Brewing Company's in-town location for a free tasting. The small brewery was recently purchased by the Bar Harbor and Portland-based Atlantic Brewing Company, so the actual brewing now takes place at Atlantic's Town Hill location, on the outskirts of Bar Harbor.

We sampled four of their products: Harbor Lighthouse Ale, True Blue Wheat Ale, Thunder Hole Ale, and Cadillac Mountain Stout. Of course, free tastings are an excellent marketing concept, as I felt compelled to take home a mixed six-pack, which included two bottles each of my two favorites. This also gave me the idea, when I travel to an area known for beer, to take home some of the local flavors that I can't purchase elsewhere.

In total, I brought home two mixed six-packs of beers from Maine brewers. What follows are my impressions of those from the eastern portion of the state.

Thunder Hole Ale - Brown ales are an enigma. Those that fall into this category run the gamut from some of the most bland beers in existence—see Newcastle and those that try to emulate it—to others that are very complex and flavorful. Thunder Hole Ale definitely fits the latter description. It has a slightly nutty aroma, is malty and full-bodied, with just enough hop bitterness to keep it from being too sweet. Grade: B+

Cadillac Mountain Stout - Cadillac Mountain is the highest peak on Mount Desert Island. In my opinion, Thunder Hole Ale is actually the pinnacle of Bar Harbor Brewing Company's offerings, but their stout is also very good. It's full-bodied and complex, with hints of chocolate and coffee, very well-balanced, and smooth and creamy going down. Grade: B

Eastern Maine beer lineup
Bar Harbor Real Ale - Atlantic Brewing Company's brown ale offering is only slightly less tasty than Bar Harbor's. It's a little more nutty, and a little less robust, but is nicely hopped. Up front, you can't help but smell its nutty maltyness as you tilt the glass towards your mouth. On the tongue, it starts off lively, but ends smoothly. Grade: B

Coal Porter - When it comes to darker ales, I'm generally partial to stouts versus porters, but Atlantic's version of this style is solid. It's rich but smooth and slightly smokey, the latter of which is a quality I like in a porter. Grade: B-

Belfast Bay Lobster Ale - According to Belfast Bay Brewing Company's web site, they decided to brew a red ale because the style was so popular with their neighbors to the north. Red ale isn't necessarily a Canadian style, but my fairly recent experience north of the border certainly reinforced this Maine brewer's contention that it's quite prevalent there. The aptly named Lobster Ale is a slightly caramely, medium-bodied beer that's nicely balanced with medium hop bitterness. It's not fantastic, but is very drinkable. Grade: B-

Newport CoveOf course, we didn't spend our entire weekend drinking beer. In fact, I've spent more time tasting and reviewing these brews in the few days I've had off since returning home earlier this week than I did in Bar Harbor. But, since I'm no Henry David Thoreau, and since that part of Maine is not known for baseball or music, I choose to write about the beer rather than the beautiful scenery we witnessed. Just in case you don't believe me, here's a little more evidence of the latter.

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