Welcome to our second Maine Beer Weekend post! We hope you enjoyed our first post, focusing on Geaghan’s Pub and Brewery on Main Street in Bangor. Today’s post is a continuation of our evening in Bangor, when we hopped on The Growler Bus and visited three breweries in the Bangor area.
The Growler Bus launched earlier this year, as a way to promote and highlight the great breweries and bars in Bangor and the surrounding region. It is owned and operated by One Man Beer Army Gene Beck, the owner of the very popular Nocturnem Draft Haus, and who is also to thank for establishing the outstanding beer variety at Swett’s Hogan Road Deli & Convenience aka That Citgo with the Killer Beer Selection. The Growler Bus is a souped up 14-seater limo bus, complete with a high quality speaker system, comfortable seating, and a knowledgeable driver (tonight, Gene himself was behind the wheel). They operate several tours each week, visiting Bangor region breweries, wineries, and distilleries. Or, the bus is available for private hire for wedding parties, graduations, and any other excuse to get together for a beer road-trip. They are happy to design a custom trip for your group, to accommodate your every Maine beer desire.
Tonight’s tour was the “Local Round Up”, starting at the Nocturnem Draft Haus, heading to Geaghan Brothers’ production brewery, Orono Brewing Company, and Black Bear Brewery. Each brewery visit was about 60 minutes, allowing enough time for a tour of their facilities, a handful of samples (included in the tour price), maybe a game of cornhole (a Maine brewery staple, we’ve noticed!), plus shopping for bottles/growlers and brewery swag.
Nocturnem Draft Haus opened in 2011, bringing a wide variety of local and afar craft beer to Bangor. They feature more than a dozen taps (updating their online draft list daily), a couple hundred bottles, as well as a rotating cask and Lambic-dedicated line. More than half of the taps feature Maine beers, making them a great choice for an out-of-state visitor to try some local craft beers, with the balance of the beers highlighting New England, other US states, and European offerings. They frequently hold tap takeovers of local breweries, and offer food cooked, and to pair, with beer.
After a warm-up beer at Nocturnem, our first stop was the new Geaghan Brothers’ production brewery in Brewer, just across the Penobscot River from Geaghan’s Pub. It was opened earlier this year to keep up with the great demand for their beer at the Pub and external distribution. This 20BBL (23.5 hl) custom-built Tigpro system allows them greater flexibility to sell kegs to accounts outside of Bangor (GBB is now available in bars and restaurants from Calais to Fort Kent), and has also allowed them to bottle product. Their Smiling Irish Bastard APA is available in six-packs, and they have just released a mixed “Queen City Sampler” 12-pack, featuring the Bangor Brown Ale, Lineman Pale Ale, Presque Isle Honey Blonde Ale, and Smiling Irish Bastard APA. The production brewery also supplies Geaghan’s Pub with their core brands, relieving some pressure, and allowing the smaller brewery to explore new seasonals and unique styles. Assistant Brewer Brian Sturgeon and Cellar Tech Forrest Brown were on hand to tour us around their brewhouse, and answer any questions we had.
After a handful of samples at Geaghan’s, we hopped back on the bus for the drive to Orono. Thankfully, with a limo license, we were able to enjoy even more local bevvies on our trip north, so it passed by in a flash. Once in town, we stopped by Orono Brewing Company, located at 20 Main Street in a brick building dating from 1848. Opened in December 2014, this young brewery uses a 4 BBL (4.7 hl) Stout brewhouse to produce a wide variety of different brews. Brewmaster Asa Marsh-Sachs has full control of the styles and ingredients used in the beers, with the only limit being his creativity (and we don’t think there is any!).
Co-owner Abe Furth was on hand to give us a tour of the brewery, while we enjoyed samples of their ten offerings, which included a pair of Saisons, two IPAs (the Habanero Lemon IPA was a personal favourite), and two nitro beers (White Nitro Cream Ale and Woodman’s Nitro Red). The Tap Room is open daily for visitors, and they offer lots of swag, and growlers of their beer to go. OBC’s beers are also available across Main Street at Woodman’s Bar and Grill and a handful of other local bars and restaurants. They recently brewed up their 100th batch of beer, and their Ozone IPA won Best Beer of the Tap Into Summer Beerfest earlier this summer.
Our next stop was just across Mill Street, to the Black Bear Microbrewery. Their 10BBL (12 hl) brewhouse opened in 2008, and they opened their Tap Room in 2013, where they feature live music and food (including brick oven pizza from the nearby Bear Brew Pub). During our visit, they had nine different beers on tap, including the tasty Lil’ S.I.P.A. Session IPA, and Liquid Sunshine Hefeweizen, both great lighter beers fit for a summer’s night. Black Bear beers are available on tap at bars and restaurants across Maine. Their tap room is open M-W 3-10pm, R-F 3-11pm, and Sat 2-11pm for pints, growlers, and kegs to go.
After enjoying our pizza and beer, it was time to head back home to Bangor. A night cap at Nocturnem marked the end of our first day in Maine, but there was lots more fun to be had during the weekend, as Saturday meant a hike into the Stratton Brook Hut for a Brews & Views pairing thanks to Huts & Trails and Baxter Brewing, and then onto The Forks for a visit to the brewpub and a rafting trip down the Kennebec River with Northern Outdoors.
Thanks to the great hospitality of Gene, Lisa, Abe, and everyone we encountered on the Growler Bus Tour!