Beer Travel

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.

Growler Bus

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 beer list

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 AlePresque 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!

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Recently, we were invited to check out some breweries and beer-centric special events in Maine, and we were thrilled with the opportunity to take part. Chris and his partner Erin made the trip south for an extended weekend of fun, food, and of course beer. We wanted to share our adventures with you, in the hopes of inspiring you to make a visit south to Maine to discover their exciting beer locations and events.


Our three days in Maine kicked off in Bangor. After a leisurely drive in from Fredericton, we checked into our room at Fireside Inn & Suites on Main Street, enjoyed our complimentary whoopie pie, and went directly to our first beer destination. Thankfully, it was in the same building! Geaghan’s Pub is an Irish pub, opened in 1975 by John and Arline Geaghan. In 1983, John passed away, and the business was purchased from Arline by several of their children. In 2011, they added on-site brewing to the pub, focusing on American-style beers with an Irish twist, quickly growing a faithful following. Andrew Geaghan (John’s grandson) and Ryan Power are in charge of the brewing operations, sharing co-head-brewer titles. Both started out as home brewers, and had been working elsewhere in the Pub before taking on these roles. In fact, working at the pub is certainly a family affair, with owners Larry, Pat, and Peter Geaghan all working in the kitchen or bar.


We met up with Lisa Sturgeon, who joined us in a tour of their beers and tasty pub food, including their famous boneless wings. Insider tip: Ask for the “Reserve Sauce” with your wings. You won’t find it on the menu, but the locals have been ordering it for years. It’s hot and sweet, much like a sriracha and brown sugar combination.


In our first flight, we enjoyed their Refueler Unfilitered Wheat, Presque Isle Honey Blonde Ale (made with local honey), Higgins Irish Red Ale, and Smiling Irish Bastard APA. All were very well-made examples of their styles, and quenched our thirst quite nicely on a warm summer afternoon. All of their beers are named in celebration of the local culture, region, and family history of clan Geaghan. The Smiling Irish Bastard, for instance, is named after Police Officer Bernie Welch, a relative of the Geaghans, who was a serious man patrolling the streets of Bangor, but had a dry, Irish sense of humour.


After the great food and drink, Lisa took us on a tour of the on-site brewery. Their Criveller-built brewhouse is a 5BBL (6 hectolitre) system, with four fermenters of the same size. They do well to pack everything in the narrow footprint of the brewery, with enough room to manoeuvre, but without wasted space. The day we visited, they were doing a 24-hour sour mash for an upcoming release. The walls of the brewery are finished in white plastic, perfect for dry erase markers. The brewers use that to their advantage, taking tally of the number of beers brewed (37 different beers so far this year), volume tally (they are well on their way to overtake the 717 barrels [841 hl] they brewed last year), and motivational sayings (“Don’t be that guy”, featuring a picture of the chemical formula for diacetyl). They are brewing three times a week to keep up with demand, serving eight different brews on tap, and for growler fills, at any given time.


We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the stellar breakfast we enjoyed at Geaghan’s the next morning before leaving town. Co-owner Larry Geaghan is onsite at 4am every morning baking bread and pastries (we loved the Thick-Cut White and Oatmeal Brown), and Chris couldn’t get enough of the Bacon Cinnamon buns, prepared French Toast style! They also feature “Paddy Cakes”, An Irish potato pancake made with bacon, cheese & onion. And their Oatmeal Stout makes a perfect breakfast beer (so we’ve heard).

Thanks very much to Tom Palmer of the Fireside Inn & Suites, and Lisa Sturgeon of Geaghan Brothers Brewery for having us for a visit, be sure to visit them both at 570 Main Street in Bangor, and stay up to date with new beer releases and Mug Club events on their Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Stayed tuned as we continue our adventures to a few more locations in and around Bangor, as we hop on The Growler Bus for a fun Friday night, and then hit the road for the Carrabassett Valley and The Forks for some outdoor adventures (and beer)!

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The Artisanal Beer Club of Newfoundland, run by Tom Beckett and Mike Buhler, began in 2011. Their goal is to allow Newfoundland and Labrador residents access to a greater selection of craft beer than the NLC currently provides. The two men seek out great craft beer breweries, and offer their 800+ members the opportunity to try these beers not available in Newfoundland. It is really a win-win for the breweries and members, who would never normally be able to connect. Please check our profile on them from December for some more background, and how to join if you live in Newfoundland.

I was recently in St. John’s, and luckily my visit was during a beer tasting put on by Mike and Tom at the Quidi Vidi Brewery (beautiful location in Quidi Vidi Village, a few minutes East of downtown St. John’s). They were pouring beers from Charlevoix, which came in as part of their second offering of beer to the club (their first was Dieu du Ciel!, and third that just closed was Flying Monkeys).

Over 80 people were in attendance, and were greeted at the door by Tom (who writes “Beckett on Wine” for the NLC Occasions Magazine), who let us know the plan for the evening, and started us off with a ticket for a Quidi Vidi beer. QV’s new British IPA had recently been launched, so this was the first time many of us had the chance to try it. A solid British-style IPA with lots of earthy hop character, a great way to start the evening.

Beerthief - The Roast Beef and Tasting Sheet

As we went to our seats, we found a great Roast Beef sandwich to help clean our palates between beers, and the wonderful Beer Evaluation Sheet, as created by Mirella Amato, a Master Cicerone. Mike encouraged us to fill out as much or as little as we liked on the sheet, and use it to help pick out the aromas, flavours and feelings we were getting from the different beers we’d be tasting.

Over the course of the next two hours, Mike (whose website is, a Certified Beer Server himself (and going for his Certified Cicerone distinction), lead us through the tasting of four different beers from Charlevoix. We tasted their Dominus Vobiscum Double, Triple, their Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout, and Dominus Vobiscum Hibernus.

Beerthief - The Beerthief Himself

My notes from the evening:

Double: 8%, copper in colour. Dark fruit (fig/raisin) on the nose, nice carbonation level, finishing with a bit of heat.

Triple: 9%, golden. Some hops on the nose, with more alcohol heat and carbonation.

Vache Folle Imperial Stout: 9%, dark brown. Lots of roast in this one, as well as a bit of sweetness from the lactose. Tons of chocolate in there too!

Hibernus: 10%, light brown. The aroma on this beer is very berry-like (I got blueberry), thanks to the hard working yeast. At 10%, this would not be confused with a blueberry wheat beer, but it does make for an easy-drinking big beer. I can see this beer developing and aging quite nicely over a few years in the cellar.

Beerthief - The Beers

Cheers to the Newfoundland Beer group! I’d encourage all Newfoundlanders to sign up (send an email to Tom with your details, including the NL Liquor store closest to you) to hear the latest news as it’s released.

(Editor’s Note: It was originally reported that Mike Buhler is a Certified Cicerone. Mike is a Certified Beer Server, and will be taking his Certified Cicerone exam soon)