Ramble On

Friday, June 17, 2016

New Hampshire and Maine Breweries Tour - Part 3 (final)

My flight at Stark Brewing Company.
Today’s post will wrap up the series on the breweries we visited during our vacation last week.  As she had in May 2014, when Mary and I last visited Northern California on our vacation, she indulged my desire to make random stops at breweries we encountered along the way.  The previous posts were about well-known brewers like Anheuser-Busch and Maine Beer Company; the three I’m writing about today fall within the brew pub category:  Stark Brewing in Manchester, NH; The Liberal Cup in Hallowell, ME; and Cambridge Brewing Company in Cambridge, MA.

Stark is located at the north end of the
old mill district.

These were definitely in the random stops category, opportunities for us to take a break from the driving portions of our trips and have a sit down, local lunch.  I’d rate them all a success on that basis.  It turns out they all had their unique take on the “local” aspect of it.

Stark Brewing Company was the first of these stops.  We took a walking tour of Manchester, which has a famous mill district that has been redeveloped into a mixed-use area downtown, and the brewery is there at the north end.  Opened in 1994, the brewery rebranded as Milly’s Tavern in 1999, and recently returned to the use of the old name.  They’re currently working on adding a distillery to the operation – the installation was underway when we made our stop.

We had a great visit and the current brewer gave us a tour of the place.  Afterwards, I got a flight to sample the beers while we had a nice lunch, and the owner and staff chatted with us a bit about the operation.  Soon enough, it was time for us to get on the road.

Street scene in Hallowell, MA, home
of The Liberal Cup.
After our visit to Acadia National Park, we got on the road back to Boston on Saturday so that we could catch our Sunday flight to DC.  Once we got far enough along, it was lunch time, and we did a quick Google search for nearby breweries, finding The Liberal Cup.  Our drive there took us past the Maine State House in Augusta, by surprise, and then we found ourselves in another quaint New England town, Hallowell, which is where the Liberal Cup is located.

Their goal since opening in 2000 has been to operate as a traditional pub, albeit one that happens to have a 7-barrel brewery down at the end of the bar.  They try to make sure that there are always six or seven beers on tap, and of course they offer the typically generous portions of pub grub, which was part of our objective.  I had another flight there, very surprised to find a couple of lagers mixed in with the ales and porters!

The final stop was at Cambridge Brewing Company.  We decided to take a walk out from the hotel we were staying at to visit some familiar haunts – Mary went to graduate school there and I’ve had a few consulting projects in the neighborhood.  Things have really grown up in the Kendall area, certainly driven by the economic engine that MIT provides, and this brewery has benefited as well.

It was the end of our trip, and it was a Saturday evening, things were just getting started when we were there, early evening.  Rather than lingering over a flight and dinner, we made a quick choice about what to eat, and then I had an IPA to go with my meal.

With these three visits, we had managed to tally five breweries in all during the Vacation 2016 tour.  We missed some good ones that truly would have been good stops – Allagash and Smuttynose are among the well-known names that come to mind.  Still, I’m quite happy to have been able to check in at three categories of breweries:  Mega-international, craft production, and brew pubs; and I sampled some really good beers during all of that.

I brought back some good ideas and observations that I hope we can make part of Hawksbill Brewing as we prepare to break ground on the leasehold improvements and order our brew kitchen.  All that will start soon – we’ve got a busy summer ahead!

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