Add some pizazz to your fall Maine road trip by sipping your way up the coast visiting micro-breweries, craft distillers and local vineyards. So come along as we create a Maine Beer, Wine and Cider Tasting Trail.
A drive along the coast of Maine is a treat at any time of year, but come fall when roads are banked with trees crowned in reds and oranges, it is perhaps the best time of all to plan a road trip to leaf peep and sample some of Maine’s acclaimed craft beer, wine, and hard ciders! Maine has an abundance of passionately produced local craft beverages that will have you smiling all the way from Kennebunkport to Bar Harbor.
Come along with us as we sip our way up the coast of Maine staying at beautiful inns and tasting premium craft brews, wines, and ciders all along the way.
Kennebunkport – Stop #1
Maine’s very first micro-brewery, Shipyard Brewing Co, makes an ideal first tasting stop. You may remember what a sensation they caused when their signature Pumpkinhead Beer was first introduced. They literally started a whole new brewing trend of adding subtle spice mixes to their brews. After 20 years, they’re still producing great beer and experimenting with new brews. Federal Jack’s Brew Pub, the site of the original Shipyard Brewery, enjoys a waterfront setting right in the village of Kennebunkport and serves as their small-batch brewing facility for new taste sensations.
Where To Stay: The Captain Jefferds Inn is the quintessential New England bed and breakfast inn – it simply does not get any better than this. Located just a short walk from town, the former sea captain’s home is elegant, yet completely comfortable. The hospitality of hosts Sarah and Eric is exceptional and should not be missed. A stay at this inn should have a prominent spot on your bucket list.
Stop #2 – Portland
Portland has become both a foodie mecca and a craft beverage hot spot. Boasting over 70 breweries and tasting rooms, it’s hard to imagine a more congenial location for sampling the best of Maine beverages. You’ll find tasting rooms for Maine-made beer, wine, cider, whisky, vodka, gin and brandy. Virtually all of the premier craft spirit producers in the state of Maine have tasting rooms or restaurants in Portland. An easily accessible stop on your road trip is the very popular Allagash Brewery, located at the junction of Rt302 and Rt 95. You’ll find Foundation, Austin Street, and DL Geary breweries in this industrial neighborhood as well.
Allagash Brewery was our favorite brewery stop. Tasting and tours are free seven days a week and in the fall you should definitely sign up in advance on their website. They produce a tremendous variety of exceptional Belgian-inspired beers including their flagship Allagash White. Allagash has also set the pace for developing imaginative ways of brewing. Don’t miss a tour of their “Coolship” operation where spontaneous fermentation takes place utilizing wild yeasts in the production of their “sour” beers – which combine fruits in the mix and are aged in barrels for years, producing very smooth brews.
Stop #3 – Freeport
An easy 20 minute drive to the north of Portland brings you to Freeport, famous for being homebase to L.L.Bean and great outlet shopping. But this area is way more than shops and restaurants. Arriving by Route 1, two exceptional craft beverage stops on the way are The Maine Beer Company and Cold River Vodka.
Stop at Cold River Vodka right on Route 1 before reaching the town of Freeport for a sampling of their award winning hand-crafted “ground to glass” spirits. Utilizing their own locally grown potatoes, and locally sourced blueberries, they produce Handcrafted Potato Vodka, Blueberry Flavored Vodka and Traditional Gin. They are all gluten free and delicious.
A short distance further along Rt 1 you’ll come to The Maine Beer Company, acclaimed for their very popular “Lunch” and Dinner” American Ales. Walk past their festival outdoor beer garden tent (serving up fire roasted pizza) and enter the ever-expanding tasting room and brewing facility. Learn about their Eco-awareness principles with their motto to “do what’s right”, as they lead the way in sustainable business practices.
Just 3 miles west of Freeport along Pownal Road will bring you to Portersfield Cider Company, where they produce artisenal hard ciders meant to have a seat at your table and complement your meal much like wine. Karla and Dave have been cultivating American Heritage Apples from wild seedlings and local apple strains. Over the past seven years they have grown their orchard on 117 rolling acres to include over 225 varieties of apples – most, if not all, unavailable from commercial nurseries. Their apple harvest is lovingly processed, set to slowly ferment and then aged. The resulting hard ciders are lightly carbonated and rich with full bodied flavors – absolutely worth a visit.
Where To Stay: Beer and wine enthusiasts Dave and Kelleigh at the Brewster House Bed and Breakfast provide a perfect choice for your Freeport stay. Located right on Main Street and with ‘brew’ right in their name, you know you’ll be in good hands. Dave’s pride and joy is his Kegerator, which holds 5 microbrews on tap for inn guests to enjoy. The historic inn is delightful, Kelleigh’s hospitality is tops and Dave is an accomplished chef who will wow you at breakfast. What could be better than rocking on the porch, sipping a draft beer (or glass of wine) and taking in the fall foliage?
Stop #4 – Newcastle
Continue driving north along Route 1 through the scenic town of Wiscasset with perhaps a stop at Reds Eats for their famous lobster roll. Up ahead are the picturesque villages of Newcastle and Damariscotta with lovely views along the banks of the Damariscotta River. Here you’ll find two great stops on our craft beverage sojourn.
Don’t miss a stop at Maine’s only certified organic distiller Split Rock Distilling, . Using New England sourced organic ingredients from area farms, they produce two extremely popular spirits: Organic Bourbon Whiskey and Blueberry Vodka which is widely acclaimed and has a cult-like following. Try their new offering, Horseradish Vodka which was inspired as a pairing for the famous Damariscotta River Oysters or their newly introduced Organic Gin.
A visit to Oxbow Brewing up a winding wooded road shouldn’t be missed. Look for their gray sign nailed to a tree (we almost missed it) and you’ll enter into a beer lovers sanctuary. The tasting room resembles a magical slant roof log cabin with twinkle lights aglow in the windows. Stepping inside you’ll discover arguably the best Farm House Ales you’ve ever tasted. Take it from a non-beer drinker – their ales are delicious! Come October 21st, they put on a gathering in the woods like no other. Called “Goods in the Woods” it’s a festival celebration of their brews. You can find more information and purchase tickets at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/goods-from-the-woods-2017-tickets-36716287404
Where To Stay: The welcoming Newcastle Inn, is an excellent choice and you’ll love the views over the gardens and out to the Damariscotta River. This large comfortable inn is well suited for couples and families and has amenities for both. Have a refresher in the inn’s pub, play a game or read a book on their expansive screened room and porches.
Stop #5 – Mid-Coast Maine, Rockland and Camden
There is so much to see, do and taste in this area that you may want to stay for several days. Before you reach the vibrant town of Rockland, we recommend that you take a small detour to visit Owls Head and the very elegant Breakwater Vineyards.
Perched on a knoll with sweeping views down to Rockland Harbor, this is a beautiful spot for sampling fine wines and cider produced by Breakwater Vineyards. Tastings are $3 for any 4 samplings and you’ll find it hard to pick just four.
From a lively un-oaked Chardonnay, to their popular Black Cap Cider that is slightly effervescent and dry, to smooth full-bodied and satisfying reds, Breakwater produces a wide array of outstanding wines. Blueberries also make an appearance with Breakwater Blues, a wine made exclusively from berries and no grapes. After sipping their wines and cider take a stroll out to the comfortable patio and perhaps meet the goats! While you’re vising Owls Head, consider visiting the wonderful Transportation Museum and climb up Owls Head Lighthouse for unforgettable views over Penobscot Bay.
Returning to Route 1 and heading north keep an eye out for Rock Harbor Brewery which has a new brewing facility and tasting room at 5 Payne Avenue in Rockland, just across the street from Spear Lumber. Or stop in downtown Rockland to visit their original brew pub, on Main Street with copper brew tanks in the windows.
But Wait There’s More: Travel west from the coast on a delightful country drive to Union, Maine where you can visit two very remarkable farm vineyards. If you visit on a glorious sunny day, you should know that both wineries have miles of wonderful hiking trails.
Sweetgrass Farm Winery and Distillery has it all going on in style. Owners Keith and Constance Bodine, have been producing craft spirits here since 2005. With degrees in engineering and after Keith earned his Masters in wine making from UC Davis, this energetic couple returned to Maine to open Maine’s first winery/distillery. Their production includes a wide variety of wines from dry to sweet, spirits from brandy to “smashes”, Three Crow Rum and Back River Gin. Their hard cider is dry and delicious, reminiscent of a slightly fruity, effervescent Pinot Grigio. With acres of apple orchards, they also produce a wonderful Apple Brandy and their signature Maple Smash for fall.
Savage Oakes Vineyard and Winery is located just down the road a piece (back toward Rockland) making a stop at both of these exceptional vineyards very easy. Buddy and Holly have a diverse operation, from picturesque belted Galway cows, oldest breed in America, to vineyards and wild blueberry fields. They produce over 17 varieties of wines ranging from dry whites to blushes, to full bodied reds and smooth dessert wines, including a gold medal winning oak-aged port. You can also purchase farm raised beef and pork. Don’t miss their fall Cheese Fest taking place on October 15th, 2017, showcasing locally made cheese artisans.
Where To Stay: This mid-coast area has some of the best bed and breakfast inns in all of New England. The scenic towns of Rockland and Camden came to prominence in the late 1800s and are graced by many grand homes that are now lovely inns.
In Rockland, the stately Berry Manor Inn (where you can snack on homemade pies at any time of day!), the elegant Lime Rock Inn (former town doctor’s home) and handsome Granite Inn (across from the harbor and ferry terminal), are all wonderful choices. The inn hosts are remarkable and you are sure to have a memorable stay.
In Camden, the The Hawthorn Inn is a lovely Queen Anne Victorian which has an ideal location just a block from the bustle of downtown. Walk through their garden to Harbor Park and enjoy harbor views from their sun-filled deck and breakfast room. Ted and Lisa Weiss are wonderful hosts and their inn, filled with period furnishings, is delightful.
And we’re off for a two hour drive north to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. Be sure to stop at the Narrows Bridge Observatory. Take the elevator to the very top of the suspension tower for dramatic panoramic views! On arrival in Bar Harbor, you’ll see signs for Bar Harbor Real Ale and Atlantic Brewing all over town. Visit their newly opened Pilot Brewery Project on Cottage Street, where you can sample unique small-batch micro-brews. This ground-breaking facility is designed for collaboration between brewers from around Maine, America and the World.
While in Bar Harbor in Autumn, (or any time), take a walking tour with Bar Harbor Ghost Tours – it will give you a whole new understanding of life and lore in Bar Harbor through the centuries. Our guide Jennifer was sensational. The tour which departs evenings from the Abbe Museum, is equal parts street theater, spirit tales and local history. Be sure to arrive early enough to tour the museum prior to closing for the evening. You’ll learn about Maine’s first population – the indigenous Wabanaki Nation and Micmac village. Learn why one of Bar Harbor’s grandest homes is so spooky, it was converted to a dormitory for temporary summer workers. This is a very entertaining evening activity.
Where to Stay: Bar Harbor and Acadia national park are such wonderful places that you may want to spend several days exploring. Here are two great inns, one for budget conscious travels in mind, and one for an extraordinary experience. Aysgarth Station BnB sits on a quiet side street right in the town of Bar Harbor. Innkeeper Melody, is a fun hostess and terrific cook. This bed and breakfast is both comfy and surprisingly affordable.
The Saltair Inn Sometimes I wish Matt and Kristi would just adopt me so I could stay at this wonderful inn anytime I like. Positioned amidst grand historic “Cottages” on West Street, the inn enjoys spectacular views overlooking Frenchman Bay, yet is just a short walk to town. At low tide go beach combing or walk over on the sand bar to Bar Island. A delicious breakfast out on one of the decks or sipping wine in an Adirondack chair while watching the sun set over the bay is a memory you will cherish for years to come. Just be sure to book a reservation well in advance because they are particularly popular in the summer and fall seasons.
Our wonderful “spirited” road trip was coordinated by the great folks at InnsAlongTheCoast.com. Lots of specialized itineraries can be found on their website including Fall Foliage, Adventure Activities, Arts, Foodie Interests, and Lobsters and Lighthouses tours. Since the inn owners are an integral part of their communities they have great insider information and ideas for making the most of your visit to their town. For more resources on planning your trip to Maine, good sites to visit include VisitMaine.com, Maine Brewers Beer Trail, Maine Distillers Guild, Maine Wine Trail.
Please sample these craft beverages responsibly and do not drive while ‘buzzed’ or intoxicated! If visiting multiple beverage tasting rooms in one day, you should have a designated driver, just say’n!