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New England Beer: Portland, Maine and Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Every year we try to plan an epic excursion and as always, beer stops dictate our journey. This year, we headed to New England as well as New York City and Philadelphia.

Today, I bring you an overview of our time spent in Portland, Maine and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. After 4 days in Boston, we hopped in the car to head North (just about 2 hours). East coast Portland does not boast the amount of breweries and beer bars that West coast Portland does, but it makes up for it in character.

Right on the water, Portland, Maine has a quaint downtown with brick buildings, boutiques, specialty restaurants and just enough beer bars to keep us satisfied for one night.

First stop, lunch at Gritty McDuff’s. Gritty not only makes amazing clam chowder, they also brew their own beers. Your usual line-up included a Pale, an IPA, a Porter and a Blonde. The beers were well crafted and easy to drink as the table downed a few. The clam chowder was creamy, had plenty of clams and was flavorful without being too salty. My lemonade was also delicious. (2 more months…)

After walking around for a bit, we landed at Novare Res Bier Cafe. You guessed it, Novare Res Beir Cafe is a Belgium beer bar. The inside area is dark, with minimal natural light and reminded me of a beer bar in Bruges- dark, unpretentious, cave-like and underground. I immediately liked the place and then after a glimpse at the beer list, I fell deep in love. They have 25 rotating taps and over 500 bottles. My god.

Being the sun deprived Seattleites that we are, we decided to sit outside on the very serene back deck. Several beers were ordered: Allagash Victory 2010 and 2011 as well as McAuslan Saint Ambroise Oatmeal Stout. I just looked at their current draft list and Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Breakfast is on tap-it is that kind of place. Highly recommended.

For dinner, all I wanted was a lobster roll. Now, you may not know what a lobster roll is since they are famous in New England. It is chunk lobster meat served cold with minimal mayo on a toasted, buttered thick toast (eaten like a hot dog). It is amazing- especially when the lobster is fresh off the boat. We decided, after a recommendation, to go to Gilbert’s Chowder House. Granted Gilbert’s is not a beer destination, but it is a casual place with amazing seafood and an outdoor deck right on the water.

That concludes the whirlwind trip to Portland, Maine as the next morning we woke up and headed to Portsmouth, New Hampshire with the one goal to visit Portsmouth Brewery.

Portsmouth Brewery has a very cool logo, a great sign that hangs outside that fits the old world style of this town. Inside, the brewery looks brand new with ample seating and bar space. Of course, we head to the outside patio. Side note: Portsmouth Brewery and Smuttynose have the same owners. Smuttynose IPA is one of my favorite single IPAs so I was very excited to visit.

We tasted Portsmouth Brewery’s Black IPA, Rye IPA, Blonde and Saison. All were very tasty. For every beer we drank, Portsmouth Brewing Co. donated a portion of the proceeds to the charity of our choice. Tokens were left at our table to drop into the box that represented the charity we selected. Here, we feasted on a chicken salad sandwich with sprouts, lemon and dill; a pastrami sandwich and a bratwurst burger.

All of these meals were perfect. They all had a little something extra to make it better than your average sandwich. Attention to detail- I like that.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire is a place I would like to visit again. We only spent a couple hours getting lunch and walking around. A very cool and unique place.

Check out bb.com later this week for places we visited in Boston, New York and Philadelphia!

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