GORHAM – On the way out to Sebago Brewing, on a seemingly endless, congested Route 25 West, I’m got my full curmudgeon on.

Buy local, bah humbug; Sebago is franchising like a young McDonalds and I’m just a mouse on a wheel, paying lip service to the man. Once the Maine market is chewed up and spit out, it’s on to bigger checks and a more homogenized product.

It’s a sure sign of a bad mood when you start recklessly mixing metaphors to prove your embittered points.

Mind you, Sebago did nothing to deserve the grumbles. Sebago, Coffee Design and Bull Moose are just a few heartening Maine brands that have it together. To boot, I’m surely being a naive fool about the fun haze a brewery tour usually promises. Snap out of it, pal! You’re going to drink beer!

I pull up to the wooded parking lot, the coniferous enclave screaming New England down to a winter’s worth of road salt grinding underfoot. Breweries can be some of the jolliest places on earth, I remind myself, and sure enough, it’s merely 6 p.m. on a Wednesday in April, and there are what seem like a hundred ruddy faces inside, cast in an amber glow. The whole room’s got the Beer Sillies, and pint glasses of pretzel rods draw me to the bar.

Noting my magnificent fortune of coming on the day Sebago offers “talls” for just $3, I meekly ask if they are serving an IPA today. Out comes an enormous 22-ounce vessel, a glass of beer in which five G.I. Joes could easily be submerged. This is not your Starbucks tall. The Frye’s Leap IPA is a robust floral bucket of suds, feisty and abundant.

Once I let the bartender know on the sly that I’m writing a column, lightning strikes.

She nonchalantly tosses me the seven-word keys to the kingdom: “So, want to try some more beers?”

Noting my predilection for the hoppiest of hops, she recommends the dangerously named Full Throttle Double IPA. The beer is a Louisville Slugger, way too big a taste for a 22-ounce portion. It packs a wallop, and is thicker and with more alcohol than its kid sister, Frye’s Leap. Still, the lemon, caramel and spice are making my knees twitch a little.

This is becoming more and more fun, and soon my brain matches the dimmed light.

For the knockout blow, she puts down a special shot-glass size of the crown jewel, the mighty Milestone Ale. It’s a brewer’s beer, crafted for the palette that’s been around the block.

It was commissioned to celebrate Jon Clegg and Tom Abercrombie’s 10 years in the game at Sebago.

The red ale is made with red-hot granite stones. I’ll spare you the details, but it’s strong, it’s got a brown sugar start and a citrus tang finish, it’s big-bodied, and it’s really exciting to drink.

The moral here is — especially if you’re headed to try beer — don’t sweat the small stuff.

No matter the Sebago location, smiles will come easy on the way out.

 

Mike Olcott is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.