Anyone familiar with the Portland brewing scene is familiar with the powerhouse brewery and pub that is Sebago Brewing Company.
Around since 1998, Sebago is a popular staple at community events — such as the Alive at Five concert series, where the company sponsors a beer garden — and is also known for its laid-back, friendly brewpubs. In the past few years, due to continued growth and success, Sebago has opened new locations in Scarborough and Kennebunk. And the Portland location made a move from the corner of Market and Middle streets to 211 Fore St.
Now located on the first floor of the new Hampton Inn at the corner of Fore and Franklin Arterial, Sebago still offers the same downtown convenience, but with a new atmosphere. The prior location was a bit choppy, with the dining area essentially in the basement. The bar was strangely dark despite the large windows that framed it.
The new space is a large, fluid and bright area that is welcoming and comfortable. The entrance is nestled perfectly in the corner of the new building, located on the lot where the Jordan Meats factory used to be before its fiery demise last spring during the demolition process.
Inside, you can head straight to the bar and lounge area directly to the right of the door. The large wooden bar that seats up to 15 wraps along most of the exterior wall, which is practically floor-to-ceiling plate-glass windows.
You can also find the same tall four-top bar tables in the lounge area that were featured at the Middle Street location. Along the interior wall, raised about a foot off the floor, are wooden booths for people looking to meet with family or friends for a more comfortable and quieter Sebago Brewing Company experience.
The beers serve as an embodiment of various places and experiences in Maine. The most popular with customers is the medium-bodied Frye’s Leap IPA ($4 for a pint; $5 for 22 ounces), but many staff members and beer connoisseurs (me included) prefer the malty Runabout Red. You need only look to the wall over the raised booths to see the painted labels of the year-round craft beers and five seasonal brews. If the smorgasbord of beer choices overwhelms you, you can always try the sampler ($5), which offers a selection of five 4-ounce glasses.
Unlike other brewpubs that offer only beer, house wine and well drinks, Sebago Brewing Company also has a vast specialty cocktail menu. The menu is updated seasonally, based on staff recipes and fresh available ingredients. Their house sangria ($6) is always a delicious choice to accompany dinner or appetizers. One of the signature cocktails, the Sebago Mudslide Martini ($7), includes a shot of Lake Trout Stout, and is a fun drink for those who might like to “Drink Like a Fish,” as T-shirts for sale suggest.
During the hot days of summer, you can cool off at the outdoor sidewalk cafe and patio area with a Cucumber Cooler ($7.50), a twist on the classic gin and tonic that includes muddled mint and cucumber slices.
One of the first to offer a “late-night menu” in downtown Portland, Sebago Brewing is the perfect destination for anyone looking for someplace to go after a night out on the town. Starting at 10 p.m. every night through 1 a.m. closing time, the best deals include $2 Sebago pints and $4 selected appetizers.
At midnight (or often 2 in the afternoon), one of the most popular and talked about menu offerings is the potato nachos ($8.99), a platter of seasoned waffle fries topped with scallions, diced tomatoes, Monterey Jack cheese and jalapenos.
Make sure to bring a couple of friends with you to tackle the enormous serving.
Elisa Doucette is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.