Envision a fusion of an authentic British brew pub and the bar made famous by the sitcom “Cheers,” and you’ve got a sense of the atmosphere at Gritty McDuff’s on Fore Street in the Old Port.
“I’ve been coming here since it opened. It’s an icon,” said Chris Godin of Portland. “Remember 25-cent beers?”
Last weekend, Gritty’s celebrated its 25th anniversary with free food, live music by North of Nashville, and a full house of Gritty’s regulars and supporters.
“Gritty’s is a fun meeting place,” said Liz Selwood of Westbook. “You can relax and feel like you’re in a community.”
“Craft beers didn’t even exist when I got into the business,” said distributor Bob Largay of South Portland. “Gritty’s came along, and my boss said, ‘What do you think?’ And I’ve been behind them since day one.”
“They’ve affected the whole state of Maine in terms of craft beers,” agreed distributer Joey Waraskevitch of Oakland.
Andrew Hainer, the head brewer in Portland, has been brewing Gritty’s for 20 years. His colleague Greg Sanson, the head brewer in Freeport, has been brewing for almost as long – 18 years.
“At the end of the day, you walk through the bar and see people who have been drinking your beer for a long time,” Sanson said. “And they say ‘good job.’ That’s what it’s all about.”
“It’s an honor be part of the community in the way we have been,” said co-owner Richard Pfeffer. Over the years, at least two couples have gotten married right in the pub with a justice of the peace and without any fuss or reservations.
“People have been coming out of the woodwork, telling us that this is where they met or that they had a wedding party here,” said Dona Pfeffer, Richard’s wife.
“This place is like Cheers,” said Mug Club member Tina Deschaine of Portland. “Everyone knows each other. And now we’re bringing our kids and nieces and nephews.”
“It’s just comfortable here,” said Dave Fournier of Litchfield, sitting at one of the long tables with friends. For him, part of the comfort is being a Mug Club member with his own numbered drinking vessel just waiting for his return.
“It’s kind of like a melting pot,” said Tatum Thistle of Gorham. “I like how you just grab a seat at the big table and it doesn’t matter if they know the person next to you.”
“I’ve been coming here for 25 years,” said Hilary Roberts of Cape Elizabeth. “I met my husband here.”
“It stands the test of time,” said her friend Sarah Boeckel of South Portland, a fan of the lamb burgers. “Twenty-five years is a long time to last in this town.”
Besides the atmosphere and the food, Boeckel recommends the poutine – french fries with gravy, cheese and duck bacon. “It’s disgustingly good,” she said.
Kiersten Pfeifer of South Portland recommends the sweet potato with pulled pork on top. “That’s when I really don’t care about calories,” she said. “It’s really good.”
“I usually don’t order food,” said Aubrey Wierda of Portland. “I usually drink. But the food that has been coming out all night has been amazing. Try the pretzels!”
Gritty’s is big enough that Julie Brown, just visiting from Boston, didn’t even realize there was an anniversary party with free food and a live band. She was simply impressed with the bartender.
“When I asked him for a half-cider half-stout, he nodded his head like everybody orders that,” she said.
Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer from Scarborough. She can be contacted at: