Monday, March 10, 2014
By EMMA BOUTHILLETTE
Watch out, Commercial Street, there's a new kid on the block. In'Finiti Fermentation & Distillation is a recent addition to Portland's Old Port, and it's a force to be reckoned with.
Dave Thompson, a bartender at In’finiti Fermentation & Distillation, prepares a Haute Fashioned, the bar’s variation on a traditional Old Fashioned.
John Ewing/Staff Photographer
IN'FINITI FERMENTATION & DISTILLATION
WHERE: 250 Commercial St., Portland
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily
PARKING: On street
SPECIALS: "Like" In'Finiti Fermentation & Distillation's Facebook page for freshly tapped beers and specials
SCENE: Brewing meets drinking in this spot that showcases how it's made
AMENITIES: Outdoor seating with a waterfront view
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: The bar is handicapped accessible, but the booth seating is raised and requires climbing a few steps.
Given the length of the waterfront, I've always found it interesting that there aren't many bars and restaurants with outdoor seating and a direct view of Casco Bay. In'Finiti has both covered. The new establishment sits on prime property near Union Wharf. Inside, the dark-colored bar leads to beckoning light and a view of the pier and harbor.
To the right of the entrance is a glass-encased area where staff will soon be distilling liquor, the bartender tells me. Straight ahead is the lengthy bar. To the left are dining booths in a raised nook overlooking the bar. Rather than a mirror or some fancy decor behind where the bartender whips up drinks, In'Finiti has another glass wall showing all the equipment used in brewing its own beers.
On a recent sunny Friday afternoon, customers were already trickling in to kick off happy hour. I eyed the back deck, but there was no seating in place yet. I was told the tables and chairs were on order, so by the time you're reading this, they may very well be there.
I sat on one of the barstools as the bartender worked on what seemed to be a complicated concoction. When she gave me a drink menu, I realized "complex" is a theme to most of In'Finiti's house cocktails.
Ranging from $9 to $11, the drinks feature unusual combinations. For instance, the "Gin Meet Mary" includes Berkshire Mountain Greylock Gin, spiced tomato water and celery bitters. "St. Marks Flip" -- featuring Kraken dark rum, rich syrup, a whole egg, stout and mole bitters -- is another one that puzzled me.
Not feeling too adventurous to delve into a house cocktail, I flipped to the beer section of the drink menu. In'Finiti features eight house brews on tap and another eight "guest taps."
I had recently seen a post on the bar's Facebook page about E=mc2 IPA, and decided to try it. Each house brew has a great little description to help you make a pick.
According to the menu, E=mc2 is an American IPA with 6.2 percent alcohol that uses Ella, Motueka and Calypso hops. It has a rounded, well-balanced flavor that is fruity and bitter at the same time.
I copied the description, because I didn't think I could come up with a more accurate way to describe the beer. I also have to note that the house brews are a better deal at $4 or $5 a pop, compared with $6 to $7 for guest taps.
Even though the bar is relatively new, the bartender said it's been well-received, with fairly busy nights. In addition to what's on the drink menu, In'Finiti has a full bar if you want a traditional cocktail.
If you find yourself hungry, there's a good tapas and meal offering, too. I gave the homemade pretzel a try. It complemented my beer well, and was probably the best pretzel I've ever had.
I was really taken with the interior of this bar. It was dark, but with large windows to the front and back, a good amount of daylight filtered in. Porthole-style windows added light in the dining area.
I have a feeling that the back deck, while cool on an early May day, will be a hot spot come summertime.
Emma Bouthillette is a freelance writer who lives in Biddeford.