January 3, 2013

Bar Guide: Gritty McDuff's makes you feel at home

The atmosphere is cozy despite the pub's size.


I could be wrong, but I feel like Gritty McDuff's (fondly known to most as just Gritty's) is a fan favorite of the Old Port. It's one of those bars that kind of feels like home despite its size and how many people it serves on a daily basis.

click image to enlarge

Rhea Schneider, a server at Gritty McDuff’s in Portland, with a tray filled with pints of the popular brew pub’s signature ales.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer


WHERE: 396 Fore St., Portland

PHONE: 772-2739

WEBSITE: grittys.com

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily

PARKING: On-street metered parking, which is free after 6 p.m. on Sundays and holidays; there is also a parking garage across the street

SCENE: Gritty's is a pub with a penchant for beer and good times. You'll see all walks there, from tourists to locals and business people enjoying happy hour.

AMENITIES: Live entertainment Tuesdays and Thursdays, and trivia night Wednesdays. Large picnic-style tables for big groups and small pub tables for intimate gatherings.

SPECIALS: Ever-changing taps

I dropped by the week before Christmas to grab a beer with my friend Tony. We were able to snag two stools at the crowded upstairs bar. We didn't venture downstairs, but there's a bar space there, too.

It was a Wednesday night, and Gritty's was hopping. I thought maybe it was because people were out and about for the holiday festivities, but after hearing a voice over a speaker asking questions, I realized it was trivia night.

As Tony blurted out the answer to the question being asked, I thought, "Too bad we weren't here earlier." What is it about guys and their aptitude for random trivia?

We had to settle on just sipping beers and not participating, because teams were already formed and the evening's trivia well under way. I had seen some promotion of a beer that recently had been tapped, and was eager to try it.

I ordered the Oatmeal Stout, and was in for a good surprise. The beer was nice and dark. Dare I say, it was darker than even Guinness, and after one sip, even heavier than the famous Irish beer.

Hanging above the bar are rows upon rows of mugs, each identified by a number on the bottom. The mugs belong to members of Gritty's mug club. For a $75 annual fee, you can be a member and receive benefits like getting 21 ounces of beer for the price of 16 ounces and pay only $2 per fill on Mug Club Nights. I know the holidays have passed, but what a great present for a beer lover on your list, right?

Now, I've talked a lot about beer at Gritty's. That's because it's kind of their thing. Don't worry, though. If you're not a beer drinker, Gritty's also has a fully stocked bar of hard liquor for all those mixed drinks. I know I've had a mean margarita up at the Freeport location. I'm sure the bartenders in Portland could whip up anything you'd like.

Even for those not interested in beer or hard liquor, Gritty's has you covered. It makes its own special hard cider, which is on tap. It's great if you're looking for a lighter drink or can't handle gluten in beverages.

As I sipped away at my Oatmeal Stout, Tony sipped on an ale that the bartender recommended. It was a lighter beer, and just as tasty. I can honestly say I was glad we weren't eating at the bar, too -- that stout was a meal all by itself.

If you're interested in trying the stout, it's on tap for a limited time, because it came from a single batch. Gritty's also has a number of its beers on the market for you to buy by the bottle or growler. And if you don't want to deal with the parking hassle in the Old Port, it has additional locations in Freeport and Auburn.

Fair warning, though: While each location is under the Gritty's umbrella, each has its own unique atmosphere. Like I said, the Old Port location has that cozy pub atmosphere that makes me feel at home.

Emma Bouthillette is a freelance writer who lives in Biddeford.


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