January 31, 2013

Bar Guide: Mama's CrowBar buzzes with beer lovers, activities

The bar serves only beer. It has six brews on tap and a slew of bottles available.


The last time I went to Mama's CrowBar was almost four years ago for an Allagash-related beer event, and a guy I was talking to managed to spill his beer in my purse. That's right, not just on my purse, but in my purse.

click image to enlarge

Assistant manager and bartender Thomas Henley draws a beer from one of six taps that feature Allagash Brewing beers, among others, at Mama’s CrowBar.

Photos by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge


WHERE: 189 Congress St., Portland

WEBSITE: Find them on Facebook

HOURS: 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily

PARKING: On street

SCENE: A tiny bar on Munjoy Hill for the neighborhood and beer lovers alike

HAPPY HOUR: From 4 to 6 p.m. daily, all drafts are $4.

He was nice enough to clean it up for me, though I thought for a split second it was some elaborate ploy to actually steal my purse. In hindsight, I just realize it was because that particular night, there was a ton of people packed into the small bar and consuming a lot of beer.

Luckily, this wasn't the case when I stopped in with Ashley on a Monday evening to support my roommate, who was participating in the bar's weekly poetry open-mic night.

Near the top of Munjoy Hill on Congress Street, the bar has been known by a lot of different names over the years. Mama's CrowBar has seemed to stick, and the bar draws a loyal group of patrons from the neighborhood as well as beer lovers.

The bar itself only serves beer -- American craft beer, to be exact. There are six brews on tap and a slew of bottles available. The bar only accepts cash, so go prepared. You can expect to pay an average of between $5 and $8 a drink.

Customers trickled in for the weekly poetry night, and by the time things got started, there were about two dozen people perched on stools and benches in the long, narrow space. Some poets stood by the entrance to recite work, while others just sat at the bar with a beer in front of them to share their words with a silent audience.

It amazed me how quiet the bar was as each poet spoke. Normally in a bar you'd never hear the ka-ching of a cash register, but when the bartender needed to give a customer change, the cash draw seemed too loud for the space.

Ashley and I both ordered the Urban Farm Dry Cidah, which I knew was a mistake the second the bartender set the bottle in front of me. I'm normally an avid hard cider drinker, but I know from experience this one is too tart for my taste. Later, my roommate let me take a sip of the mead on tap, and I found that to be quite tasty.

For such a small space, Mama's CrowBar has a great weekly line-up of entertainment. Sundays feature local musicians. Tuesday is Jukebox Piano night, when you pay $1 to hear almost any song played on the piano. Bluegrass night is saved for Thursdays, and Saturday afternoons feature some blues.

If nothing's going on, you can test your knowledge with the box of old-school trivia cards sitting on the bar.

The bar itself has interesting charm. A large painting of crows at a bar hangs in the back just before the restrooms. Small black crows line windows behind the bar. Paper cut into an array of snowflake shapes hangs from the low tin ceiling, and a dartboard is situated so that players throw just to the right of the entrance.

Emma Bouthillette is a freelance writer who lives in Biddeford.


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