While driving back from the family camp in Bethel a couple of weeks ago, I went a bit out of my way to stop at The Good Beer Store at 285 Main St. in Fryeburg. I had heard good things about the store, and I don’t pass through Fryeburg that often, so I took advantage of a pleasant day to make the trip.

I’m glad I did. Among the offerings on the shelves were a couple of 22-ounce bottles of Polaris by Rising Tide Brewing Co. in Portland. At $15.99, I bought only one of them.

For those of you who know even less than I do about astronomy, Polaris is the North Star, and is part of the constellation Ursa Minor, which most people call the Little Dipper. Ursa Minor is also Rising Tide’s winter seasonal, a wheat stout that I liked a lot last year.

Polaris is last year’s Ursa Minor aged in bourbon barrels, hand bottled, unfiltered and bottle conditioned. They are selling only 336 of them, and we got No. 233. 

This has the great, rich, chocolate and wheat-bread flavor of Ursa Minor, with a bit of bourbon and oak up front. It comes in at 6.7 percent alcohol. The five people who enjoyed it with me all liked it a lot.

After drinking this beer on National Leftover Day — which some more shopping-savvy people call Black Friday — I belatedly came to the conclusion that I could have saved Bottle No. 233 and sold it for a lot of money when Rising Tide becomes a world-renowned brewery. But I would have had less to write about. And I probably should have bought the other bottle I saw at The Good Beer Store.

AS MUCH AS I LIKED Polaris, I also liked The Good Beer Store, which opened on April 2 of this year. Ruth Antonucci, one of the owners, said things are going better than expected located in what I — as someone raised in the similar town of Farmington — call the backwoods of Maine.

Antonucci said they are now carrying something like 700 different brands of beer, and would like to double that if business keeps growing as it has been so far. I was especially impressed with the number of Belgian beers.

“My partner Bob (Prouty) loves Belgians, and my husband, Kevin, is the craft beer guy, and we play off of those,” Antonucci said. “I love wine and handle the wine selection, so it is all going well.”

The store’s website is thegoodbeerstore.com.

SON ZACHARY BROUGHT with him two beers, and one of them — Mystic Descendant from Mystic Brewing Co. in Chelsea, Mass. — got a sizable minority of votes as being even better than Polaris.

Descendant is described as a Suffolk dark ale. It starts out as a dry Irish stout, but is brewed with a Belgian yeast called Renaud and, just to make things interesting, has some molasses in the mix.

This beer is 7 percent alcohol, and had a wonderfully complex flavor with the molasses out front. A few years ago, son-in-law Christian and I brewed beer from a recipe of Benjamin Franklin’s that included molasses, and this beer reminded me a lot of that beer — only a lot better.

Zach said the beer cost about $9.50 for a 750-milliliter bottle. The bottle was not numbered, but it was from Mystic Brewing’s first batch of the beer. Maybe we should have saved that one as an investment too.

The other beer Zachary brought was Dark Element from Element Brewing Co. in Millers Falls, Mass. This was described as an American black ale, comes in at 8.75 percent alcohol, and is a seriously hoppy beer. The label described it as a relative of a German Schwarzbier, but no true Schwarzbier would have that much hops.

No one disliked this beer, but it came in third in the competition. It cost about $12 for a 750-milliliter bottle.

After these three beers, we realized that we should quit trying to do serious tasting for the day. Next week, I will report on the beers that we delayed tasting, including Baxter’s Amber Road, the new Black and Brew from Samuel Adams, the Portland Lager and maybe something else.

The only hint I’ll give now is that there was a lot of good beer over the Thanksgiving Day weekend.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer who lives in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

[email protected]


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