I hate brewery tours.

They’re all the same (“this mixture is called wort, and blah, blah, blah”). They take too long (“now, we just have to wait a few weeks for the beer to age properly”). The jokes are always the same – and always lame (I’ve toured breweries in countries where I didn’t speak the language, and I still knew the punchlines). The only good part is at the end, you get to drink beer.

At Maine Beer Co.’s new Freeport brewery, they’ve eliminated all the stuff I don’t like. Which means you just drink beer.

No traipsing around a bunch of tanks and hoses and conveyor belts. If you want to watch beer ferment, you can. While sipping on a world-class beer, you could look out the huge window in the tasting room and observe people making and bottling beer. Try not to nod off.

Although, fat chance of that. Maine Beer’s products are crafted to make even the most jaded beer drinker sit up and take notice. It’s Peeper Ale (a stunning re-imagining of a West Coast-style pale ale) Lunch IPA (it might not be the best IPA I’ve ever tasted, but it’s pretty close), Zoe (an amber ale rich in Simcoe hops than lend a citrus finish), Mean Old Tom (as smooth a stout as can be desired, with vanilla notes from the beans it’s aged with) and MO (if you like Peeper, you’ll love MO) are all attention grabbers, regularly turning up on critics’ lists of the country’s (and the world’s) best beers. If that’s not sufficient, Maine Beer usually has a couple of experimental brews on tap to gauge public reaction.

Maine Beer was started by brothers Dave and Daniel Kleban in a garage in a Portland industrial park in 2007 (there are some nice photos posted in the tasting room). Production from their one-barrel system was so limited that supplies sold out almost immediately when they arrived in stores. While they managed to squeeze more capacity into their limited space, they were still too constricted in the amount and the types of beer they could turn out. So, the Klebans started looking for more room. In April, they opened the new brewery and its adjacent tasting room in Freeport on the former site of a long-defunct Route 1 motel. The move to Freeport increased annual production from 3,000 barrels to 5,000 (a barrel being defined as 31 gallons or just enough beer for the weekend). To put that in perspective, it’s about the same amount of beer Anheuser Busch produces every 15 minutes.

The tasting room is light and airy with long wooden tables and benches and a simple bar serving eight Maine Beer offerings. Since we’d already had all the regular brews, my wife and I opted for sampler glasses (five ounces for $2.50) of the two “pilot” beers on tap. One was an ultra-hoppy pale ale. The other was almost impossible to taste after just one sip of the first. I should have done it the other way around. After that I had a full-sized portion (10 ounces for $5) of Lunch. I could have supplemented that with actual lunch, because what smelled like delicious barbecue was being prepared just outside, but I’d had a late breakfast and had to save room for beer.

The place was doing a steady business, with families lined up for food, sipping beers at the bar and tables, buying cases of Maine Beer’s offerings ( a couple from Massachusetts filled the back seat of their vintage Chevy with eight of them) and single bottles of the company’s latest beers called Weez (strongly hopped, dark roasted malt, sort of like a black IPA except with nuttiness in the finish instead of oakiness) and Another One (same hops, lighter malt, still has a lot going on in your mouth). There are also local snack foods for sale, as well as Maine Beer merchandise.

The tasting room is located just south of Exit 20 off Interstate 295. It’s open from noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. I expect I’ll be hanging around there fairly frequently, whenever my wife has errands to run in Freeport. Because if there’s one thing I hate even more than taking brewery tours, it’s shopping.

Al Diamon writes the weekly column Politics & Other Mistakes. He’s also the media critic for The Bollard magazine, the resident contrarian at My Generation magazine and the alcoholic beverages columnist for Food ETC. magazine, He can be emailed at [email protected]

Daniel Kleban behind the taps of the recently opened Maine Beer Co, tasting room on Route 1 in Freeport.


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