The Thirsty Pig has a great deck and beer list. Photo by Dave Patterson

When searching for places to drink and eat in Portland in the summer, I rank those with outdoor seating areas above all else. The season’s so short here in Maine, it seems a shame to stay inside on a perfect summer’s day when in search of a bite and a brew. And though I usually focus on tasting rooms when recommending outdoor seating, when you’re looking for a full meal rather than a snack from a food truck, along with great craft brews to choose from, there are a few restaurants that stand out.

Highroller Lobster, located on upper Exchange Street, has been catching the attention of the national press ever since its 2017 viral video about making a lobster taco. Thanks to its recent expansion into the tattoo parlor next door, you can now enjoy its lobster rolls on a new outdoor courtyard. Co-owned by Pete Bissell of Bissell Brothers, it would be a mistake to imagine this place only in terms of its lobster. There’s a great rotating draft beer list that serves the freshest of the fresh and is not limited to Bissell’s brews. Cans and even cellared beers (those that are set aside specially or are aged like wine) are available to pair with your lobster roll as well. If the newest beer isn’t really your thing, you can order a bucket full of Miller High Life. 

Middle Street restaurants have eked out some outdoor space for lucky patrons, and there are some craft-beer heavy hitters on that list, including Duckfat. Duckfat takes the approach of combining approachable but more widely distributed beers (like Pabst Blue Ribbon and Guinness) with local craft selections. If you don’t want to take a chance on having to wait in line, you could always hit up its Washington Avenue location, adjacent to Oxbow, in a slightly more casual venue.  

Down the street, Eventide has a keenly selected craft beer list, and its oyster selection is fantastic. If you’ve never had the brown butter lobster roll (served on an Asian sticky bun), you should treat yourself to one this summer. It can get pretty busy and there’s limited seating, but if you can get one of the outdoor tables, it is so worth it. The beer list nearly always has Allagash and Oxbow selections on draft, but ask a server for recommendations, because they are just as knowledgeable about the beer as they are the selection of seafood.

Maine Island Trail Ale is one of many quality cans served on the rooftop deck at Bayside Bowl. Photo by Carla Jean Lauter

Another killer oyster spot is the Shop by Island Creek Oysters, located in the Washington Avenue “microneighborhood” adjacent to Maine Craft Distilling. The beer list is smaller than Eventide’s, but it is incredibly well curated and features several choices that pair well with oysters – usually something light, something tart and something stoutlike. I love the outdoor seating as well, because they eschew hard metal bistro tables for beachy wicker and wood. Quite comfy.

For those that want to get a better perspective on the city, there’s Bayside Bowl. The rooftop space is open and in full swing, with an embedded taco truck right on the roof and a bar that serves both draft beer and a choice selection of canned favorites like Maine Island Trail Ale. There are a few other rooftop bars in Portland (including the well-stocked but fully enclosed Top of The East), but none has quite the same feeling as Bayside Bowl. There’s something about the wind trying to take the napkin from under your tacos when you lift your beer can to take a sip that is just so essentially summer. As a bonus, Bayside has a summer movie series where you can watch interesting films projected onto a screen stretched at one end of the building. 

When looking for outdoor restaurants with great beer, it would be a mistake to leave out The Thirsty Pig on Exchange Street. Summer is busy at The Pig, and the funky outdoor deck perks me up every time I visit. From a beer perspective, there’s a draft list that is often home to beers that are difficult to get in other downtown spots, and breweries frequently do beer launches and tap takeovers there. Every Saturday during the summer is an event called Prime the Pump where three different bands take turns on stage entertaining the drinkers. For anyone sensitive to gluten, The Thirsty Pig makes sure that there is always a nice selection of cider available. 

Carla Jean Lauter is a freelance beer writer and blogger who lives in Lisbon. Follow her beer adventures at:

Twitter: beerbabe

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