Montreal hot chicken at Sacred Profane Brewery and Tankpub in Biddeford. Photo by Tim Cebula

BIDDEFORD — When it opened in September, even for months before, all the buzz about Sacred Profane centered on the beer.

The brewery had been attracting attention for its audaciously minimalist plan to offer just two types of Czech-style lagers, one pale and one dark. Plenty of discussion in online beer lovers’ forums like Beer Advocate focused on the experienced, sophisticated palates of Sacred Profane’s talented brew team – Head Brewer Brienne Allan and Director of Operations Michael Fava – and the potential the duo had to create truly special beers.

Sacred Profane’s beers have since been glowingly reviewed in this newspaper and elsewhere. Now it’s time to turn some attention to the scrumptious comfort food coming out of the Sacred Profane kitchen.

I visited for dinner on a recent Thursday and took a seat at one of the high wooden tables in the tankpub’s dining area. Garage window-doors and a polished concrete floor lend the space a stylish, spare aesthetic, offset by three gleaming copper beer tanks hanging above the bar.

Sacred Profane co-owner and Director of Food and Beverage Carson James, who runs the brewery’s food program, had told me in the summer he wanted to feature European comfort foods (along with a Canadian fave or two like poutine) to match up with the Czech-style beer. Word from the first wave of well-fed diners to visit Sacred Profane was to order the schnitzel.

The schnitzel wasn’t on the menu when I visited. Our effusive and accommodating waitress, Tina Gosselin, explained that the dish is too labor-intensive for the kitchen team to pull off as more than an occasional special right now. A quick scan of the menu told me I would probably not leave disappointed, regardless.


My table ordered the beef tartare ($12), featuring finely chopped, raw top round steak. The richly beefy tartare was silky and tender, coated with a touch of mayo and accented by pungent shallot and tangy pickled mustard seed. As we spread the very last of our glass jar’s worth of tartare onto the thick, crisp-chewy toast points (bread provided by the local Little Spruce Baking Co.), we agreed we could eat an entire sandwich of the stuff.

The dining area was more than half full, but our main dishes arrived quickly after our starter was cleared. We’d settled on a double smash burger ($12) and Montreal hot chicken ($16), with an order of poutine ($8, plenty for two or three people, though you can order a large size for $14) on the side for good measure.

The Montreal hot chicken came as an open-faced sandwich on Little Spruce toasted sourdough with a layer of mashed potatoes, some green peas, beef gravy and pulled chicken thigh. Unlike Nashville hot chicken, the classic Quebec pub dish isn’t spicy, just wonderfully warming, like a simple but spot-on chicken dinner on toast.

What takes the Sacred Profane version to the next level is the smart use of pressed, crunchy chicken skins to top the dish, adding a needed crisp element, even more umami and the fatty-salty allure of fried skin.

Double smash burger at Sacred Profane, with lacy crunchy American cheese rimming the edges of the beef patties. Photo by Tim Cebula

The burger was even more delectable, one of the best our table has tasted in some time. The American cheese draping over the smashed patties had sizzled on the grill to form a lacy crust around the edges of the beef, an irresistible texture in combination with the pillowy potato buns and well-seared but juicy beef patties, themselves accented with tangy, creamy burger sauce.

The well-seasoned pile of fries in the poutine proved crisp and sturdy enough to handle a savory beef gravy coating, with salty hits coming from melty cheese curds dispersed throughout.

We fittingly capped off this comfort food fest with two deliciously flavored ice creams from Biddeford’s Parlor Ice Cream: apple cider donut and salty honey, each $6.

As for the beer, my drinking days are behind me, but my companion ordered a half-liter “mixed” mug, combining the pale and dark lagers, and said it had a creamy mouthfeel, clean aftertaste and made for a nicely balanced beverage that enhanced the flavors of our meal. I stuck with the nonalcoholic On Your Mark American Blonde from Portland’s Kit NA Brewing, a very tasty ersatz beer that helped me feel like I wasn’t missing out on the full brewery experience.

I can see myself heading back here regularly this winter for some more of their soul-warming pub fare, and maybe even stumble upon the fabled schnitzel if I’m lucky. The food at Sacred Profane stands shoulder to shoulder with its celebrated beer, a tall order at one of the region’s most impressive little breweries.

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