Josh Langstaff, of Portland, enjoys a meal at Sacred Profane with his son, Henry, 9. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

It wasn’t too long ago that “foam” was a culinary four-letter word. Around the end of the aughts, foams were trendy, especially fancy, fussy foams. For several years, they became the grammar and vocabulary of molecular gastronomy. Make a reservation at a fine-dining restaurant, and you’d find a slumping mound of aerated flavor squirted somewhere on every plate. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

At Sacred Profane Tankpub in Biddeford, though, foam is back.

“We’ve been happily surprised that we haven’t had to explain the foam more than we do. It’s rare, but I have overheard people complain when they come in and expect the stadium pour where there’s no foam, and the beer goes right up to the tippy-top of the glass,” co-founder and director of operations Michael Fava said. “But a lot of customers have been following Brienne (Allan, brewmaster and co-founder) and me, sort of following our individual success as career brewers. So they’re willing to trust us and try a new thing.”

“You might have been a beer drinker your whole life, but you never have experienced delicious wet beer foam,” he continued.

Now, while my brain can’t process that quote without overdubbing Homer Simpson’s voice at the end, I’m on board. Fava and Allan are onto something special.

A full-service restaurant with an open-concept, appealing dining/drinking room that seats 30, plus another 40 in the informal beer hall space upstairs, Sacred Profane is a North American version of the classic Czech beer hall, or tankovà, where house-brewed beers are dispensed from enormous copper tanks.


Tankpubs like the ones that inspired Sacred Profane are known for convivial, communal ambiance, tuba-boosted oom-pah bands and terse beverage menus. They’re also known for maximizing the variety of drinks on offer through pouring techniques that create more or less foam in the glass. And as Fava told me, “foam is flavor.”

Sacred Profane’s staff are all thoroughly trained on how to operate the custom-built, side-pouring Lukr tap handles that allow for differential aeration of the two session-strength house beers (Pale at 4.2% ABV and Dark at 4.0% ABV). If my two recent visits are any indication, they’re masters of foam. That’s no overstatement. Foam might be flavor, but it’s also finicky.

Getting the ratios right allows Sacred Profane to transmute their two lager styles into five beer-only beverages whose foam depth is measured in “fingers.” A half-liter classic dark lager ($8, with three fingers of foam) is a good introduction to what Sacred Profane, Maine’s lone lager-exclusive brewery does best. Notes of molasses, espresso and a little gentian root make this lager a terrific match for food, especially hearty plates like chef de cuisine Kyle Hulbert’s ever-evolving mushroom stroganoff ($18).

Served over crisp, Belgian-cut french fries like a wayward poutine, this substantial appetizer radiates aromas of caramelized onions and thyme. It’s also vegetarian-friendly, just like indulgent Impossible cheeseburger egg rolls ($14), two bias-sliced, deep-fried wraps filled with indistinguishably meat-like crumbles, a molten river of American cheese and a ramekin of the house “master burger condiment” concocted from mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard.

Both dishes offer comfort and a little appealing hedonism without requiring meat. Why does a Czech-inspired tankpub in Biddeford, Maine showcase two vegetarian items in its concise food menu, you might ask?

“Well, Kyle (Hulbert) is pescatarian. When we had a meeting to talk about the menu and someone brought up adding a veggie burger, he said it was too obvious, and he wanted to do a riff,” Fava said. “That’s one of the dishes where if I’m working in the kitchen and a ticket comes in, I’ll read the order, and it’ll get me huffing, ‘Oh, hell yeah.’”


The double smash burger at Sacred Profane Brewery. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Another celebrated choice is the double smash burger ($14), a fast-food-reminiscent double-decker entrée featuring two irregular three-ounce beef patties. What they lack in size, they make up for in flavor, as both squished discs spend enough time comingled on the flattop grill with bubbling American cheese to crisp and char their undersides. I found the savory components of the burger, including pickles and butter on the toasted bun, too salty. Certainly they were no match for the bitter-edged bite of Sacred Profane’s dark lager. But with a half-pour of pale lager ($6, with four fingers of foam) or an effervescent, tangy lemonade-and-lager shandy ($8, with three fingers of foam), the balance improved.

The wedge salad at Sacred Profane Brewery. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Sacred Profane’s pale lager also enhances the experience of devouring the mammoth wedge salad ($12). Diced shallots, several lavish glugs of homemade ranch dressing, pickled onions, fresh dill fronds and shards of what our friendly, smart server told us were “magic Cool Ranch Dorito shrapnel” conspire to turn this into an especially decadent and well-constructed riff on an American steakhouse classic. I’m usually agnostic about iceberg, but this one had me huffing, “Oh, hell yeah.”

I didn’t sample my favorite menu item until I went back for another peek at Sacred Profane. This time, during the day, when the restaurant’s dining room was at its most attractive. Sunlight reveals a sophisticated design sensibility in the combination of gleaming copper, wood-veneered midcentury seating, cool concrete flooring and a histogram display of Sanseverias plants, each a different height. You’d never guess this building was once a butchery, and before that, an automotive repair shop.

I wasn’t there to gawk, however. On a mission to sample what passes for dessert at Sacred Profane, the Allen’s and Milk ($7, with about 10 oz. of dark lager foam and a full shot of coffee brandy), I took a seat next to a couple finishing their meal. Coincidentally, they were asking about the very same menu item I came back to taste.

“Well, you can order it with the pale lager foam, sure,” their server explained patiently, “but it would be like ordering a root beer float with Champagne instead of root beer. It’ll still probably taste OK, but it’s not the same thing.” They listened. So did I.

When poured together, Allen’s and the dark lager foam unite in a chocolatey lather – think sabayon or the final few frothy pulls from a milkshake. Most of the lager’s mild bitterness vanished, leaving behind a malty sweetness. I used a spoon to retrieve most of the mousse-like beverage before I tilted back my mug and polished off the last sudsy ounce. Had I not been driving, I’d have ordered another.


Delicious wet beer foam, indeed.

Ward McGovern, of Old Orchard Beach, prepares to drink from an overflowing mug that has been “beer poked” by Sacred Profane owner/head brewer Brienne Allan. The tradition involves heating a metal poker in a fire, then when it’s red-hot, briefly plunging the tip into the beer. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

RATING:    ***1/2

WHERE: 50 Washington St., Biddeford. 207-298-3307.

SERVING:  3-9 p.m. Monday to Friday; noon-9 p.m. Saturday; noon-6 p.m. Sunday.

PRICE RANGE: Appetizers: $6-12, Entrees: $10-16

NOISE LEVEL: A well-regulated oom-pah band


VEGETARIAN: Several dishes


BAR: Beer, wine and cocktails


BOTTOM LINE: “Cold lager, warm hearts” is the official tagline of Biddeford’s Sacred Profane Tankpub, a Czech-inspired lager-only brewery and full-service restaurant that opened in late 2022, but after two recent visits, I think it should be, “Come for the beer, stay for the foam.” Owing to some clever tap faucets and some award-winning beer, brewmaster Brienne Allan and co-founder Michael Fava are able to transform a beverage menu of two lagers (pale and dark) into more than a half-dozen drinks, all of which taste distinct from one another. Go for more foam when you want sweetness as a backdrop to your dining. Dark lager with lots of foam is a great match for the veggie-friendly, poutine-esque mushroom stroganoff. If you want something lighter, with more crisp acidity, go for pale lager, especially paired with a dish like the snappy Austrian-style pork-and-veal hot dog served with Morse’s sauerkraut, finely diced shallots and fiery Dusseldorf mustard ($10). If you really want to witness the power of foam, try the Allen’s and Milk, a chocolatey, sabayon-reminiscent dessert beverage. You’ll never think about beer the same way again.

Ratings follow this scale and take into consideration food, atmosphere, service, value and type of restaurant (a casual bistro will be judged as a casual bistro, an expensive upscale restaurant as such):


* Poor
** Fair
*** Good
**** Excellent
***** Extraordinary

The Maine Sunday Telegram visits each restaurant once; if the first meal was unsatisfactory, the reviewer returns for a second. The reviewer makes every attempt to dine anonymously and never accepts free food or drink.

Andrew Ross has written about food and dining in New York and the United Kingdom. He and his work have been featured on Martha Stewart Living Radio and in The New York Times. He is the recipient of seven recent Critic’s Awards from the Maine Press Association.

Contact him at:
Twitter: @AndrewRossME

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