Oh, Mead! Oh, My!


Oh, Mead, Oh, My, indeed.


My new favorite, in fact.


I must admit, I was apprehensive about trying mead. Based on the name, “mead,” I was expecting a thick, mealy, alcoholic concoction of who knows what. I would often refuse opportunities to try it, sticking with a comfortable pint of whatever delicious draft the establishment offered.


Boy, was this a mistake.


Apprehensively, I gave it a try.


All of my preconceived notions were far from correct. (Why I didn’t just Google the stuff is beyond me.) It is a pale-to-yellow gold tinted, translucent, sweet drink.


All those glasses wasted on not-mead. I regret.


Mead is sweet nectar that is made of water and fermented honey. Comparable to many other beverages, yet unique in its’ own right. It’s alcohol content can vary from that similar to beer to something as strong as brandy.


According to beer100.com, the history of mead may date back more than 8,000 years, and predates the creation of wine.


So I wonder, why there aren’t more meaderies?!


Recently, I visited Maine Mead Works, (51 Washington Ave, Portland, ME) a small place that I had passed a few hundred times, never thinking to stop in.

Another mistake.


The company made residence in this garage-front warehouse in 2007, and transformed it into an industrial-chic space where you can taste what they create in the back. Upon walking in, you face the tasting bar, and in my case, the smiley girl standing behind it. Shelves are well stocked with different varieties of their meads. Blood orange walls, area rugs, and string lights add a warm and comfy feeling to this building made of mostly metal and concrete.


Beside the tasting room is an additional room, containing a second bar and beautiful wooden picnic tables. Leah (our tasting guide) informed us that this room is used for events and during the summer it is filled with (I’m assuming, only the hippest of) their neighbors.


My friend and I sat down at the bar, and we were given a list of the 7 meads we were about to try. Leah was knowledgeable about the meads, and was happy to describe and discuss them.  From their HoneyMaker line we tried the Dry, Blueberry, Semi Sweet, Lavender and Apple Cyser, and from their Ram Island Line, the Lavender Lemonade, and the Chai Mead.

The Ram Island meads are carbonated in the bottle.


I enjoyed every glass, but if I HAD to choose my favorite(s), it would be the Lavender, and the Chai. The lavender would be great in the summer as it is sweet with (very) strong floral notes. The chai mead, bursting with aromatic cinnamon, cardamom and clove, would be great in the fall.

My friend also had a few different favorites. (The blueberry and the semi-sweet)


Once we were done tasting, Leah walked us through the meadery.


A single room contained the entire process from beginning to bottle. First, water and wildflower honey are combined and heated. Then comes the fermentation process. They use a technique developed by a doctor in South Africa named Dr. Garth Cambray. Maine Mead Works is the only producer of mead to use this continuous method of fermentation aside from Dr. Cambray himself.


Then the mead runs into giant containers where any special flavors are added. Then any particles are removed from the mixture, making it perfectly smooth. Then the mead is bottled and every bottle is labeled by hand.


Their process ensures that their HoneyMaker mead has an abv of about 12.5%.


Maine Mead Works’ tasting room is open Monday-Saturday from 11am-7pm and Sundays 12pm-5pm, and the offer complimentary tours Monday-Saturday at 11:30am and 3pm.


I HIGHLY suggest you take the time to visit.


Maine Mead works is a strong front-runner for my choice producer of Maine-made beverages.

#visitmeinmaine #mead #mainemeadworks #maine #mainebeverages #mainebrewery #mainebeer #mainewine #mainemead #meadery #foodandwine #wine #beer #mainebeverage #beverages



Fall in Love with Pumpkinhead (again)


Mainers know that Fall means L.L. Bean flannel and Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead.

The release of this seasonal brew is especially anticipated throughout Maine, though Shipyard beers are distributed throughout almost all 50 states.


Photo courtesy of http://beerpulse.com/2012/09/shipyard-pumpkinhead-cans-hit-the-market-beginning-next-week/

Pumpkinhead was first brewed in 1996, but was not bottled until 2002. It is a pale wheat ale, that sports the perfect, subtly spiced flavor that we all crave in the fall. It’s golden in color, and smooth on the tongue. With an ABV of 4.5%, and a IBUS (International Bitterness Unit Scale) of only 18, this malty beer is very drinkable.

For more about Shipyard and Pumpkinhead, check out Shipyard’s website.


We are nearing the end of fall. The leaf-peepers are headed home, and Pumpkinhead is almost out-of-season.

By this point in the season, I feel like I have had enough pumpkin to turn me orange.

[I write as I shovel in bite after bite of pumpkin pie]


Photo courtesy photos-public-domain.com

But autumn is not over and I am not yet ready to say goodbye to this seasonal brew.

Luckily, Shipyard gave me 15 ways to fall (oh, puns!) in love with this beer again.

Beer cocktails are rising in popularity as mixologists are getting more creative and adventurous in their art. Shipyard’s website offers a list of cocktails to make with your Pumpkinhead.


I decided to try the Capt’n Pumpkinhead, the Southern Pumpkin, the Butterscotch Pumpkin Pie, the Sleepy Hollow, and the Orange Pumpkin Shandy.

Full disclaimer: All were delicious.

Capt’n Pumpkinhead is probably the most commonly known of the beer cocktails listed; a pint of Pumpkinhead with a shot of Captain Morgan’s spiced rum. While I am not the biggest fan of spiced rum, I can understand why this is a fall favorite for some. It is sharp, and crisp. I suggest you rim your glass with cinnamon sugar if you like the spicy flavors, or honey if you want something sweet to lessen the zesty blow.


While the rum is nice, is there a really a better way to usher in the cold than with whiskey? The Southern Pumpkin is a warming but refreshing combination of a pint of Pumpkinhead and a shot of Southern Comfort. Simple enough, and definitely tasty enough. This cocktail is similar in body to the Capt’n Pumpkinhead, but different in its flavor profile. The beer’s fruity notes are pulled through by Southern Comfort’s cherry-like flavor.

The Butterscotch Pumpkin Pie was absolutely delightful. Rim your glass with caramel (you’ll thank me later). Pour a pint of Pumpkinhead and add a shot of butterscotch schnapps. Talk about smooth! The butterscotch flavor illuminates the malty flavor of this beer. It was even easier for me to drink than the Southern Pumpkin, almost too easy.


The Sleepy Hollow combines two of the best parts of the season, Pumpkinhead and apple cider. This drink is both sweet and complex. It is flavorful without being overwhelming. If you want something with an extra kick, use a hard cider, preferably a local. Try Mainiac Mac or Mainiac Gold by Ricker’s Hard Cider, in Turner, ME.

You can find their retail locations here.

Downeast Cider out of Boston, MA is also a good cider to use as it is unfiltered, giving it a similar body to a traditional apple cider.

[Side note, see the bottom of the page for a great hard cider cocktail recipe]

After reading about “Beermosas” online, I decided to try something new for Sunday brunch. The Orange Pumpkin Shandy was certainly different. With equal parts Pumpkinhead and orange juice, the fruity mix almost makes you forget you’re drinking beer. The directions on Shipyard’s site say to rim the glass with an orange and to dip in a cinnamon sugar and pumpkin spice mixture. Unfortunately, I was not so fancy. I simply used water and cinnamon sugar. The cinnamon flavor adds a lot to this drink, I even sprinkled some right into the drink. Like mimosas, this drink is a great excuse for morning booze, and perfect for those who don’t like the bubbly.


There are many recipes on the site that I didn’t try, including recipes for cupcakes, pancakespumpkin pie, and whoopie pies, all made with Pumpkinhead. There is even a recipe for “Pumpkin Pie Ala Mode,” Shipyard’s take on an ice cream float.

Bottoms up!

*Cognac Cider Spritzer-Mix 12oz hard cider, preferably cranberry flavor like Ricker’s Mainiac Gold with Cranberry or Downeast Cranberry Cider, (or use a regular hard cider, with a splash of cranberry juice), with a shot of cognac (I use Hennessy), and a couple dashes of bitters (I used orange)

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Deep Thoughts over Deep Fried Dough (and beer)

The state of Maine boasts almost 30 agricultural fairs that offer a variety of attractions that include, but are not limited to livestock exhibits, giant pumpkin contests, animal and mechanical pulling competitions, craft displays, antique car shows, monster truck rallies, demolition derbies and my personal favorite, harness racing.


Live folk and country music is heard throughout the fairground, harmonizing with the cheerful children’s screams from the rickety amusement rides.

The Cumberland County Fair has it all, with something to offer to everyone.


Food trucks congregate to present the masses with an array of options. You can enjoy smoky barbecue pulled pork sandwiches from an independent Portland restaurant, poutine, the tasty treat that has ventured South from our neighbors in Canada, and just about anything you can imagine deep fried; from the classic fried dough, to more adventurous eats like fried pickles, green tomatoes, mushrooms, Oreos, or Twinkies.

IMG_0413 (1).jpg

Stands supply refreshments like lemonade, small-batch soda, birch beer (a New England specialty), and in the case of the Cumberland County Fair, beer and wine.

Nestled in the grandstand of the racetrack you can find a bar, and during the last week, you could find me standing behind it. Typically, I am the ordering side but was given  the opportunity to sell and serve beer during the fair by my hospitality marketing professor, (the same that has set up this blog).


It is my intention, through this blog, to share with you, my adventures trying Maine-made beverages, visiting the places where they are made, and the knowledge I gain along the way. My experience at the fair raised many thoughts and questions about beer, all of which I hope to explore on this journey.

For this reason, behind-the-bar was a great place to begin.


On my first day, I entered the bar to find my professor talking with an older man named *Jack.

Jack was the “bookie” (betting tender)  that was lucky enough to escape the long, monotonous betting counter to set up shop right in the bar.

Upon meeting him I could’ve guess that he had been doing this for many decades, and later found out that he had been a bookie all over the state for more than 40 years.


A man, who had the look of everybody’s innocent grandpa was explaining to the easiest ways to swindle the bettors out of a buck or two. You may think he sounds like a crook, but this seemingly apparent judgment didn’t cross my mind.

I was just glad that he shared it with me. I immediately felt welcome into the fair family.The days started slowly, with just a few burly men reading the racing catalog, slowly sipping as they measured each horses’ odds. Some of the horses were warming up, pacing around the race track. The men would look up as they passed, check their number and return to their catalog.


The race bugle sounded and the crowds poured into the grandstand.

Between the races, people would come in the place a bet with Jack, and stop by the bar for a beer. Every now and again, I would wander over to Jack’s register to ask his advice and put $2 on a horse.

It rarely paid off.

On the last day when I won $30.


*Mark, a member of the fair’s board, would stop every day during the races. He would gossip about the daily happenings of the fair, have a beer or two, put a couple dollars on the horses, and then chat it up some more.

We offered four beers and one hard cider on draft; Miller Lite, Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR), Sam Adam’s, OctoberFest, Sebago Brewing’s, Bonfire Rye, and Angry Orchard.

We had cans of twisted teas, and three wines; which despite their variety were called upon by their dumbed-down, almost slanderous, names of “red,” “rose,” and “white.”  Occasionally a patron would ask for “the chard,” a common nickname for Chardonnay that still doesn’t properly convey a respect for the wine.


But this was not a lavish tasting bar.

Our drinks were served in plastic cups that rank somewhere between Dixie and Solo.

This doesn’t mean that the drinks went unenjoyed or undervalued. Being situated at the racetrack, where parents retreat from their children and gamblers try their luck on the horses, the beer kept flowing.


The favorites were Miller Lite and PBR. At first, I assigned this to the cost being $2 dollars less than the Bonfire Rye or the Octoberfest.

However, occasionally I would hear a phrase uttered like, “well if I’m spending the money ($4, mind you) I might as well get a nice draft…Give me a PBR.”

Now I don’t have anything against domestic, big-name beers (maybe I do), but I consider PBR to be a quantity beer, not a quality beer.


This had me thinking about perspectives on beer quality. Of course, not everybody likes the same beer varieties or flavors, and many (questionably foolish) people don’t like beer at all.

Where is this taste preference born?

Is it solely determined by our taste buds, or are there social and environmental factors that affect our opinion of a quality beer?


The Cumberland County Fair, which sits equidistant from both rural forest and farmland, and Portland, a moderately “hip” metropolitan area, attracts crowds from both walks of life.

The contrast and diversity of fair attendees were paralleled by their drink orders. Those who apparently came from the city were far more likely to order the Octoberfest or the Bonfire Rye, while the apparent “farm folk” who ordered it were often dissatisfied, and then chose to stick with the lite.

Why was this?

Do us city-dwellers have a greater appreciation for craft beers, or are we riding a social trend of holding them in high regard?

What makes a somebody dislike a beer?

And more importantly, what makes a beer (or wine) good?

These are all questions I aim to answer on my adventure to better my appreciation and knowledge of Maine-made beverages.

*Names were changed to protect identities

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The Quest to Quench


My name is Alysa, and I have a natural and seemingly unquenchable, thirst.

A thirst for knowledge, adventure, and beer.

I am devoting the next 3 months to exploring beautiful Maine and the plethora of  beverages she has to offer. I will venture to breweries, cideries, and tasting rooms. I will conquer the questions I have about what makes these nectars oh, so sweet. I would be honored if you’d join me on this quest to quench.

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