Portland - Here for the Beer!






When you have been sharing "snobby" beers in a parking lot, at least once a month, for over five years, maybe, just maybe, it's time to take the consumption on the road   But where to go?  San Diego?  Portland, OR?  Denver, CO? Clearwater, FL?  Brooklyn?  Well, you've seen the title.  Portland, Maine has affordable air fare, temperate climate, and it doesn't take an entire day to get there.   And, it happens to be blessed with ample breweries that are densely located, most of which are suitable for either walking from one to another or via an Uber ride.   Because, unlike our moderated approach to our tastings (and a lawful drive home), we'd like the opportunity to have more than a "taste."

Friday:

In this case, pictures tell a better story.  First, if you go Portland, you have to stop at the iconic lighthouse, whether you're there for a day or for three (as we were).  Photo op: Check.

Portland Head Light House
And then to the beer.  Our overly dedicated organizer was in the vicinity the night before the rest of us showed up and checked out a beer store, just... because?  So we stroll the lighthouse, hop in the car, plot our course and... what should you do before visiting a brewery to drink beer? 

The Tempter
Despite having a fairly aggressive plan for visiting breweries, sure.  We'll drink your King Sue (Toppling Goliath brewery, 4.6 Beer Advocate world class rating) while you drive.  Thanks!

It's a beer rarely observed in the wild.
And with that, we're off on a 40 minute or so drive to Freeport, the outlier of our intended breweries.  This had been planned as a Sunday stop, a high point before heading to the airport.  But, a half marathon was scheduled on Saturday, and the brewery happened to have another rarely observed beer on tap.  We decided to beat the crowd, just in case...



Maine Beer is a beautiful brewery, from it's see-thru wall to the production area, to the open seating arrangement and general design and finish quality. 

Positive vibes, but altruism ends with their product.  And the pretzels are extra.
And here is what we came for.  DINNER!  Maine Beer distributes all the way to Georgia, and we've had some of their offerings, like Lunch.  But Dinner...  and Second Dinner?  It turns out we were visiting on the heels of the brewery's 10th anniversary, and thus they were celebrating in both varieties of beers and quantity.


There weren't any leftovers, but Dinner does belong in the fridge.  


...especially when you can take it home


And there you have it, brewery #1 for the day and the trip!

A quick stop at the hotel to drop out luggage offered the opportunity to enjoy yet another canned beer before heading to a brewery.  Oh, the irony.  This one was picked up en route in MA, and, like King Sue, merited the indulgence. This was a single can of Gggreennn! by Tree House to be split between the four of us  This is a rarely produced, incredibly drinkable New England IPA.  Grreennn! has a well deserved 4.59 rating that brings our group within four beers of having tasted the Top 20 beers from Mass.  In context, Georgia has only one beer with a rating that would crack that list.  Ok, I'm bragging.  But we have goals.

Gggreennn!
Before we dumped the rental car, we headed to Bissell Brothers Brewing, another standout brewery that was not compactly located with the rest of our intended victims. Bissell's selection didn't include their best offerings, Swish and Nothing Gold, but that's okay. The Substance, Preserve & Protect, Industry vs. Inferiority, Waveform, and Lux, and although all were IPAs, they had varying flavors and, notably, aren't sold outside of Maine. Which is another reason to go to Maine. Not to be forgotten, Locally Sauced, a co-located restaurant, offered tasty tacos, needed not just for nutrition but as a base for the evening ahead.


#2 Bissell Brothers Brewing 
Brewery #2 complete.

Next up was Goodfire Brewing, a smaller brewery with one beer we had before, leaving CMYK IPA as their featured offering.  Solid.


#3 - Goodfire Brewing 
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.


This sign could be placed anywhere in Portland and still be accurate.  It happened to be located on the opposite side of the building we were in, pointing to Lone Pine Brewing.  You see how it is.  No need for a car!

Flights should fly?
We tried Fidlar, Brightside IPA, the Summer Stout, the Raspberry Sparkler Sour, and possibly others.
#4 Lone Pine Brewing

At this point, it's getting a little late, and we arrive at Oxbow, considered "hipster" or "cool" depending on your viewpoint.  Oxbow tends to go "wild" - i.e., beers brewed with interesting yeasts that lend a flavor towards the sour, but not quite, termed here "farmhouse ales."  Freestyle 45, Barrel Aged Farmhouse Pale Ale, Lost Lands: Black Nile Barley, Pastoral Wild Ale and possibly others fell victim to our invasion.


Oxbow wasn't a favorite for our IPA-leaning crew, but they something different is always good to try.

#5 Oxbow Brewing
Well, Friday night is a wrap!

Not.  So we're off to Novare Res Bier Cafe ("to start a revolution"), a popular bar with a broad offering of beers, conveniently located between where we were and where we were going, our hotel.  No?  Oh, well.  Portland is pedestrian friendly.  0.9 mile is nothing when you're motivated.  It's a happening place, with a crowded basement bar area, plentiful taps, a variety of offerings that reaches outside of Maine, and a deck area tucked behind U shaped buildings that front to the main streets.


Well, three of us are still smiling.  
Ironically, Bissell's Nothing Gold, which wasn't offered at the brewery, was available on draft here.  That was a worthwhile score.  As was the bed a short walk later.

Saturday:

A new day!  And when everyone is finally up and moving, it's time for food.

Food, I said!

It wasn't really time for a pint, but The Thirsty Pig, a restaurant featuring homemade sausages adorned in a variety of toppings, also features local beer and guest taps from out-of-state.  So, fine.  Let's start the day with Hop Showers, from Brooklyn's renowned Other Half Brewing.  It's hard not to find a good beer in this town...

Now properly fortified and to varying degrees, hydrated, our Uber driver Adam, an insurance guy working on the side for no pay, picked us up in his mom's car to take us about 15 minutes away to a Industry Way where five breweries are located.  

First stop, Allagash, a widely distributed brewery known for their Belgian styled beers. They had a healthy list of beers on tap, and we tried at least eight of them, taking our time because, hey, there's no rush.  Our Uber driver even joined in.



Just kidding folks. He's actually works for our company at another office, and he happened to have planned a family visit the same weekend.  I think we thanked him with a beer?  Or will?

Coolship Resurgam was a favorite, termed a Belgian Gueuze style beer, or, a blend of one-, two-, and three-year old spontaneously fermented beer (the yeast comes from the air rather than a cultivated and preserved strain), which is then transferred to French oak wine barrels for six months of fermentation.  A Chicago Tribune reviewer notes it is "an old school oddity: fruity, musty, tart, dry and eminently worthy of its comparison to a horse blanket." And he meant it as a compliment, noting it was named 16th among the "most important American craft beers ever brewed" in a snobby dining magazine.  Well, I never would have tried a horse blanket, and Allagash doesn't hint at that either, describing it as having "aromas of apricot, lemon zest, and candied fruit."  That's not how I remember the smell of anything horse related.  In any case, it's perhaps an acquired taste, but I ended up liking it quite a bit.  We went back for seconds at the end of our visit in the area, while waiting for a legit Uber driver.

Honestly don't recall which beer this is.
Finding someone to take our group pictures might be considered a sport by one some.  At Allagash, we found someone willing to indulge us, so, yeah, two pictures by different brewery signs.


Not an Uber photo.

#6 - Allagash.  An Uber photo.
After an exhausting walk of 70 yards, we arrive at Definitive Brewing.  We sampled at least eight beers here, with a surprising personal favorite, Portals (Mango & Vanilla) - a sour!  Allagash might be corrupting me.

#7 Definitive Brewing
Our next brewery was only 50 yards away.  It's almost one-stop shopping.


The breweries here vary in size, and it seems to be an incubator of sorts as breweries start small and move up to a larger space vacated as others outgrow them.  First up is Foundation Brewing.  Here's a ubiquitous brewery photo of tanks and such.


And, there goes at least another six beers sampled.  The surprise hit here was Raspberry's My Jam, a fruit beer.


Obligatory group photo, by an obliging group of women who were eager for our table.

#8 Foundation Brewing Company
Dogs.  Attention magnets north, south, east and west.

Two tenants away is Battery Steele Brewing.  Here we tried another handful of beers, the best perhaps being Flume^3 Triple IPA.


#9 Battery Steele
Austin Street Brewing resides on the rear side of the building.  Nothing remarkable, but the ladies had been following us to each stop, taking our photo at each.


#10 Austin St. Brewery
And having contributed to our documentary, they insisted on being included in it.  Fair enough.
Clemson shirts may have a gravitational pull
Well, that's a day, right?  Only, we're not done.  Off we Uber to Rising Tide Brewing, the only brewery where we failed to get a group photo.  But we were there.  Trust me.  Nice logo.

#11 Rising Tide Brewing
Despite appearances, we didn't drink to excess.  That said, with Friday in the rear view mirror, we were perhaps more mindful to stay lubricated, drinking water often along the way.  (Pro tip!)  Still, at some point, it's dinner time, and when in Portland, eat seafood.  We did.  

The night wasn't young by that point, but it wasn't old, either.  So, we went back to Novare Res for a relaxed late evening in Portland's 65oF-ish degree weather.  Perfect, really.



Kind of ghostly...
We'll call that a night.

Sunday:

Another beautiful day and a good time to walk around downtown while others were either exercising, sleeping, or not getting up.  (Photos forthcoming in my next post).  Having already been to Maine Beer (our original Sunday plan) and having made faster than expected progress on our list of intended breweries, we found ourselves with time for more.

We hired a water-taxi for a 10 or 15 minute ride across the harbor to South Portland to visit Foulmouthed Brewing.

Portland, ME

With a name like that, you hope it's the language and not the aftertaste, right? What might have been a dark, grimy, graffiti covered fish house turned out to be surprisingly nice, of the "I'd go again for both food and beer" variety.  

Extra points for tap handle fixtures

At the lunch hour, it was more a restaurant, with a limited menu of gastropub fare.  I happily went for perhaps what others might consider their weakest link.  Don't judge me.

Corn Dog.  Yes.

Flights all around, plz.

#12 - Foulmouthed Brewing
As we had a late afternoon flight, we had time for an Uber to go back downtown and the capacity for one... more... brewery, Liquid Riot. This was more of a brewpub, scaled to a nice size with a deck overlooking the water, but, compared to the rest of our stops, a non-contender for beer.

#13 (unlucky?) - Liquid Riot Bottling Co.
At the airport, a Shipyard Brewing restaurant was really the only good option for dinner, so... one more beer.  It wasn't worth it, and, frankly, we didn't expect it to be.

As a final note, Portland, ME has a population of 66,000.  It therefore ranks #1 in breweries per capita.  Sorry, Portland, OR and Asheville, NC.  Oh, and metro Atlanta?  Step up your game!



Join Tracks on iTunes

One thing that has perplexed me over time is how to join songs in iTunes so that they always play together when I’m listening in “Shuffle Mode.”   For example, most of the second half of the Beatles’ Abbey Road is a medley, but when shuffled, each song stops abruptly before the next random song is played.  This is often abrupt, as the songs include transitions that are part of each song.  It's just not good listening.

  • Queen's "We are the Champions" without "We Will Rock You?"  
  • Beatles' "Sgt Pepper" without "With a Little Help from my Friends?"
  • Steve Miller's "Jet Airliner" without "Threshold?"  
  • "Space Intro" without "Fly Like an Eagle?"  
  • Van Halen's "You Really Got Me" without "Eruption?" 
  • Pink Floyd's "Brain Damage" without "Eclipse?"  Possible, but so much better together.   

You get the point.

A reasonable user expectation is that you should be able to join the songs within iTunes.  Not finding a solution, one might, as I did, search Google terms that might include "segue," "merge" or eventually "(expletive) iTunes!!!"  The answer is out there, but search options give varied results, and some solutions are for earlier versions of the software.

Here's the key.  Currently, you can't do this after your songs are imported.  The only way to join songs is BEFORE the songs are ripped from a CD or otherwise imported. The instructions below are current as of this date and version 12.9.5.7 of iTunes.  Apple has announced that iTunes will be broken up into a separate musical player, so perhaps other options will be included.

But for now, here's an example.  Alan Parson's "Eye in the Sky" is a good song.  It becomes a great song with the opening instrumental intro"Sirius," is merged with "Eye."

From the import screen, you can see that I've selected certain songs.


Next, highlight the songs that you want to join then click the gear at the upper right.  The drop down box shows "Join CD Tracks."



 After importing, you'll see the link below showing that the two have been merged. 

Just from an awareness point, the two songs have literally been joined into one music file, and iTunes will rename the song(s) accordingly.


The Musical Box–Live at Center Stage

This was my second concert by The Musical Box, the last being a full presentation of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway in 2012. I don’t get excited about seeing cover bands, but if you like music enough, and the original band isn’t around to play it anymore, AND no one else plays their songs, you accept the passing of time and pay tribute by seeing a tribute band.  And, of course, music played in concert, when played well, is very enjoyable regardless of who is kicking the drum or picking the strings. 



The Musical Box is a Genesis cover band – not the 1980’s Phil Collins pop schlock stuff (fine for radio I suppose) but rather the 1969-1975 Peter Gabriel era, equally embarrassing in another way – lyrics that were silly or non-sensical, but to a degree “expected” for prog rock.  In any case, the music was often fantastic, and when you ignore the words and accept Gabriel’s voice as an instrument in the mix, it works just fine.

Interestingly, Wiki notes that The Musical Box is the only tribute band that is “approved” in a sense by the original band, as evidenced by warm comments by original members, an occasional sit-in during performances and the loan of costumes and back screen videos.

Lamb Lies Down on Broadway costuming

A Gabriel era costume by an eager fan
The band started the show with two albums into the Phil Collins-as-vocalist period, when the band was still creating longer form music rather than pop songs.  This tour is called “The Genesis Extravaganza,” stretching the era of the songs to be included and less focused on a specific album.  Lead singer Denis Gagné has a credible Collins voice, but as a starting point, this was “nice to hear” music rather than what the crowd came to hear.  And it was nice to hear.  They then played several songs from a Trick of the Tail, and they were off and running for the remainder of the show.

Sound quality was only average for a Center Stage show, due to an underwhelming audio mix of the lead electric guitar.  As much of their best music involves lengthy solos by keyboards and guitar, this was a big negative in that it could barely be heard if other instruments were playing.  In that regard, the keyboards, bass and drums were amped up – fully enjoyable with the “loudness” one expects in concert.

The Musical Box encore
The band played a number of songs that were surprising choices, “Looking for Someone” (with perfect Gabriel voicing) and “Seven Stones” chief among them, both superbly played.  I would rather have heard more from their earlier work, as Lamb was overly sampled, all things considered.  Other highlights included the Ian Benhamou’s keyboard solos for “The Cinema Show” and “Firth of Fifth,” deserving fan favorites representing the best of what Genesis accomplished musically.  And musically, the band did impress, displaying a versatility beyond their lead instruments.  Overall, a very good show, and I’d see them again when I get the Genesis “itch.”

Kudos!

Setlist:



The Wind’s Tail
  • In That Quiet Earth, Robbery, Assault and Battery, Wot Gorilla? – Wind and Wuthering
  • Blood on the Rooftops – Wind and Wuthering
  • Dance on a Volcano – A Trick of the Tail
  • Entangled – A Trick of the Tail
  • Los Endos – A Trick of the Tail
Broadway Melodies (all songs from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway)
  • Fly on a Windshield
  • Broadway Melody of 1974
  • In the Cage
  • Back in NYC
  • Hairless Heart
  • Counting Out Time
  • The Carpet Crawlers
  • Lilywhite Lilith
  • The Waiting Room
Before the Ordeal
  • A Place to Call My Own – From Genesis to Revelation
  • Time Table – Foxtrot
  • Seven Stones – Nursery Cryme
  • Can-Utility and the Coastliners – Foxtrot
  • Looking for Someone – Trespass
  • Firth of Fifth – Selling England by the Pound
  • After the Ordeal – Selling England by the Pound
  • The Cinema Show / Aisle of Plenty – Selling England by the Pound
Encore
  • The Musical Box – Nursery Cryme