It’s no secret at this point; I love Maine. Portland specifically. My wife and I ended up there for the first time quite randomly. We created a five hour drive radius from NYC and said “where should we go?” Portland was chosen and we headed northeast with no real expectations. That was three years and half a dozen or so trips ago. We can’t stop going back. I’ve been lucky enough to write about and photograph some of Portland’s great brewing scene (Allagash, Bissell Brothers) and have spent enough time there to establish a handful of favorite things to do while in town (More & Co. for shopping, Tandem for malt iced coffee and those ridiculously good cheddar jalapeño biscuits). So when Allagash invited me up to spend an afternoon with them, it didn’t take much convincing.
A Week In Maine was an effort to highlight many of the things Allagash loves about their state. From tasting cheese at Winter Hill Farm to baking blueberry galettes at Standard Baking Company, Allagash was intent on showing some of the many things that make Maine amazing.
We’re up early on Friday and meet up with Mat Trogner at Tandem Coffee. And yes, I got the malted iced. Mat’s the guy behind the consistently beautiful imagery that Allagash features on their Instagram feed. I’ve often said their feed is what I aspire mine to be—vibrant, well-edited, and most importantly, tells the larger story of Maine, beyond the walls of the brewery. You’re just as likely to see an image of waves crashing on a rocky coast as you are their latest release and I totally appreciate that. Mat and I first met while I was up working on their story. We connected over photography and have remained friends since.
We meet the convoy just off of I-295, fill up a couple coolers with all the White and Hoppy Table Beer you could want, then begin the trek three hours northeast to Mt. Desert Island.
Our first boat awaits at Great Harbor Marina. We climb aboard then carve our way to the Cranberry Isles, a bottle of Allagash in each hand and cheers all around. Reaching Little Cranberry Isle takes half an hour or so. Drifting up to the dock, we see Bruce and his lobster boat waiting for us. We climb aboard and in no time, he’s pulling up lobster traps. A dozen or so are pulled, all while Bruce teaches us about lobster size requirements, tossing back those he can’t keep. We learn about the notches (called a V-notch) they cut into the flipper of egg-bearing females to protect them from harvest. Almost on cue, one gets hoisted into the boat. A brief examination of her underside, packed with thousands of eggs, and she’s promptly tossed back into the water. As we get more comfortable, a few of us take a stab at using special tongs to slip rubber bands onto the giant claws.
Once ashore, we ride on a flatbed truck to Bruce’s house for the lobster bake. Built in 1906, its gray, shingle-sided exterior is appropriately weather-worn for an island home. Blueberries, raspberries and even chanterelle mushrooms grow in the yard. At the back are tall pines and a rocky shore. Bruce creates a fire among the rocks while tables and chairs are set up in the yard. Our plates are soon filled with lobster, cornbread, macaroni salad and fresh blueberry bars. Some sit in lawn chairs, others on the soft grass.
The return ferry’s departure time approaches so we all thank Bruce and his family for their hospitality, then climb onto the back of the same flatbed truck. Phones are whipped out and videos are recorded as our lunch site disappears in the distance, obscured by the trees that flank the dirt road leading away from the house. We all enjoy a beer on the ride back and I reflect on a pretty magical day. Yes Allagash makes beer, but that also make Maine feel like a place that shouldn’t be missed.