Biddeford, Maine Part 1: Banded Horn Brewing Company
I would have never thought growing up in the midwest I would spend so much time in Maine as an adult. My husband is a Mainer, and a true yankee New Englander as well. While I enjoy being a normal human and greeting neighbors on walks and chatting with others waiting in line at the DMV, my husband does not. At all. Perhaps being ensconced in the intensely frigid world that is Maine 9 months of the year, it encourages one to hole up in their snow battered home, consuming desiccated lobster shells and solely venturing out to get another pair of LL Bean boots and some Moxie. I digress though...Maine is a lovely place. The coastline is absolutely stunning - a rocky seascape plunging into a cobalt ocean that is never warm. (Side note: You can spot a true Mainer as they are the only ones robotically striding into the freezing water, even in August. That water is not palatable, no matter what time of year it is.) Maine’s gorgeousness is best witnessed in fall, when a riotous rainbow of rust and citrine leaves blanket the state. A Maine autumn allows you to revel in all Maine has to offer...from the biking trails of Acadia to the hipster burdened Portland. Portland is one of my absolute favorite cities. Walkable, charming, filled with artists and lobster shanties sidled up next to some of the best restaurants in the country. The food and drink scene in Portland is unreal and worth an entire blog unto itself. As with any town propagated by people who run artisanal marshmallow carts, Portland has out ‘Portlanded’ itself. Brewers and distillers especially are looking outside of Portland proper for cheaper digs and larger spaces to set up shop. Fortunately for me, it happens to be the next town over from where I stay when I visit.
Biddeford, like many New England river towns, was once a thriving mill town which fell on hard times after the factories closed. When I began regularly coming to Maine 10 years ago, it was still a fairly hardscrabble town, which we passed through but didn’t stop in. In the past few years though Biddeford has experienced a rebirth. Surrounded by towns with much higher taxes and rent, Biddeford has become a draw for creators, artisans and priced out of Portland hipsters. The new arrivals have set up stop and Biddeford has become a bonafide stop for delectable food and craft beer. Looming over downtown and the Saco river is the Pepperell Mill campus. Once abandoned, this gorgeously crafted mill building has been reinvigorated by the best types of tenants - a pizzeria, local ice creamery and breweries and distilleries to list a few. It truly is a space to spend an entire afternoon, progressively hopping from one locale to another, imbibing, munching and slurping your way towards food and alcohol coma nirvana. Parking is plentiful, purveyors are are enthusiastic and the atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming to all.
My first stop is usually Banded Horn Brewing Company. Inhabiting a huge space in the mill, Banded Horn pumps out a vast array of great tasting beer. Their space is like a 1980s dream basement: a huge bar, generous amounts of seating, your favorite video games and a Super Nintendo for all of your Mario Kart needs, surrounded by giant tanks of delicious beer. While peanuts, popcorn and small snacks are available, I recommend walking next door for a sandwich or pizza from Portland Pie Company to nosh on. My pizza pick: the Pawtuckaway or the Moosehead, sans mushrooms. When I visited Banded Horn last, 14 beers were on tap, enough to make any type of beer drinker happy. Beers are reasonably priced and available in flights, drafts and some in cans and bottles to go. Immediately the 4 darker beers caught my eye: The Adaira, a wild ale aged in Bourbon and Rye maple syrup barrels, Barrel Aged Mountain Russian imperial stout, Woodsman Reserve, a coffee stout aged in bourbon maple barrels and Koan, a Belgian style ale brewed with figs. If you haven’t figured out, I love stouts and anything aged in a bourbon barrel. Also, figs. I’ve never seen beer with figs. Or much anything with figs. But I’m obsessed with them - anything fig or containing the aroma of fig is a win for me. My dresser is currently burdened with entirely too many fig scented perfumes.
The Adaira was sweet and fruity with a raisin forward flavor, while the finish included a hint of Biscoff and whisky. This was a winner for me. The Woodsman Reserve was fantastic and probably my favorite of the bunch. A forward coffee and almond flavor hits you with a spicy bourbon and coconut finish. I’ve had the regular Jolly Woodsman previously and I prefer the Woodsman Reserve. The Reserve takes the edge of the Woodsman and softens it up. The Barrel Aged Mountain imperial stout was also really well done with a dark dried fruit flavor and notes of vanilla and toffee. For a beer unlike any other, I recommend the Koan. Dark blackberry and plums at the start with a hint of chinese 5 spice. The beer was fairly light and I could have easily whiled away an afternoon guzzling them down. I would have never thought to pair figs with beer but I am so glad someone at Banded Horn did.
Also on the Banded Horn menu were IPAs, double IPAs, pils, lagers, more stouts and even a champagne inspired mixed fermentation ale. Banded Horn brewers are constantly creating new, tasty unique brews to appeal to a wide range of beer aficionados. I stop in everytime I’m in Maine to see what new beer is on the menu and I’m rarely disappointed. Next time you’re headed to Portland, get off a few exits earlier and make your way to Banded Horn for some laid back beers and an old school pinball game. Stay tuned for another post about another one of my favorite breweries and a distillery in the Pepperell Mill Campus in Biddeford...