The Rising Tide of Portland’s Beer Scene

By Amy Tindell

The Portland that’s beloved by those of us on the East Coast is the land of lobsters and chowder (though not necessarily pronounced as spelled), lighthouses, and in more recent years, breweries. The beer scene has grown sufficiently to support an entire Beer Week, complete with running tours, a beer bus, and a scavenger hunt.

I recruited a Portland resident wise in local businesses and politics, and lured a survivor of my springtime NoVa Brewtopia Weekend across the Mason-Dixon line, to join me in this celebration of New England hops and malt concoctions. Upon arrival in Portland, our first move, naturally, was to fortify ourselves with seafood chowder and a lobster roll at Gilbert’s, followed by a delicious dark chocolate & sea salt treat from The Holy Donut. The taps at Gilbert’s incorporate the nautical theme of the chowder house and feature beers made within a 5 mile radius of the city.

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Our bellies prepped, we decided to focus on Rising Tide Brewing Company, open since 2010 and now brewing in the diverse East Bayside neighborhood. The brewery is family-owned and specializes in artisanal ales brewed in small batches, all unfiltered, unpasteurized, and bottle conditioned. Having beaten the brew bus to the bar by mere seconds, we quickly ordered our tasting flights, which included Ishmael, Armada, Daymark, and Ursa Minor.

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Rising Tide identifies Ishmael as an “American Copper Ale,” but some may call it a German-style altbier with American hops. The nose and taste are similar, with caramel, grain, and malt notes, starting off slightly sweet on the tongue and finishing a touch on the bitter side. I found it lighter, in mouthfeel and in flavor, than some altbiers I’ve tried recently. The second taste, Armada, is the brewery’s American Brown Ale, with a strong malt flavor balanced by a bitter finish, and also on the light side in mouthfeel.

Halfway through our flights, we decided to re-fortify with snacks – and to create some distance from the newly arrived running tour – by venturing to the foodtruck parked outside. Rising Tide invites foodtrucks every Saturday to complement its beers, this week featuring El Corazon, which offers locally sourced taquitos, tamales, and burritos. We displayed our best manners, dining with one hand holding the food and the other tossing sandbags.

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Rising Tide’s Daymark, the third brew of our flight, is its flagship American Pale Ale with a rye twist. It pours in hazy golden tones, with scents of flower and citrus hops. The Columbus and Centennial hops add a citrus bite to the flavor as it hits the tongue, but the flavor transforms with the peppery bitterness of the rye. These more aggressive tastes are balanced by earthy malts that add sweetness to the brew. Rising Tide takes pride in sourcing the rye from local farms and malting it at artisanal Valley Malt in Hadley, Massachusetts.

The final taste came in the form of a Weizen Stout called Ursa Minor. The brew appears smooth and black-brown in color, with aromas of dark fruit and roasted malts. The taste also has dark fruit notes, but features in addition coffee, chocolate, and sweet roast flavors, with only a small wheat bite. This Weizen Stout is thinner than you’d expect, but I did not find that to be a bad thing. Ursa Minor was interesting and much more drinkable than I’d anticipated… I’d like to try it again, in fact, because I was distracted during the tasting by the equipment that made it – a custom-built fifteen-barrel brew system that produces about 120 barrels per month.

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Our flights drained, we completed our journey with T-shirts and a few bottles to enjoy later. Happily for Rising Tide, we started a merchandise trend with the bus tour and the running tour – what is beer week about if not spreading the love?

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