Best Brew Pubs in Portland

10 Best Maine Brew Pubs Strive For Ale Excellence

Maine's brew pubs can be found throughout the state. In the Portland area, brew pubs have long been key to the city's focus on individual craftsmanship. This is most evident in pubs such as Gritty McDuff's Brewpub and Restaurant, the Sebago Brewing Company, and Seadog Brewing Company. These establishments have stood the test of time with ale presentations that define high standards of brewing expertise. Just outside of the city, locations such as Run of the Mill Public House and Brewery in Saco and Federal Jack's in Kennebunk have introduced suburbanites to the true pleasures of craft ales. Further afield, Portsmouth Brewery in nearby Portsmouth, NH ( regularly offering a wide selection of fresh drafts that have secured their strong reputation within the brewers' craft. In recent years, the mountains of western Maine have earned high marks for brew pubs that are strong on quality and taste including the Kennebec River Brewery, the Sunday River Brewing Company, and the Liberal Cup Public House and Brewery. Each of these establishments have offered their own unique twist on the brew pub trend with delicious menu offerings ranging from steaks to salads. Several also have heightened their "go to" destination reputations with live music featuring the best in top name talents.


Sea Dog Brewing Company specializes in craft ales brewed in the classic English tradition. This process is made possible through ingredients such as English two row malted barley and British premier fermenting Ringwood yeast. The result are ales which are rich, full bodied and full of flavor. Top sellers include its Old Gollywobbler Brown Ale with emphasis on a malty flavor with just a hint of hops; Owls Head Light Ale featuring a crisp, light consistency with a crisp finish; and Sea Dog Pale Ale, an English-style classic pale ale with a coppery color and welcome nutty finish. Along with its wide beer draft beer selection, Sea Dog features a diverse menu with dishes ranging from Haddock Tortilla to Green Chili Burger and Black Bean Chili. Families take note: their Kid's menu is nearly as extensive. Other locations are in Topsham and Bangor, Maine.

Local Expert tip: Check out Sea Dog's nightly dinner specials, just ask your waitress or waiter!

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Federal Jack's
Photo courtesy of Federal Jack's

For more than two decades, Federal Jack's has been a mecca for beer lovers in southern Maine. This expansive pub serves up some of the finest beers, brewed fresh on the premises, to be found anywhere in the Pine Tree State. There are also special ales offered on a seasonal basis, as well as regular classics offered on tap. Federal Jack's also lives up to its motto: "Brews with a View" quite nicely. Overlooking the Kennebunk River, this tavern offers the double pleasure of sipping quality beer while enjoying the view of one of Maine's classic waterways. The tavern itself was built in the same area that once hosted Kennebunk's many classic ship builders of the 1800s. As with many brew pubs, Federal Jack's also features finely developed food with emphasis on locally sourced ingredients. Menu standouts include Pan Seared Atlantic Scallops, Southwest Bison Burger, and Lobster Ravioli Baked Mac and Cheese.

Local Expert tip: Be sure to sample Federal Jack's seasonal ales – always a treat!

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Located just outside of Augusta, about an hour's drive from Portland, the Liberal Cup Public House and Brewery has become a magnet for craft beer and entertainment fans in the western Maine mountains. This pub features a warm, inviting atmosphere with plenty of charm. Patrons enjoy sitting back with their favorite craft ale – brewed right at Liberal Cup – as they enjoy listening to performances by top local musical talent. The craft beer menu features full bodied, tasty, and satisfying ales with such names as Bug Lager, State Budget Red Ale (a nod to nearby Augusta, the state capitol); Sow Your Oats Stout, Drummer's Lane Brown Ale and Ex-Wife Bitter. The menu feature above average pub dishes including steaks, seafood, and creative salads. Well worth the trip for those touring the wilds of western Maine.

Local Expert tip: Be sure to visit their website for a full listing of nightly entertainment.

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There is nothing quite as satisfying as a delicious craft ale after a day on the slopes. Those seeking such pleasures have long turned to Sunday River Brew Pub in nearby Bethel, Maine. The pub is associated with Sunday River, one of Maine's premier downhill skiing destinations which, recently, added a top notch Nordic skiing center. In the off season, when visitors cruise along on or off road trails on bicycles or hike local mountains, Sunday River Brew Pub offers an outstanding line of brewed on the premises drafts. Favorites include Sunday River Blonde, a light, refreshing ale with a delicate hop and malt aroma (great for summer visitors to the area); Sunday River IPA, a traditional India Pale Ale with medium body and a strong hop flavor; Black Bear Porter, a hearty stout with strong coffee undertones. The menu features sandwiches, pizza, Mexican dishes, salads and other classic pub fare.

Local Expert tip: Be sure to check out their beer specials during the winter skiing season!

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The Great Lost Bear
Photo courtesy of Great Lost Bear

With its "bear theme," The Great Lost Bear has become a kitschy, fun destination for craft ale fans and families alike since its opening in 1979. While beer is not brewed on premises, this restaurant features an impressive selection of ales – both in bottles and on tap – from local brewers including Sebago Brewing Company, Shipyard Ales, Gritty McDuff's, Smuttynose, and Allagash. The Great Lost Bear hosts special tastings that feature individual brew makers such as its Gritty McDuff's Halloween Ale Party – a seasonal highlight. When not sampling your favorite ale, this brew pub offers a diverse menu from spicy to hearty including burgers, steaks, chicken and seafood. Their vegetarian menu (a rarity among such establishments) is a welcome change of pace. Be sure to check out the many bear knick knacks from key chains to, of course, teddy bears.

Local Expert tip: Be sure to check out their website for tasty dinner specials.

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You know a brew pub is serious about its product when its website features a complete tutorial on brewing craft ales. Such is the case with Sebago Brewing Company, with locations in Gorham, Scarborough, Kennebunk and Portland. One of the original brew pubs in Maine, Sebago offers a fine, tasty line of made on the premises beers. Among ale highlights are Frye's Leap IPA, a beer with a light coppery color with strong hop flavor and aroma and a medium finish; Boathouse Brown Ale with a sweet malty flavor and smooth, clean finish; and Lake Trout Stout, a rich, heavy porter with a welcome roasted barley taste. This brew pub's menu compliments its fine drafts with hearty, rich menu fare that includes Lobster and Bacon Mac and Cheese, Pesto Linguini, and Rosemary Chicken.

Local Expert tip: Be sure to check out Sebago Brewing Company's tasty line of seasonal beers, as well.

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Opened in 1988, Gritty McDuff's goes to great lengths to create a hometown pub type of atmosphere within its rich wood and brick interior. It's location in Portland's popular and historic Old Port district means a welcome diversity of patrons – from tourists to downtown business types and families. Of course, the true measure of any brew pub is the beer. Here, Gritty McDuff far exceed expectations with offerings that reflect true craftsmanship. Among their most popular ales are Maine's Best IPA with its complementary blend of American hops and English two row pale malts; Best Bitter featuring rare East Kent hop flowers for a welcome sharpness in texture; and the always popular Red Claws Ale, a local favorite, with its round maltiness and nutty and roasted accents. The pub's menu is traditional fare with burgers, sandwiches and seafood but tasty with generous portions.

Local Expert tip: Check out Gritty's sampler to find your favorite ales.

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The Run of the Mill in Saco has long combined historic ambiance with a relaxed, casual pub feel. Operating within one of the many restored mills that were once a mainstay of the Saco and Biddeford economy, The Run of the Mill Public House and Brewery features solid woods, aged brick and expansive surroundings that harken back to a simpler and more gracious era. The focus of this eatery is its 14 barrel brewery which serves up truly delicious craft beers made right on the premises. The care and attention given to choosing and utilizing the choicest hops and malts is very evident here. Accompanying these craft ales is a diverse menu of simple but tasty pub fare that includes dishes such as pot roast, seafood alfredo and pot roast. The recent addition of live music has made this iconic eatery a true presence on the Southern Maine nightlife scene.

Local Expert tip: Be sure to check out their website for nightly entertainment offerings.

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Portsmouth Brewery
Photo courtesy of Portsmouth Brewery

Within the past ten years, Maine and neighboring New Hampshire have become highly popular destinations for microbrew pubs. Perhaps it has something to do with wanting a "cold one" following a day of aggressive mountain hiking, biking or downhill skiing? One of the top microbrew eateries in the greater Portland area is the Portsmouth Brewery, located less than two hours south of Portland in nearby Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Portsmouth Brewery has become a legend with fans of craft beer-making. It's top ales include the Finest Kind Pale Ale featuring a sharp hoppy flavor; the sweet Hoffman Weiss with its hints of coriander and lemon (popular with summer beer drinkers); and the dark and rich Porter. The menu earns rave reviews with tantalizing dishes including Spicy Black Bean Soup, Fresh Sardines with Tomato Caper Sauce, Flaky Bratwurst Rolls, and Duck Vindaloo. The staff deservedly receive high marks for their friendly, welcoming attitudes. Like many brew pubs, the Portsmouth Brewery promotes a comfortable, inviting atmosphere for families. Quite often, mom and dad can be seen sipping ales while the youngsters dig into generous servings from the menu. For those seeking a superior combination of beer and food, Portsmouth Brewery is worth the trip.

Local Expert tip: Check out their website for dinner and beer specials.

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Associated with The Forks Resort Center, a popular white water rafting destination in north central Maine, the Kennebec River Brewery does a great job as a stand alone brew pub operation. Indeed, this brewery has gained a loyal following in recent years and not just among white water rafting enthusiasts. The beer is the real star of this establishment. Among the highlights are Whitewater Wheat, a light bodied white ale with hints of orange and coriander – great for the summer season; Honey Badger Ale with a rye malt for a tasty dryness and a honey after taste; and Deer-In-The-Head Lite which is reminiscent of traditional American lagers. The menu wonderfully complements ale offerings with delicious tasty dishes including char-grilled New York Sirloin, pan seared Atlantic Salmon, and Baked Haddock with lemon dill cream sauce.

Local Expert tip: Kennebec River Brewery also has a fine selection of seasonal ales well worthy sampling.

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