October 25, 2012

Travelin' Maine(rs): One great city, two great brewpubs

George and Linda Smith


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IF YOU GO . . .

Sea Dog Brewing Co.
WHERE: 26 Front St.
ON THE WEB: www.seadogbrewing.com
PHONE: 947-8009
HOURS: Open 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. seven days a week.

Geaghan’s Pub

WHERE: 570 Main St.
ON THE WEB: www.geaghanspub.com
PHONE: 945-3730
HOURS: Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week.

Fireside Inn
WHERE: 570 Main St.
PHONE: 942-1234
RESERVATIONS:  877-934-7374

Bangor’s Fireside Inn, right across the street from the new convention center and next door to Hollywood Slots, continues to amaze us. The Lafayette’s took a small neglected motel, upgraded it and crammed a whole bunch of comfort into each room.

If I tell you we loved the massage chair, would you think us decadent? After a long day at the festival, that vibrating chair was awesome!

I also liked the gas fireplace, fridge and microwave, great lighting over the sink, separate rooms for toilet and shower. Huge comfortable bed. Air conditioning. Artwork. Large mirrors. Table for our computers and writing, with comfortable side chairs. Lots of bureau space. A daily newspaper outside our door in the morning. And a good breakfast of bagels, juice and coffee.

Jo Anne, the personable manager, greeted us at the front desk and took care of everything we needed during the weekend. We were able to park our car and walk to the festival and the Sea Dog. And the walk to Geaghan’s Pub was even shorter. It is attached to the inn! — George

While Portland grabs the headlines for foodies nationwide, Bangor's our kind of place, with savvy civic leaders, a great waterfront on the Penobscot River, awesome events like the American Folk Festival and (soon) a new convention center.

Our home-away-from-home there is the Fireside Inn, owned by Bangor's Lafayette family, hospitable hoteliers who offer superb service and comfort in their three dozen hotels and inns.

And two of our favorite Maine pubs are in Bangor, assuring us of some mighty fine food and brews. In fact, though they are known for their great beer, the Sea Dog Brewing Co. and Geaghan's Pub have surprisingly creative food. And it's the food that keeps bringing us back.

During this year's American Folk Festival in August, despite the fact the festival features many good food vendors, we took our meals at the Sea Dog and Geaghan's.

The Sea Dog, downtown alongside the river, provides plenty of seating in its nicely decorated bar and dining room -- but we usually opt to sit on the outside deck overlooking the river when the weather is good. On this particular day, it was so hot outside that we opted for the air-conditioned dining room.

This location brews its own beer, and I enjoy the darker brews, especially their stout. You know they take beer seriously when you look at the menu, which includes an entire page explaining the features from aroma to "mouth feel." All I can tell you is the stout felt good to me!

The Sea Dog does offer all the traditional pub fare, from burgers to fish, and also provides a surprisingly large menu of more creative dishes -- even lasagna -- and lobster for the tourists. Their sides range from Maine potato chips to mac'n'cheese and swiss chard.

Starters are especially interesting, including Korean BBQ beef soft tacos, Risotto Ancini, Lobster Rangoon, veggie nachos and a Triple Mediterranean Plate.

I happen to love their Beer Burger, pan-braised with Sea Dog Blonde Ale and topped with beer cheese, beer-braised onions, tomato, lettuce and Sea Dog (of course!) mustard made by our favorite mustard makers, Kevin and Karen Raye in Eastport.

My Beer Burger was, as usual, perfectly cooked (pink in the middle), on a wonderful bun, with crispy fries -- just the way we like them. After taking a few photos, I dug in. The large burger is difficult to eat, but I slobbered my way through it. And given that we were walking a lot that weekend, I ordered a pale ale to go with it.

As our plates were cleared from the table, we were very full, enjoying the river flowing by, noting the customers still pouring in. And then we stepped right outside to the music festival, for some Columbian music. That woke us up!

After a hot afternoon at the festival, during which Linda made me dance to a salsa band until I swore I was going to require knee surgery, we hiked back to our air-conditioned room at the Fireside Inn for cold showers, a rest and dinner at Geaghan's Pub.

Peter Geaghan gave us a tour of their new brewery, so popular that they've already added another tank a year ahead of schedule. They've got state-of-the-art technology and an award-winning brew master from San Diego who married a Maine girl wanting to return home. Lucky for us!

Most of their exceptional beers are sold in the pub, but you can purchase them in both half and full growlers. Linda bought a half growler of Presque Isle Honey Blond Ale -- a first for her! It's sitting in our fridge now, awaiting a special occasion.

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