I'm not a drinker really. The occasional glass of wine after work has even disappeared to be replaced with herbal teas I brew and then put by the bed to cool, always left half-forgotten until the morning finds me parched and ready.
But Mainers are proud of their local products and a tourist is obliged to sample the wares of the state.
So John directed me down to Anderson Street in East Bayside. The houses and shops become blips on this side of town giving way to long factories and abandoned buildings.
Tandem Coffee Roasters is crisp and white with the only major adornments seeming to be the polished steel of the old Probat roaster and the sleek La Marzocco espresso machine - shining totems to the coffee deities allowed to shine amid the sterile absence of clutter so prevalent to small, local coffee shops. There is very much a feeling of ritual and worship that attaches itself to the roasting and brewing of coffee and while I don't seem to have the palate or appreciation for coffee that many do, I can still lap up the zen rolling off these carefully poured cups of (yucky) bean water.
Next door is Maine Craft Distillery doing what they call "farm to flask" whiskey production that displays the unique terroir of Maine. If you drop by in the evening for a tasting you can get a tiny shot of each of their brews and ask questions like:
"so there are carrots in this spirit?!"
In addition to sourcing local flavors MCD also sources locally inspired names like their botanical spirit named Chesuncook - the Abenaki word for "where the waters meet," or their spiced rum named QueeQueg named for the famous harpooner of Moby Dick lore.
I dutifully tasted each one searching for "the taste of Maine" before passing the rest of my shot to John who was enjoying his free high.
Next jump another building down and visit the Urban Farm Fermentory or UFF as it's known around town and sidle up to the bar for a locally fermented kombucha. After the kombucha crackdown scare of 2010, many feared their precious bubbles would be lost to the government's foam but UFF is doing just fine for itself years later.
12 taps of kombucha and hard "cidah," as they call it, grace the tasting room swathed in boozy browns and tans and a long wooden bar.
With flavors like Blueberry and Ginger to Chaga Chai and Cascade Hopped, Basil Mead and every variation of cider, it was easy to knock back a half and hour tasting and talking.
Many thanks to my drinking companion for not only finishing all my shots but also introducing me to the little seen side of Portland!