The Great Lost Beer #BrewedAwakening

By / Magazine / May 3rd, 2018 / 6

Canada and the USA are now well known as destinations for great beer, but it hasn’t been that way for very long. As recently as 1990 there wasn’t a lot to choose from, particularly in Canada. We had pioneering brewpubs in the early 80s on both coasts: Ginger’s Tavern/Granite Brewery in Halifax in 1985 and Spinnaker’s in 1984 in Victoria (Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay Brewery was actually our first microbrewery, in 1982, but they closed fairly quickly). A few microbreweries opened around the same time, including Brick (1984), Upper Canada (1985), Conners and Wellington County (1985) in Ontario, and several out west, some of which are still going. But it was nothing like today.

The USA was always slightly ahead of Canada, with Anchor (in the 1970s), Sierra Nevada (1980), Grants (1982), and others. In Maine, they were way ahead of their neighbours across the border in New Brunswick, as Geary opened in 1983, and is still going strong. NB’s first modern brewery was in 1988: Hanshaus, a Bavarian lager specialist, but they didn’t last. The next was Fat Tuesday’s brewpub in Moncton, and then Picaroons in 1995. By then Maine was already going strong.

Also going strong was Portland’s now legendary beer bar The Great Lost Bear  which has been a “beer bar” since around 1979. On Forest Street, just outside of the main part of Portland’s downtown, The Great Lost Bear is a pretty big, busy bar. I say bar because it is more of a bar than a pub. It’s not fancy, but it is colourful, with all kinds of stuff on the walls. You can see for yourself by watching their Bear Cam.

It is family friendly, and has a lot of seats and a big menu. It also has a big beer menu, with over 80 taps and loads of bottles. It’s mostly Maine beer, easy to do with the almost 100 breweries in the state these days, but they carry some classics, too, both from other states and international.

We went to The Great Lost Bear last weekend, my first visit. That may seem surprising, but I moved to Ontario in 1987 from Halifax, and, although I was already into good beer via Ginger’s, I was a student, and not driving to Maine for microbrewed beer. Nova Scotians rarely visit Maine; it’s too far away.

I was, however, going to Europe regularly in those days to drink their classics. And, once I was in Ontario, I got caught up in their developing beer scene, and also Quebec’s. We’d also drive to Upstate New York, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan, but not to Maine.

Now that I live in Southern New Brunswick, Maine is just over the border, so we go once in a while, but not nearly as often as to Nova Scotia. While in Maine, I really enjoy the beer, and I was thrilled to finally get to The Great Lost Bear.

The author enjoying a Patina Pale Ale at The Great Lost Bear

It’s a great place, an iconic bar that deserves a visit whenever you are in the area, if you love good beer. I’m glad I finally made it after all these years. So, the first brew I had, the locally made Austin Street Patina Pale Ale, tasted like a great lost beer.


Craig Pinhey discovered good drink circa 1985 at Ginger’s Tavern/Granite Brewery in Halifax and has been writing about beer, wine and spirits for 25 years. A Certified Sommelier and BJCP judge, Craig lives in New Brunswick where he runs his own writing and consulting business and is the beverage columnist for Brunswick News. He is the only person to have judged all of the national wine, spirits and beer awards of Canada.

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