FTS Al Fresco: Novare Res Bier Cafe

Maine has many great things going for it, but among the tops on that list is summertime.  They call it ‘Vacationland’ for a reason, after all…  Summer in Maine means lots of things: beaches; lobsters; lots of recreation on the mountains, lakes, and rivers; and Sea Dogs baseball, among other things.  But here at FTS, one of the things we look forward to doing in summer is getting those steins filled OUTSIDE!
In our FTS Al Fresco series, we’ll take a look, throughout the summer, at some of the best spots to wet your whistle in Maine.
Novare Res Bier Cafe leads the way.  Why, you might ask?  Because it’s my favorite, that’s why.  And who’s writing this column, anyway?  In addition to being wicked close to the office at my day job (yeah, FTS doesn’t pay too well…), the deck at Novare Res is certainly one of my preferred spots in all of New England.’Novare Res’ in Latin means ‘to start a revolution.’  That has all sorts of 1776-type connotations here in the northeast, of course, but owner Eric Michaud really was – and is – at the forefront of the beer movement in Maine (and beyond, frankly).  It’s clear by the beer list that he has the connections and taste to keep pushing us Mainers to keep expanding our palates.
One of the best parts about the Res is that it’s tucked away down an alleyway between Exchange and Union Streets, as part of the Canal Plaza complex.  Unassuming, until you tread down that walkway and up the stairs to your picnic table seat on the deck – that’s when you read the beer list and realize that this place is for real.  Specialty ales from Belgium, Germany, the UK, the US of A, and many more all have a home at Novare Res, with a terrific staff that knows their stuff, too.  (Extra props for being the first place to bring in Pretty Things from Somerville, Mass.  Their Jack d’Or is my favorite beer of all time…  I digress.  And I drool a little, too.)
But you can get good beer just about any place in Portland, you might say.  And you’d be right.
This deck, though…  Life is good on the deck.  A small, quirky outdoor bar, just for the deck, has limited draughts, to cut down on your wait time.  There’s corn hole off to the side, over there (we’ve got next).  The previously-mentioned hideaway nature of the bar’s location is accentuated by the fences and shrubs around the border – it’s the perfect environment for any kind of beer drinking you can think of…  From a bachelor party with a touch of beer snobbery to sitting solo in the sun reading your book (or whatever the kids are Kindle-ing these days), Novare is every patio to everyone.  Just like a good beer garden should be, right?
The one minor drawback is that sometime in the afternoon, the sun will disappear behind the buildings that surround Novare’s beer-deck-fortress.  Now, on those 90-degree August days, that’s just fine.  But when it’s early May, and you’re itching to get in some quality outdoor beer time?  Just be sure to bring a jacket.
The food is great, too, and complements the beer menu nicely.  The entrees are fine, to be sure, though my preference is to spend a whole lot of time out on the deck, sampling beers with the meat and cheese menu.
The FTS Al Fresco rundown:
  • 4 Canal Plaza in Portland.
  • Open at 4PM on weekdays (3PM on Fridays), noon on weekends.
  • Yes, they take plastic.
  • Parking: on-street – metered.  Try Exchange, Middle, and Market Streets first.  If you want a garage, Temple Street and Fore Street are nearby.
  • Great beer, wine, some spirits.
  • Casual vibe.
Thoughts on Novare Res?  Tips on places for us to check out?  (We looooove the research part of this job!)  Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook/Twitter!See you outside – cheers!
Photo courtesy of theguardian.com

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