21 Days. Barely enough time to solidly establish a routine and settle into our summer digs when up came the jacks, in came the slides, and off we went. As you probably guessed from the title we were headed north to the beautiful rocky coast of Maine, one of our favorite states and the land of “lobstahs” and lighthouses. Our ultimate destination would be Schoodic Woods Campground, the quiet side of Acadia National Park. But we would have several stops along the way.
Since it was the Sunday before the kids got out of school, we weren’t overly concerned that we had no reservations for our first night. In checking several of the private campgrounds in the Wells, ME area, we knew that there would be availability so calling last minute wouldn’t be an issue. But we were considering another option. Being Harvest Hosts members, we had found a brewery in Portsmouth, NH which was very convenient our I-95 route.
For a yearly membership fee of $49, members in self-contained RV’s can visit and stay overnight at a winery, farm, brewery, museum and other unique attractions in the Harvest Host network for no charge. In exchange for the free overnight stay, members are asked to make a purchase of wine, produce or some item in their gift shop in support of the host. Saving the cost of one or two nights at a private campground easily pays for the annual membership fee.
Wow not only were the grounds beautifully landscaped at the Cisco Brewers Portsmouth (formerly Red Hook), the huge facility itself was very impressive! When I called prior to our arrival and spoke with Tim, the pub manager, he directed us to hang a left as we entered the parking lot, then head straight back behind the pub where we could park along the grassy area there. Since we were the only RV there, we had plenty of room and a choice of the most level area. Perfect!
And making a purchase? Absolutely no problem! It seems whether it is a Harvest Host location or a tour at a brewery, winery, olive oil producer, date farm or some other place, whatever is advertised as free never turns out to be free for us!
Besides providing us with a place to park overnight, having an early dinner at their restaurant, the Cataqua Public House, named after the Piscataqua River that divides New Hampshire and Maine, was most definitely an option. Plus they offer tours and beer tasting: Monday – Wednesday at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., Thursday – Friday at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. & 5 p.m., Saturday – Sunday: 12pm – 5pm on the hour. Cost of the tour is $10 per person.
(Note: The pub name has since changed due to the recent rebranding from Red Hook Brewery to Brewers Portsmouth Pub.
Since we always love tours especially those that involve the production of a product, taking one here was a must do. Because it was a Sunday, we knew ahead of time that nothing would be happening on the production floor but that was okay we could at least learn about the process and the history plus we would get to taste a few of their signature beers at the end.
Being the only ones on the tour gave us plenty of opportunity to ask a lot of questions so we learned a lot about the 100 employee Seattle based company which expanded here to Portsmouth in 1996, the history of Red Hook and the process they use to make their beers.
At the end of the tour, we got to taste four of their beers – ESB, Longboard, Long Hammer IPA, and Kona Koko Brown (surprisingly is brewed with real toasted coconut). All good but my favorite was the Longboard. BTW, we were told during our tour that Red Hook was about to be officially rebranded as the Cisco Brewers Portsmouth Pub, bringing Cisco Brewers’ Nantucket vibe to life.
Although not very detailed, this video on YouTube of the tour will give you a taste of what it was like. In this video, one of the employees, a UNH graduate talks about his role in the company as a chemist. Pretty interesting!
After the tour, it was time for something to eat. Pretty cool looking pub! During the tour, we were told that much of the the design and structure of the Seattle facility was duplicated here in Portsmouth, saving on the design costs.
At the recommendation of our server, we both had the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich ($12) served with house made pickles, pimento cheese, on a potato roll and with fries. And of course we had to wash the yummy sandwich down with another glass of the Longboard brewski! BTW, the two empty Red Hook glasses in the bottom frame of the picture below were given to us at the end of the tour.
The next morning we continued our journey north to the quaint, harbor village of Camden, a drive of 140 miles, where we had a two night reservation on site #56U at Camden Hills State Park.Over the years, we’ve done this drive a number of times, both in the coach and in our car and it is normally quite lovely especially along Route 1. But alas, on this travel day, the bright blue, sunny sky had been replaced with raindrops, drear and drizzle! Oh, well, I guess even on a wet and gloomy day, Maine is still pretty!
Even on a gloomy day, nothing can beat the taste of a fresh Maine lobster roll! So after settling in to our site, we eagerly headed to Mt. Battie Take Out (boo hoo, this is permanently closed), located just down the road from the State Park. Similar to the ones we bought here in 2015, the rolls were overflowing with fresh lobster meat although the lobster meat didn’t seem quite as fresh this time so we were a tad bit disappointed.Unfortunately the weather didn’t improve much during our brief stay – the drizzle stopped but it was still pretty overcast. But that didn’t dampen our activities! After a breakfast at the Rockport Diner in Rockport, we walked around Camden harbor followed by a car ride up to the top of Mt. Battie to enjoy the panoramic views.
Our friends, Betsy and Nancy (RV-A-GoGo) were staying nearby in an adjacent town. When they called with an invite to their coach followed by a potential lobster feed at a nearby restaurant, we couldn’t resist making the 30 minute trip to their campground to meet them. Great seeing them!
Claws is located in Rockport, which is aptly touted as the Lobster Capital of the World. It is a roadside seafood shack that “is not fine dining, rather it is a seafood shack with fine food” which has won all sorts of awards. Here you order at the window, choose a seat under the expansive covered and heated deck, then pick up your order when your number is called. Nice touch that your number is painted on the back of a fake lobster!
Quite an extensive menu so deciding what to have was difficult. But since supper the night before was a lobster roll, we both ordered the Signature Haddock Sandwich ($11) which according to the menu was “a generous fillet of flaky, tender North Atlantic haddock topped with our secret sauce and broiled. Served on a butter toasted brioche roll with lettuce, tomato, red onion and a side of our home made tartar sauce and a lemon wedge (a bit messy, but worth it!)”. Yes, it was most definitely messy but quite tasty!
The next morning (in the bright sunshine of course), we departed Camden on a two hour drive to Schoodic Woods Campground located on the quiet side of Acadia National Park. Here we would meet up with Betsy and Nancy again as well as some other Entegra friends. More to come…..