Geoff Houghton knows how to run a damn fine brewpub. One need look no further than the Liberal Cup in Hallowell (Geoff’s first place, opened in 2000) to see the great food, beer and atmosphere that a well-run Public House can produce. Geoff hopes to replicate his success at his new location, The Run of the Mill Public House and Brewery in Saco, ME. Although Houghton has had a hand in the brews produced at the Mill so far, he scored Nate Duston, who formerly brewed for Casco Bay Brewery and Bridgeport Brewing in Oregon, as the Saco brewmaster. Oh, and add Carrabassett Brewing to the mix – the equipment used to brew at Run of the Mill came from the Sugarloaf-based brewers. Taking over the 13,000-ft empty mill in Saco, the brewpub borrowed from the rustic aesthetic of the Liberal Cup but took advantage of the much larger space, making a noticeably lighter and roomier dining area and bar. A deck overlooking the neighboring river promises to be a comfortable summer drinking spot.
The Run of the Mill Public House and Brewery is located at 100 Main Street (also known as Route 1) in Saco. The location on Saco Island is a few hundred yards from downtown, and a quick jump from the Biddeford or Saco exits on I-95. The pub is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m, and food is served until 9 on weeknights and 10 on the weekend.
I stopped by Run of the Mill earlier this week to check out the newest player on the Southern Maine brewpub scene. Truth be told, I was mostly enticed by the great deal on a sample paddle – only $5 for a flight of all 7 brews on tap! I’m happy to report that it would be hard to find a weak beer among the ones on tap. For the curious, the brews I tried were (from left to right):
- Alewife Ale: The flagship brew of Run of the Mill, a british-style session ale. Surprisingly hoppy, and pleasantly roasty.
- Bug Lager: My least favorite style among the 7 (think American-style light lager), but brewed perfectly to the style and likely to be a favorite on the deck come summertime. Light and smooth.
- Impact Pale Ale: I’ll be honest, tasted like no IPA I’ve had before. Great Cascade hop nose and flavor, but a super-strong roasted malt flavor came through as well. Tasty!
- Sow Your Oats Stout: Wow! A great, great oatmeal stout. Rich and smoky chocolate malt, and a nice head and lacing which were all the more impressive considering the size of the sample. My favorite of the bunch.
- Chazmo Alt: Interesting alt – beautiful amber color, surprisingly light taste. Smooth as silk, though.
- Smelt Camp Strong: Balanced British ale, with a slight alcohol bite.
- Basement Bitter: A bitter that was cask-conditioned in the basement (hence the name) of the pub. Wonderful aroma, sweet malt taste and a nice hop bitterness in the finish.
Though I gave a lot of lip-service to the beer, it would be a shame not to mention the awesome food. I ordered an “Indian Island Chicken Sandwich” – a grilled chicken breast on a kaiser roll with lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese and applewood bacon. The sandwich and accompanying seasoned fries made for a huge lunch – honestly more than I expected for $8.00. And man-o-man, were they good. The full menu is available on the Run of the Mill myspace page, and NL English reviewed some of the other offerings recently.
Now, I won’t try to make the argument that there aren’t a ton of great brewpubs right here in Portland to separate me from my time and money. Still, the unreplicateable beer list is hard to beat (7 in-house brews on tap, 23 different Run of the Mill beers throughout the year), and the food is well-done and generously portioned. Add to this a very cool list of weekly events – a pub-quiz night on Mondays and live music Thursdays and Sundays. While it is a bit of a trip from my place in Portland, I don’t doubt Run of the Mill will work it’s way into my brewpub rotation. I suggest you make the trip as well.
Oh, if you needed a further excuse to give the brewpub a shot, they are hosting an “exclusive Brewer’s Dinner” on March 29th from 5-8 PM. The dinner will include “6 handcrafted beers and 6 exceptional courses.” Tickets for the event are $49 (including tip). For more information, you can call the pub at 571-9652.