Brewery Name: Bissell Brothers Brewing
Type of Brewery: Retail Brewery
Location: 4 Thompson’s Point, Portland, ME. It’s a little out of the way, and if you think you’ve gone too far, don’t worry. You haven’t. Wind all the way through the Thompson’s Point area until you see a couple of dirt parking lots, and you’re there.
Facebook: Bissell Brothers
Growlers: Nope. In the words of Bissell, "no growlers, ever."
The Beers: Since this was the grand opening of Bissell’s new location, I assumed that they would have a fairly standard roster of beers on tap. I was right. Swish is out of season, but, that aside, the menu read like a "greatest hits" album, with four of their most popular beers ready to be served. I’ve had each of these beers before, and I was only too happy to have the opportunity to sample them again.
The Substance: Bissell's flagship beer, we’ve covered The Substance in the past. Incredibly flavorful, incredibly drinkable, it doesn’t take more than a sip or two to figure out why this is one of Maine’s most popular beers. It blends a bunch of different fruit flavors, including peach and pineapple, for a refreshing burst of citrus. At 6.6%, you can have more than a few of these guilt-free.
Reciprocal: This was the second time I had Reciprocal, and my impression of it has changed a bit. At first I thought it didn’t quite measure up to Bissell’s other offerings, but now that I’ve had a chance to actually sit and savor it (and not grab a quick taster as I breeze through their old register window), this packs a wonderfully flavorful punch. This IPA is brewed with all Southern Hemisphere hops, and the dry-hopping makes a big difference. Flavors like mango, pineapple, and more come through really strongly. Great beer.
Lux: We’ve also covered Lux in the past, and it’s notable for being not only delicious, but unique. I’ve never had a beer quite like Lux. It drinks on the heavier side, but the fruitiness comes through in a blast of flavor. Lux is a Rye Ale, which is a somewhat uncommon beer style that Bissell has nailed.
Baby Genius: Bissell calls Baby Genius “crushable,” but, like Lux, it drinks a little heavy to me. Maybe it’s just the unfiltered nature of the beer that thickens it up and makes it feel a little dense, or maybe it’s just me. Either way, the flavor on this beer is amazing, and more than makes up for a little perceived heft. The Topaz hops REALLY come through strong, and I’ve recently developed a pretty strong affinity for that particular type of hops.
Vibe: Here's where I gush. Bissell's new location is fantastic. Whereas at their Industrial Way location, they did a good job making the most of what space they have, at Thompson’s Point they have all the space they need and more. The new tasting room is massive, with a huge number of tables and benches scattered around while still leaving enough space for four different lines and registers to keep things moving efficiently. There’s even a mezzanine-like area with more tables that overlooks both the tasting room floor and the brewing area itself!
The decor is classic Bissell. Graffiti-style artwork on almost every wall, with Bissell’s iconic logo featured prominently behind the bar, high on the walls, and just about anywhere else you can think of. I’ve always loved Bissell’s style. If I had to describe it, I’d say...minimalist street art? It sounds weird, but it works, and it’s reflected in their can art as well, from the solid black Swish can to the splashier Baby Genius.
The outside seating area is also an improvement. Where before, Bissell was limited by the size of their plot and courtesy for their neighbors, here they are able to spread out considerably. With a much larger outside area and room to stand around even outside the fencing, it makes every day feel more like a big event. People are standing around talking, playing catch, sipping tasters, and just generally having a good time hanging out in the sun.
It’s hard for me to judge exactly what the brewery will feel like on a normal day, but even on opening day it didn’t feel overrun (DISCLAIMER: I waited until about 3:00 in the afternoon to stop by, since I assumed it would be swamped in the morning), but it feels like there’s more than enough space to accommodate a huge crowd comfortably. I would guess that on weekdays you would have little problem stopping by for a couple quick beers, while Saturday might be a little dicier (I’m curious how Swish releases will work at the new location, both in terms of parking and line location).
I’m rambling, but it’s hard to say how much of an improvement the new location is (and I haven’t even mentioned the fact that it’s next door to the International Cryptozoology Museum--grab a couple of beers and learn about Bigfoot!). Bissell’s beers are among the best in the country, and they now have a location that lives up to that sterling pedigree.
Dogs: Bissell’s old location was very dog-friendly, and things don’t seem to have changed here. They still don’t serve food on the premises, so you shouldn’t have any trouble bringing a dog along (as long as it’s well-behaved and doesn’t bark excessively, that is).
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$$. Still no growlers, but cans can get pricey. Swish is probably their priciest beer, clocking in a hefty $17 per four-pack, but Reciprocal is also in the same price range. Beers like Substance and Baby Genius are a little easier on the wallet, coming in around $12 of $13 a pack. Which isn’t too bad. When you’re getting some of the best beer in the country, you’re going to have a pay a little more. God knows it’s worth it.
Food: Still no food, but, as with their old location, you’ll pretty much always find a food truck parked outside. I’ve always thought that the symbiotic relationship between breweries and food trucks in Maine is awesome, and Bissell clearly agrees. On Saturday, the truck du jour belonged to the Highroller Lobster Company. I didn’t partake, but I can tell you right now that the lobster rolls looked delicious. In fact, all of the food I’ve ever seen outside Bissell has looked delicious. God bless food trucks.
Final Thoughts: When I last talked about Bissell, I was pretty clear about the fact that the only thing holding them back was their location. Now that they have a massive new space to spread their wings, holy shit. What a difference it makes. With tons of space to sit and enjoy your beers, four different registers to cut down on wait times, and gorgeous, stylized artwork all over the walls, this place just FEELS like Bissell. Combine it with some of my favorite beers I’ve ever had, and that’s a guaranteed recipe for a 10/10 brewery. I’ll be back this weekend for the release of ‘Nothing Gold,’ Bissell’s first new beer at the new location. Can’t wait.
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