After DBNE's recent trip there, I asked two Maine natives if they were familiar with the town. I received a one blank stare, a pair of shrugged shoulders, a head shake, and two utterances of, “nope”.
My wife and I (aka DBNE) ended up in Lovell when we recently visited North Conway NH, where we’d been multiple times before. But never before had we imagined that any part of Maine was relatively close by. A note from a fellow member of BeerAdvocate.com told me that Ebenezer’s Pub – rated the best beer bar in America more than once – was a doable twenty or so miles away.
I was vaguely aware of Ebenezer’s fame. I knew it was in Maine, but therefore figured it was a far drive from anywhere. So, I never bothered to know the town it lied in.
What I knew about Ebenezer's was gleaned from an article or two, advertisements, and even videos of its basement.
That’s right, the basement.
It’s a dingy looking basement. Like yours and mine. But although Ebenezer’s basement doesn't look fancy, it in fact houses an impressive bounty of rare and hard-to-find beer not often seen. Much of the beers seen in the video hail from Europe, with many Belgian delights visible. It’s clear one does not come to Ebenezer’s to explore American craft beer.
The drive to, and through, the town of Lovell was almost worth the trip alone. A thick orange sunset saturated the quiet and quaint town that frankly seemed motionless. Before you knew it, we passed a tiny road that fed the parking lot to Ebenezer’s. (You'll pass it, too, if you've never been there.)
The pub sits right on a golf course. As we walked up to it, we weren’t immediately sure where to walk in. The door we entered put you immediately onto a patio dining area that felt as if you’re standing in a road-side shack that dishes out deep-fried seafood by the bucket load.
We eventually found our way to the bar area which was surprisingly small. I feel an establishment that puts significant thought into its beer selection should offer a substantial bar area relative to the restaurant’s total size. There were only five or six stools at the bar and two high-top tables nearby – one of which we luckily got. One cool aspect of the bar is that each tap handle is made of blown glass.
There are 35 beers on draft here. None of them are pedestrian. The majority are obscure European imports that would excite even the geekiest beer nerds. Between my wife and I, we drank Omnipollo Mazarin, Pannepot Wild, Stillwater Existent, Old Engine Oil (not literally), Cuvee Angelique, and another sour ale we’ve somehow forgotten the name of.
One thing Ebenezer’s is known for is Black Albert. It’s a hefty, 13% ABV Russian Imperial Stout that’s brewed exclusively for them by De Struise in Belgium. It’s amazing the pub has this connection with such a world-class brewery. Black Albert is said to be terrific. Unfortunately, there was none left during our visit. But if you go, don’t hesitate to ask if there’s any in house.
In addition to draft offerings, there’s an extensive bottle selection offering treats from the cellar. Interestingly, however, the bottle list is not 100% complete. For instance, if you desire a specific lambic or gueuze from Drie Fonteinen or Cantillon, this requires a discussion with your server. As you’ll see the menu merely states “Cantillon – various offerings,” starting at something around $40 per bottle. Near this section of the bottle list, there’s a note stating that it may require extra time for your server to dig for your selection in the cellar. To be honest, I’d pay an extra $10 to dig for it myself down in that treasure trove of theirs.
As for the food, we ordered a myriad of protein and it was all satisfying. The chicken, cooked sous-vide, couldn’t have been more moist or tender. The blood sausage was fantastic, the steak tips savory, the knockwurst and brats also succulent.
Prices on food and beverage lean to the steep side at Ebenezer’s. Your tab can stay modest if you order a sandwich and domestic beer. But a more exciting entrée paired with two or three of their more intriguing beer offerings quickly adds up your damage report. As Ebenezer’s remote location gives the impression that you may not be back any time soon, you quickly feel it’s OK to splurge a bit.
Overall, if you’re a beer geek who finds him or herself within twenty five miles from Lovell, ME (this includes the distance from the congested town of North Conway, NH) Ebenezer’s is worth your time for at least one visit. If you really want a tour of the cellar, it’s said that you can request one in advance, time permitting on the owner’s behalf. If you go down there, do me a favor. Record it and post it to YouTube, because I’ve worn out the previous videos.
44 Allen Rd. Lovell, ME 04051