‘The Beer Mama’ Taps Her Top 10 Drinking Spots In Portland, Maine 

Local expert Ashlee McLaughlin—aka “The Beer Mama” on Instagram—runs down Portland’s coolest watering holes.

Ashlee McLaughlin (@thebeermama) at The Great Lost Bear. Photo by Tracy Orzel

On a recent visit to Portland, Maine, one of the best small towns in America for food and drink, we solicited the advice of Ashlee McLaughlin, longtime Maine resident and local influencer, who gave us her top 10 picks from old school favorites to new additions.

The local beauty, pictured here at one of her favorite watering holes by brilliant photographer Tracy Orzel, is famous as “The Beer Mama” on Instagram—@thebeermama—but also knows her way around craft cocktails and Maine’s cannabis industry. Ashlee has poured at tasting rooms, been a sales rep for breweries and craft distributors, developed collaborations with bars and breweries, reviewed bourbons and American whiskies, and has her own beer coming soon from Sidereal Brewing in Vassalboro, Maine.

She’s also an accomplished chef, photographer and social media strategist in her own right, and was named one of Maine’s top influencers by Portland magazine. What she loves about the Portland area is that great food and drink is not only easy to find, “It doesn’t matter what you dress like, you can walk into any place on this list and fit right in. You can wear a suit and tie or a lobster bib, no one cares—and you’ll always be in for a great time.”

Here are her picks:

1. Blyth & Burrows

Blyth & Burrows. Courtesy Miranda Group

“Where to go to see the pretty people. Really inventive, high-quality cocktails and a great atmosphere, plus buck-a-shuck oyster Wednesdays. It also has a speakeasy tucked away downstairs, so consider it a twofer. The bartenders are super-knowledgable, headed up by the dream team of Adam Sousa and Caleb Landry.”

2. Portland Hunt + Alpine Club

Portland Hunt + Alpine Club. Photo by Peter Frank Edwards

“Portland’s OG craft cocktail bar, this Scandinavian-inspired gem has been a fixture of the Old Port for ten years now. Go for the impeccably mixed cocktails and delicious snacks, including some amazing Scandinavian-inspired charcuterie boards and bar bites.”

3. Batson River Portland 

Batson River’s Portland Location. Photo by Erin Little

“The massive stone fireplace and impeccable decor—it transforms into a winter wonderland around the holidays—are as much of a draw as their own-make craft spirits and beer. It’s also well worth checking out their other locations in Kennebunk, Biddeford and Wells.”

4. Magnus on Water 

Magnus on Water. Photo courtesy Searching the Shadows Photography

“Located in the up-and-coming bustling downtown of Biddeford, this spot is very intimate and extremely creative with thoughtful and fun cocktails. The friendly staff really knows their stuff, and they always make you feel super-welcome. Plus they just brought on a talented new chef.”

5. The Great Lost Bear

Ashlee McLaughlin @thebeermama at The Great Lost Bear. Photo by Tracy Orzel

“Portland’s original classic beer bar, ‘The Bear’ was one of the first places to ever to have Allagash White, Maine’s most famous craft brew, on draft. Open since 1978, it has over 40 taps; go for the beer of course, and great bar food, and stay for the cool vintage decor including Maine memorabilia and signage.”

6. Via Vecchia 

Via Vecchia. Courtesy Miranda Group

“The most beautiful space in town. The small plates are delicious, there’s a wonderful wine list, plus house-made pasta. Everyone’s there, so there’s great people watching, plus a cool lounge area in the back. Josh Miranda, the owner of Via Vecchia and some others on this list, has blossomed into Portland’s premier restaurateur.”

7. Wandby Landing 

Courtesy Wandby Landing

Take a short drive to the picturesque town of Kennebunk for incredible pasta made in house, plus world-class pizza from the former chef of NYC’s Del Pesto. The wine list is worthy of awards, and hands-on owners Matt and Mariah are always on site, and working, giving it a really warm vibe.”

8. Papi 

Papi. Courtesy Miranda Group

“This super lively spot feels like you’ve stepped off the street into Old San Juan. Lyanna Sanabria, the beverage director and co-founder, is a genius. One of the few places showcasing Puerto Rico’s underrated cuisine and cocktails, plus a rare enclave for the diaspora, they have everything from classic Puerto Rican concoctions to their own creations.”

9. The East Ender

“There’s karaoke ‘till midnight almost every night, and these sessions are always hopping and always unhinged. Plus strong drinks, and cool events throughout the winter, when it’s mostly locals only, but all are warmly welcomed. Head to the upstairs bar for a quieter scene if you prefer.”

10. Caballeras 

“A small cocktail bar with a focus on oxidized and sherry-based cocktails, this place is nestled inside a little gourmet market called Vessel & Vine in downtown Brunswick, just north of Portland. Add delicious snacks and local oysters, plus themed dinners year round, and you’ve got a real winner.”