I might bear some of the responsibility here.

Having written Highlander stories (complete with photos) both last fall introducing readers to early construction, and in March showing progress made, by two prospective local craft beer/ale establishments complete with wood-fired pizza during a challenging, and long, winter.  Last Saturday, it was clear that pent-up anticipation was finding release at the Portland Tap House in Oquossoc.

The burning wood and hard-to-see pizzas in the foreground…in the process of being wood-fired Allen Wicken

Opening, as planned, on Memorial Day weekend, co-owner Paul Reynolds was clearly both pleased, and a bit overwhelmed, by the response.  I, of course, felt some responsibility to report on the establishment’s opening to my readers. So, I stopped in at about 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

The place was packed (see photo).  Servers were scurrying about the occupied tables, pizza chefs were refining their management of the shiny new wood-fired pizza oven (see photo), and bartenders were busy filling pint glasses from the dozen or so taps emanating from the wall at the end of the the U-shaped bar.

The beautifully-crafted (and illuminated) antique canoes highlight the interior of the very busy Portage Tap House on opening weekend Allen Wicken

The handsome interior decor of the tap room was ready for the onslaught of customers.  The hard working staff members were doing their very best to demonstrate that the were ready as well.  For them, it appeared to be “trial by wood-fire”!

Situated on the historically significant Carry Road in Oquossoc between Mooselookmeguntic and Rangeley Lakes where portaging canoes were a required part of the area’s transportation history starting with native Americans followed by early explorers, and today; increasing numbers of canoeists paddling the historic 400+ mile route of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail from the Adirondacks in New York State to Fort Kent, Maine.

What better way to demonstrate the canoeing history of the location than hoisting two antique Old Town wood and canvas canoes above the serving areas.  And what better way to show the interior craftsmanship of those canoes than installing dozens of antique-like clear light bulbs from bows to sterns.

Other canoe-related artwork and local Rangeley wooden boatbuilding artifacts complete a decor that is both imaginative and tasteful.  The Portage Tap House is a gem that is sure to become a hospitality landmark in years to come (if it hasn’t already)….and a “must visit” feature in the next revised guidebook for paddling and portaging adventurers on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.

The tap house logo on a coaster, and what remained of my half-completed sampling of a fine Zephr IPA brewed by a highly acclaimed Maine craft brewery, Rising Tide, in Portland Allen Wicken

The selection of beers and ales from Maine craft breweries is impressive.  I was pleased to see that it included four hoppy India Pale Ales. In the interest of comprehensive experience-based journalism, I felt compelled to sample one of the offerings,….the Zephyr IPA from the very fine Rising Tide Brewery in Portland.  It was a very good choice.

In the near future, I expect to exercise my responsibility to review the other new establishment, whose progress I have also chronicled; the Furbish Brewery and Eats in the remodeled, and historic, Furbish home on Main Street in Rangeley.  I also may be compelled to sample an IPA (hopefully) or other ale style brewed right there in the center of the always beautiful Rangeley Lakes Region of Maine!


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