BELFAST, Maine — Belfast is ready to party. After spending the week cleaning up, Three Tides in Belfast is ready to throw its annual St. Patrick’s Day shindig to kick off its ninth season in town.
The trendy bar features a rustic, unfinished-looking interior and an outdoor porch overlooking Belfast Bay. Below the porch is more space with a small beer garden, a bocce ball court, a bonfire pit and, in the summer, a large pile of shucked oyster shells. More importantly, Three Tides has 17 of its own beers on tap for this season. All of them are brewed next door at the sister company, Marshall Wharf Brewing Co.
The new addition to this year’s beer list is the 3-percent-alcohol “Pinchy” red ale. That beer is a much lighter than some of the brews that can have alcohol contents of up to 11 percent.
“We’re known for our strong beers,” said owner David Carlson, 42, of Belfast.
For the opening party Saturday from 4 p.m.-close, Three Tides will have seven of its stouts and two porters on tap.
On Friday morning Carlson stood behind his concrete bar and poured a glass of Danny McGovern’s Oatmeal Stout.
“We nitrogenate the stout,” he said. “The whole glass fills with gas and then it clears from the bottom up. It gives it a smooth head.”
This is different from most beers, which are carbonated. A few minutes after the pour, Carlson poured a glass of T2-R9 Barleywine, much lighter in color and sat it next to the stout. The barley wine’s bubbles cleared almost instantly. The stout still had its bubbles trapped in a muddy-looking mix at the top of the glass.
It’s this sort of playing around with beers that keeps Carlson entertained and loving his job after nine years, he said. For the past couple of years he and his brewery staff have worked on perfecting four bourbon-barrel-aged beers, which are bottled and ready to go — well, except one.
“We had a little kickoff last weekend at the brewery and we sold out of one of them. People were taking it away by the case,” he said.
That’s one of the complaints Three Tides gets — it’s hard to get the beer if you don’t live in Belfast. Sure, it’s at bars from Kittery to Orono, but to take some home you have to drive down Route 1 to the midcoast and get a growler — a 64-ounce bottle.
“I like that. It forces them to come up here. They get a hotel, they get breakfast the next day, it’s good for the area,” he said. “We have a reputation for our beer and people are willing to travel for it.”
One of his beers, the Pemaquid Oyster Stout, recently got a shout out in Saveur Magazine and it now makes up about 10 percent of the sales at the bar. The most popular beer, the Illegal Ale-Ien makes up about 30 percent of the sales. The Ale-Ien is a hybrid between a wheat beer and a German kolsch and it made with blue agave — the same ingredient used to distill tequila.
Most of the beers range from $4 to $8 per pint and can be paired with a limited food list.
One of the food vendors for Saturday’s party is Morse’s Sauerkraut & European Deli in Waldoboro. Morse’s owner, David Swetnam, popped into the bar on Friday morning to do some business and try a beer.
“I love you guys. You’re the coolest place,” he said to Carlson and his wife and co-owner Sarah Carlson, while sipping his ale. “Your beer is out of sight.”