Day Trip: Portsmouth, NH (2019/05/09)

A full day of brews, chews, and views around the historic seaport town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Kittery, Maine.


May 9th, 2019 – Thursday

You have no idea how good this donut was.

A mix of clouds and sun with a high of 55°F, not a bad day to set out to explore around the nearby historic seaport town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire with a few stops in Kittery, Maine. First things first, time for a donut.

Arriving at the newly opened Lovebirds Donuts in Kittery, Maine just after 09:00, it’s decided to hang out there and relax a bit to update the game plan for the day. A display of featured donuts welcomes you as you walk into the door, though awful soft rock is playing inside the quaintly decorated donut shop. I got the “Strawberry Shortcake” donut and it was absolutely delicious.

There were intentions on hitting an abandoned location in the area, but when the location was scouted, I noticed a crew beginning the demolition process. Another one bites the dust. This is a bit of a problem for the trip as now I have a few hours with nothing to do. It’s too early to swing by a brewery. Alas, the USS Albacore is open!

Dive! Dive! How do you drive this thing?

The pioneering research submarine USS Albacore (AGSS-569) was the first to be designed with a teardrop hull, a prototype for the Navy’s nuclear-powered submarine force. The Auxiliary General Submarine (AGSS) was built in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and launched on August 1st, 1953. The submersible laboratory was built with agility and speed in mind, setting the record for world’s fastest submarine in 1966 with an underwater speed of 33 knots (38mph). The crew on the vessel tested state of the art sonar equipment, propulsion systems, and escape mechanisms to evaluate systems and design features before including them in future classes of submarines. She was decommissioned on December 9th, 1972, currently dry-docked at it’s forever home in Portsmouth.

Bro, do you even summer?

After two laps through the submarine, I head back north into Maine once again for lunch, a stop at Bob’s Clam Hut is a must. Bob Kraft is a Kittery native and first opened Bob’s Clam Hut in 1956, prior to all the outlet shops. It’s a hotspot for fried seafood delights and known for their lobster rolls. It’s not even summer yet and this place is already hopping! Anywhere that has an employee dedicated to parking lot control is a huge sign that this place gets insanely busy. Luckily for me, I got there shortly after they opened with only a few people in front of me in line, getting my noms moments later.

Out on the patio, enjoying the sun and a brew.

Now that it’s afternoon, the local craft beer establishments are opening and there are several on the list, first up it Tributary Brewing Company, a mere five-minute drive away. Tributary’s master brewer is a legend around New England having created the original recipes for Harpoon’s classic IPA as well as Portsmouth Brewery’s Kate the Great Russian Imperial Stout. Now Tod Mott and his wife Galen have their own place complete with a golden lab, Katie. Started off with their tasty pale ale while admiring taproom before moving on to their infamous Russian imperial stout, “Mott the Lesser,” brewed only twice a year.

Seaweed waves along the edge of a breakwater.

Submarine. Check. Lobster. Check. Beer. Check. Waterfront… Being the home of a naval base, Portsmouth was once one of the nation’s busiest ports and shipbuilding cities. Paul Revere even rode here to warn that the British were coming, with warships, in 1774. What better place to wander than Fort Stark State Historic Site, located on a peninsula historically called Jerry’s Point on the southeast corner of New Castle Island, which features several military batteries dating back to the early 1900s and a breakwater that reaches out into the Piscataqua River. 

Beer is good. Beer is good. Beer is good and stuff!

It’s late afternoon now as I sip on “Resonation,” a pale ale by Great Rhythm Brewing. Nice place with an open warehouse setting where you can glance into the production space as you sit on bright green stools. If you’re an IPA person, this brewery is for you. Majority of their offerings, at least during my time there, featured various IPAs, double IPAs, and NEIPAs. Though I wanted another round, I opted to cruise around in hopes to catch some sea-nic (puns!) photos during sunset.

While driving back and forth earlier in the day, a shed covered in buoys caught my eye. While I was there taking in the views and snapping away, darker clouds rolled in right when it was time for the sky to turn into cotton candy. Drats. Well, time for another beer. To Earth Eagle!

Earth Eagle Brewing is quite the eccentric brewpub, one of very few breweries around New England that experiment with a style of beer made without hops known as a gruit. Generally speaking, a gruit is made from a herbal mixture as a bittering or flavoring agent in place of hops. This mixture commonly includes mugwort, ground ivy, sweet gale, and may include other herbs to produce unique flavors and effects such as cinnamon, ginger, mint, juniper berries, and nutmeg. Staying on the pale ale train, I went with “Armadillo Danger.” After nearly twelve hours out and about, it’s time to head home.