Novare Res Bier Café

Not Rated.
Novare Res Bier CaféNovare Res Bier Café
BA SCORE
98
world-class

122 Reviews
Reviews: 122
Visits: 220
rAvg: 4.45
pDev: n/a
Taps: 26
Bottles: 250
Cask: Y
[ Bar, Eatery ]

4 Canal Plz
Portland, Maine, 04101-4034
United States
phone: (207) 761-2437

visit their websiteWebsite view map and get directionsMap @novareresbiercf

Notes:
Place added by: indiapaleale on 05-28-2008

No notes at this time.
Place: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 122 | Visits: 220
Photo of BradMacMullin
4.85/5  rDev +9%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.75 | service: 5 | selection: 4.75

I haven't rated a beer establishment yet, which is strange as I spend 75 percent of my time in them. Just spent a day visiting Portland - great beer town. Even beats the other portland in Oregon. Found this bar on BA and agree with all the recommendations. Such a diverse list of beer and the atmosphere in there is great. Wait staff was very helpful. They recommended that I take it easy with the barley wines which was excellent advice - although I ignored it and now surprisingly my wife is telling me I ruined dinner at Street Co which I dispute since I don't recall dinner. Two solid thumbs up for Novares Res (614 characters)

Photo of shahn
4.74/5  rDev +6.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

Off the beaten path. My first time in Maine - I could safely say: I'd be a regular there if I moved to Maine! Excellent selection of beers. Service was great: knowledgable & friendly staff. Atmosphere: because you feel like you're in a cellar, one could stay way too long! Loved it! (282 characters)

Photo of Twobeards
4.25/5  rDev -4.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3.5

Regular visitor to novare, love this place. Kinda hidden off exchange street, a definite European feel with the beer garden and wood tables. Always an awesome draft list and a great way to educate people or friends to beers. Can always find a beer that fits a persons palate. Service can be a bit spotty, depending on the bartender, but that really has to do more with individual personalities than anything else. (413 characters)

Photo of jjboesen
4.69/5  rDev +5.4%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 5 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

Off hectic Exchange Street, through an iron gate beneath a Key Bank sign, and comfortably hidden away from the tourists and bustle of the Old Port, in a quiet courtyard-parking lot, the ardent beer lover will find himself (or herself) here at this paean to the Belgian café. It is a must when in town.

Upon entering the dim and intimate brick-wood interior, there are two choices: turn left into a separate lounge area furnished with black comfy chairs; or remain in the bar area with several communal tables and two bars: a moderately-sized one that dominates the room, or the very small one at the far right (adjacent to the kitchen). All of this surrounded by beer paraphernalia galore. Think of it as being in the basement of the Beer God.

My visit occurred during the recent Portland Beer Week and on tap (7 drafts) was one of the city’s newer brewers, Rising Tide. Of course, Novare Res, which is Latin for “Start a Revolution,” specializes in area crafts, so there were many other locals available to quench; such as four taps from Sebago, seven from Allagash and several from Maine’s Marshall Wharf. This being a Belgian café, they also had about ten draft Belgians and a massive spiral-bound list of international bottles.

The menu was eclectic but limited. My chicken curry wrap was tasty. The service excelled in every way with the attentive servers being efficient and well versed in beer, and the crafts poured at the correct temperature in the appropriate glassware. Novare Res is family-owned, so this must be one reason.

This place is simply one great place to hang out, quaff superb beers and to experience a seriously pleasant evening. No wonder Beer Advocate rates it as World Class. Start the revolution without me; I’ll be at Novare Res! (1,775 characters)

Photo of Kirk_Grant
4.16/5  rDev -6.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.75 | service: 3 | selection: 4.75 | food: 3.5

I think it's going to be difficult to find a place in New England that's doing a better job with Beer lists than Novare Res. They have amazing selections, Cantillon is almost always available, and there's a list long enough to put some wine bars to shame.

The food is good, but there's something missing and I don't quite know how to put my finger on it. I've ordered food from them 3-5 times in the last year. Every time the foods been good, but not something I feel compelled to order again. So I'm happt to be eating, but I'm not thinking, "I need to go back there for the ___."

Service is hit or miss. Some of the servers appear to favor favorite/regular customers. I've had to ask for my bill or stop them for another drink most times. Increased tipping doesn't appear to impact the quality or frequency of attention/service here. (838 characters)

Photo of LittleDon
4.52/5  rDev +1.6%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 3.75 | selection: 4.5

Come here on a beautiful summer day and you'll be tempted to stay until the fall.

Maybe it was the weather. A beautiful summer night in the mid 70s and I got to sit under the trees and drink great beer with a few colleagues. Plenty to choose from each with an ample description on the menu. While the draft selection was large, but not gigantic, there were many styles available. Everything was top notch. While it was hard to rate the service, since the beer server was quickly there and gone, it was, if anything, attentive. Unfortunately, after three beers, it was time to go. As nice as it was outside, the brief glimpse I got of the inside made me think that this was about as perfect as it could get. Cool, basement pub like atmosphere that was open and large. I was sad to leave, knowing that it was unlikely I'd be back on a regular basis.

One of the best beer serving establishments I've ever been to. (912 characters)

Photo of rjp217
4.59/5  rDev +3.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.75 | food: 3.75

You gotta love this place. An absolute beer mecca. Pages upon pages of craft beers, both aged and hard to find specialties. Their taplist is always outstanding. I've been on a normal weekeday and found a great selection and was there on a busy Saturday night for their Dogfish Head tap takeover. They always seem to have something special behind the bar as well, just ask nicely and try and be informed. I've tried many new brews based on the bartenders recommendation and have rarely been disappointed. A great selection of Maine Beer Co, not surprising since they're so close. This is the place to come and drink. No TVs and a really cool outdoor patio that's perfect in the summer. I like having the option of each locale. I've only ever ordered a cheese and meat spread and it was terrific so I can't go too in depth on their food but if that was any preview, it's really good. Prices are fair for sure, especially when you consider their selection. This is my favorite spot in Portland for craft beer. (1,006 characters)

Photo of dancaplette
4.03/5  rDev -9.4%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 2 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

Went there Sunday afternoon, great selection, heavy on Belgium selections. I tried something from Marshall Wharf from Maine. They have a good selection on draft from Maine. I sat down at a table with my two kids, took the bartender over 10 minutes to even come over to our table, another couple had the same problem.

We ordered some food, he forgot out appetizer. Menu is not very extensive, but it was good. They have a nice outside area with tables.

Overall the beer selection is fantastic, I just loved the vibe of the place. It was a little of a beer geeky crowd, but I think that just made the atmosphere better.

If our server would have had a more welcoming tone , it would have capped off a great day in Maine. I will definitely come back, the selection and vibe is just to good to let it be ruined by one bad server. (827 characters)

Photo of GeezLynn
4.16/5  rDev -6.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5

Had a difficult time finding this place, but after stopping a few locals, we found the enterance (which is almost like heading down a back alleyway).

Anyway, on the Saturday night we stopped there, the place had a pretty lively atmosphere. Outside, there were plenty of tables and lots of room - great for enjoying the weather and for larger groups. The inside was a smallish, dim bar/cafe like setting and was very crowded. It took probably 20 minutes to get a beer, particularly since the bartenders seemed to prioritize chatting/servicing their friends. After chatting awhile with another patron, I was served and the bartender seemed to be pretty knowledgeable on their lineup. The taplist had plenty to get excited about - I think I had beers from Pretty Things and Cisco - and the bottle list was also very good. My beer came in proper glassware and I got the impression that it was definitely a beer-centric place.

As a whole, I enjoyed my stop at Novare and would consider it one of the better beer bars in Portland. (1,027 characters)

Photo of supercodes
4.26/5  rDev -4.3%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 3.25 | selection: 5 | food: 3

I have been a regular of Novare Res since the place opened. It is a beer nerd's paradise for multiple reasons. It is tucked away from the beaten path, it has a communal environment where it's very easy to start up conversations with other patrons, all the servers and the owner Erik are very knowledgeable about the beers on tap, as well as the large bottled selection, and the tap selection itself changes very regularly. The most important aspect of Novare Res though, is how community driven the establishment is. Tap takeovers are very common, ranging from annual events like Smuttfest (Smuttynose takeover), to more relaxed brewery introductions from the likes of Pretty Things, etc. The service is sometimes questionable, and the food is over priced and limited, but these are minor setbacks for the overall experience. (825 characters)

Photo of johnnnniee
4.32/5  rDev -2.9%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.25 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.25

My GPS told me I was there, but I couldn't see it even after I drove by it, parked, and walked back by. Luckily Matt was already there and saw me circling and provided me with much needed directions. The entrance is at an alleyway/courtyard off exchange st near middle st and they have a 3 by 3 a frame sign there. Anyhow, huge kick ass deck at the entrance where I sat holds a dozen or so long tables, think German beer garden communal seating. There is a remote bar on the deck that was closed on my visit. Inside is the bar area with a cool cellar like feel to it holding maybe 20 tables and some bar seating. Small food menu but the meat and cheese plate that we tried was great and you can pick from a list. Beer, yup they have it. Quality taps and a huge bottle list make this place a winner in my book. Our server was attentive and helpful. A hint on the pricy side, but I feel that most of Portland has the same pricing structure. I will make this my first stop the next time I'm in Portland. (1,000 characters)

Photo of spence3208
4.72/5  rDev +6.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

WOW! wish I lived closer to this bar. selection is over 6pages long. saw a lot of limited beers on the list as well as great bottle selection. awesome outdoor area and the vibe is real chill. will most certainly be referring my friends to this place and ill be going to this bar again! (285 characters)

Photo of Sudcutter
4.14/5  rDev -7%
vibe: 3.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.25 | selection: 5 | food: 4

I went on a Thursday evening, so I may not have gotten the typical experience, but the place had a slightly unwelcoming atmosphere. It was self-seating, and it took about 15 minutes for a server to approach my table, and it was difficult to get her attention throughout the night.
The beer selection was tremendous.
The food options are very limited. My party ordered several appetizers. They were all good but not great.
The prices were normal for the offerings. (463 characters)

Photo of mrocksmith
4.6/5  rDev +3.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.75 | food: 3.5

I read about this place on BA, and figured out of the bunch in Portland, ME this is the one I had to attend to. Glad I made the decision. Their beer lineup is fantastic, and the atmosphere matches it well. It's not the most massive tap list out there but its very finely procured. Great list of locals (although no Allagash and being a visitor, it would have been cool to try one on tap). The people at this beer joint definitely "get" what's going on with beer culture right now at the nerd level. Which is awesome. Keep it up.

If I'm ever back in Portland, ME I'm going to come here again just to see what they have on tap. Oh and if the Oxbow guys read this.... you make f**king rad beer.

Hit this place up! And get the pork belly tacos if they got them. Just ask the bartender Louis about them. (800 characters)

Photo of cbutova
4.76/5  rDev +7%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.75

After a long weekend of beer and food greatness in Portland I feel obligated to review a places on here.

This was my second time visiting Novare Res and certainly won't be the last. The atmosphere of this bar is superb. Brick interior with big long communal tables and two bars. It is simple and works very well for a craft beer bar. Very dark, no TVs, just the beer and the people. They have an outdoor patio/Bier Garden if you will but it was extremely cold while we visited. If it was warmer out, I would be there in a second. Just a good mix of dive, beer bar and how did I escape to Belgium.

Quality and service were great both times I visited. There are plenty of bartenders/waiters who are ready to serve you beer in proper glassware in a timely fashion. They know their stuff about the products and will answer any questions you have about pretty much anything they are serving. The staff members who have served me were always nice and did not put up that wall of snark you often find at higher end beer bars.

Beer selection, probably the most important thing in a beer bar review, is stellar. Great draft selections which range from $5-$10 and cover a great deal of styles. The bottle selection is also fairly amazing. The first time I visited they had some of the best lambics in the world and probably stock up on them whenever they possibly can. The second visit I had a delicious Rasputin XII and a Pannepot 2006 with my friend.

Prices are comparable to any other specialty craft beer bar, if not just a tad lower than most of the ones I am used to in MA. Truly one of the best places to get good beer in New England. (1,636 characters)

Photo of zamboni1
4.8/5  rDev +7.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

I'm not a tourist but not a Portlander either, and Novare is one of my go-to places in Portland. Really like everything about this place: the atmosphere (12 degrees below zero in the dead of winter as well as hot & humid summers on the big hops-laced beer garden / deck), the selection, the clientele, and the staff.

The bottled beer selection is great and the draughts are fresh (super-clean tap lines!) and are rotated very frequently. Check their website for the latest draught lineup -- as others have said here, they update their list online faithfully (seemingly daily). Prices are a bit high *for Portland* but are still lower than any comparable place in Boston, Burlington, Providence, or NY. I've always -- and I mean always -- found the staff very helpful and engaging and have been recommended some amazing beers I would not have otherwise tried on my own. They know their stuff and will share their knowledge if you're not a jerk.

Yes, they do a 2-day Octoberfest fun thing where they have but two O-fest beers on tap and served in 1 liter maas mugs. Surprised some people find that annoying; most of us sorta regulars look forward to it and take it in the fun spirit in which it's intended. Novare also does other events nights / weeks that are cool: Caskfest, Smuttfest, Belgian Bier Fest, Roguepalooza, and so on.

I like me my Novare a lot and appreciate it for what it is -- one of the top beer bars in my state of Maine. (1,442 characters)

Photo of Sammy
3.94/5  rDev -11.5%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4

A classy restaurant with a large patio. Pretty pretty good cellar list and decent tap list, with correct poured temperature and over a large bar. Hard to find, we circled one way streets a few times until I found a tourist map with the clue on how to enter by foot. A number of weird and ordinary people here, they make up a good part of the city but in the end they are harmless. Service was decent and there were people like me there, for the beer. I would come back again. Newer place that can become something. Would like an earlier opening time for the bar. (562 characters)

Photo of donkeyrunner
4/5  rDev -10.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5

Been here many a time. Some thoughts on Novare Res:

The servers have a laissez fair attitude towards service and they'll get to you when they get to you. On a lazy afternoon that's not a bad thing.

Atmosphere is nifty. It’s like a beer cellar. Drinking beer in a beer cellar is indeed nifty.

A bit pricey considering Sebago and Gritty's are right down the street and Great Lost Bear is a few minutes car ride away. Novare does have a better Belgian selection than all three combined though. Sort of a mini Ebenezer's.

I went here once during Octoberfest and in the traditional German manner NR only had 1 festbier on tap. All taps, one beer. That sucked at the time but if I was a local I think it's pretty neat.

A bit of Cambridge has seeped up into downeast Maine as a lot of the stronger or hard to find beers come in 10oz. servings. I hate that. I'm a big boy and I want a big boy glass of beer. (911 characters)

Photo of GarthDanielson
4.73/5  rDev +6.3%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5

This place is a beer lover's dream. A bit hard to find, as it is not on any of the main drags in Portland, but it is worth seeking out. We went over the weekend, which is currently Belgian Beer Week at Novare, so most of the taps were filled with Belgian style offerings. The place is a little dark, with two separate bar spaces. Because of the insane beer list at Novare, people tend to camp out at the bar, so don't wait for people to move to try and place an order. Belly up in there and make yourself known. They do a really good job of replacing a tap line when a particular beer runs out, as well as marking it up on the wall so people know the MOST current tap list. Huge selection, as I said earlier, including a "vault" where you can get your hands on some rare and aged bottles. Definitely the place to go to knock some whales off of your "to do" list. The beers are a bit on the pricey side, but as I said, this is a place to get some very hard to find beers, so it kind of balances out. Very beer friendly crowd here, and there is a huge patio in front if you don't want to mingle with the crowd indoors. At the back of the patio there is a cornhole/beanbag toss set up to play. A section of the patio is also marked off for the smoking crowd, if that be your pleasure. Definitely a "must go" spot if you are visiting Portland, ME. Awesome time there! (1,363 characters)

Photo of TMath524
4.4/5  rDev -1.1%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 3 | selection: 5 | food: 4

I make sure I always stop by whenever I'm in Portland. Have had some amazing experiences at this place, including Maine Beer Week opening night this past year with Oxbow, drinking Cantillon Fou' Foune on tap for the first time, and showing the place off to family and friends visiting the area.

Honestly, there is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to beer bars in Maine. This place, Ebenezer's in Lovell, The Lion's Pride in Brunswick, and When Pigs Fly Pizzeria in Kittery are all world-class. Nothing more needs to be said about their selection. It's epic.

The food is tasty. They have a good selection to go along with what they serve, and I could even eat there when I was vegan for a month, but I have yet to get a sense that the servers take any pride in the food they serve, which, along with the cold sausage I got one time when it was pretty busy makes me second guess giving them a higher rating. Also, I've only ever heard people praise their cheeses and meats, which is a la carte, but When Pigs Fly in Kittery actually make their own charcuterie meats in house, so I'll reserve being impressed for that over capable ordering, which they obviously have considering their beer selection.

Also, I did find that they listed two Unibroue Anniversary ales on their bottle list that they didn't have in stock, which is a bit annoying, since those particular vintages are incredibly rare and really shouldn't have been in stock for a long time. I had already told my neighbor at the bar, whom I was planning on sharing the bottle with, all about the beer when the bartender informed me of the predicament. Bummer. (1,628 characters)

Photo of mlazzaro
4.8/5  rDev +7.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

Hands down my favorite public place to drink beer. I like that it's a hole in the wall kind of place. Usually not difficult get a seat or get served. Always awesome beer selection. Naheed (sp?) the bartender is incredibly knowledgeable and friendly. Usually serve in proper glassware. They have the most exciting gems in the beer list. Perhaps a bit pricey, but bars usually are. As long as we get what we desire and have good service, I'm happy. And the food is great beer food. Nothing too fancy. (498 characters)

Photo of beerbiatchMD
4.47/5  rDev +0.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

Great beer bar nestled into a nice little corner of Portland Maine's Old Port.

Beer selection is great, and ever-changing. I oftentimes troll the draught listing posted on the internet (which is faithfully updated) while at work to see if I need to stop by any particular evening.

Food selection is not huge but is very reasonably priced and very good. A few great sandwiches exist, plus great meat and cheese platers.

Service is great when it's not busy (weeknights and earlier), but on Fridays and Saturdays after about 9PM it can get very busy and service can be slow.

This is a great place to be. Summer is fanastic because they have a large outdoor patio area. Winter is great because it's a cozy bar with exposed brick, the place you want to be drinking beer. A must visit for tourists and locals alike. (814 characters)

Photo of sprucetip
4.58/5  rDev +2.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

I can't believe I haven't reviewed this place! Been there enough times to do it from memory though.

Atmosphere is very subjective. It's kind of dark and cavernous. At times it has a Goth or Euro vibe, depending on who is there and how busy it is. But even in that context, there are spaces within where most folks should be able to be comfortable. There are some elements I like, such as couches and low tables that sometimes get shared by more than one party when it's busy. My non-beer geek friends were able to be comfortable here. It's very beer-centric, so if that is your focus, you can work with the atmosphere if it doesn't trip your trigger.

Service has been anywhere from good to extraordinary. I shall not reveal the details of the extraordinary, to protect the perhaps not completely innocent who went above and beyond to hook me up with some hard to get and out of print Allagash special release.

Selection is amazing. The taps are very thoroughly thoughtfully selected, and the bottle list as well. The bottle list includes a vintage section if you feel like splurging on something special. There are special events like "total tap takeovers" by awesome breweries like Marshall Wharf (one I remember), and surely others.

I haven't eaten there, but I think it's artsy-fartsy tapas type stuff, which is probably good, but will likely disappoint some who would prefer a burger.

Personally, I think it's a little bit pricey, but not ridiculous. I think I remember paying $10 for a bottle of Peche Mortel, which is 100% markup over retail. So understandable, but still kinda pricey to me, especially for Maine. Maybe compared to Boston and Manhattan it's not? Whatever, how can you not go there if you are a beer geek visiting Portland? If you like (good) bar (and other standard American) food, go to Great Lost Bear first, have some precious specialty Allagash on tap for less than you can get it in the bottle at the shop, and then go to Novare Res until you've had your fill take a taxi home. (2,013 characters)

Photo of bluesplit63
5/5  rDev +12.4%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

What a score...

A little hidden "Bier Cafe" that only took me and my girlfriend about 20 minutes to find. It is well hidden down an alley if you are not from the area.

A solid 10 page / draft lift. I would say they offered a strong 30 to 35 beers on draft including Dogfish 120 Minute and Pannepot Reserva 2009.

Prices were reasonable. 120 ranging about 12 dollars for an 8 oz pour. Pannepot about the same for a full 12 oz.

Overall a great experience and will definitely be going back.

Cheers! (500 characters)

Photo of DoubleSimcoe
4.35/5  rDev -2.2%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

The wife and I got to Novare Res just as it was starting to snow heavily in Portland, October 29. Quite a sight… have you ever seen snow by the beach? This bar is in the Old Port area but not exactly- far enough from the main drags to have no tourists inside. Sweet! The folks at Novare kind of reminded me of Baltimore… homely, sailor-like, red-cheeked and on the ugly side of things but oh-so-friendly.

The atmosphere here is extremely cozy and inviting, more so on a cold snowy day. It feels like a cellar or a private bar at rich man’s house. I would want to hang out here forever! It only needs a fireplace to be perfectly perfect. Communal tables, a variety of rooms, nooks and crannies… yeah.

On tap- 16 “regular” beers (including Maine Peeper, Allagash Malone, Rising Tide Daymark, Brooklyn Companion, Dogfish 90); 1 cask and 20 Harvest taps (including rare ciders and meads, plus Dogfish Pumpkin, Jolly Parcela and a cask of ’08 Allagash Ghouleschip) .

It was “Harvest Day”, hence the outrageous amount of autumn taps. The owner suddenly went over to the bar and said he was buying everyone a round of harvest ciders/beers. How cool is that! We got a bourbon-barrel cider from Mystic, CT (14%),that was absolutely smashing and delightful.

They had a special Harvest Tasting Menu, of which we got the cabbage-wrapped pheasant terrine. Sounds good! But it wasn’t so great… really lame and bland, needed salt and pepper and spice. Still, I appreciate the effort to be creative.

Prices were on the high side ($6-$8) for 8-12 oz pours, but we got a free round so it evened out. Service was excellent at those communal tables and the ambience just so cozy! A great choice, and don’t forget the extensive bottled-beer menu. (1,756 characters)

Novare Res Bier Café in Portland, ME
98 out of 100 based on 122 ratings.