The Black Birch

The Black BirchThe Black Birch
The Black BirchThe Black Birch
Bar, Eatery

2 Government St
Kittery, Maine, 03904-1631
United States

(207) 703-2294 | map

View: Place Reviews
Reviews: 12 | Ratings: 24 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of slander
4.5/5  rDev 0%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

Welcome to Maine, Edface (he’s never been, and whether he’s been in New Hampshire is questionable, as well). You know, passing comments like “they’ve got the best tap list in Maine” tend to stick with me, even if I don’t get a chance to drop in and put eyes on it in short order. Missed opportunities on a few occasions coming through as I’ve rolled earlier than their selfish 3:30 opening but today’s going to be the day. “It’ll be a longer wait for bar space than a table, what?” We were told as much on the Portsmouth side and found it to be true an hour into mid-afternoon opening...

It’s a partial of a building, I knew where it was, but not, but did. Guess what? No seating available and we were put to the chairs; a holding place to the rear where you have to look on in sadness (nobody puts slander in the corner). But we were quickly dealt a pair of sweet seats on the end of the bar; ‘C’ish shaped wood plank topped with a base of the same, a foot bar, and seating for a baker’s dozen on backed hightop chairs. The barback wall is done in horizontal plank wood with a glowlit shelf inlayed holding booze over a row of 2 dozen taps on stainless steel. Glassware countered to the left; booze, glassware, & fixins to the right. Standalone turntable (bless you) to one side, and they’ve got vinyl down below the bar. I sees it, I sees it!

A single shared hightop for 10 off the bar, a ½ dozen or so tables off the far wall, a corner boothlike table, and nearly a dozen 2 seat tables sharing common bench play on the far wall of windows; most of them pushed together to accommodate large parties. They’ve got some crazy framed art in between them windows. Concretelike ceiling with rafters below, drop ballesque distorted over the bar tracing and baby spots over the adjacent seating.

It would be a good idea to eat, me thinks. I had been contemplating the grilled cheese, but the fish & chips looks mad good, and the special tonight is seared skirt steak, broccoli rabe, roasted local fingerling potatoes, and on and on. Took a recommendation from some regulars (a couple from the Portsmouth side who with no snarkiness stated, “We don’t eat in Portsmouth”), and had the Pappardelle Bolognese, um, excellent, and Ed had the Rueben on Rye, which I’m hearing, was fantastic, citing ‘the really good bread’.

24 taps; roughly 1/3 of them local from both sides of the Piscataqua (Tributary Coffee Milk Stout, Pale Ale, & Winter Saison, Smuttynose Barleywine 2013, Zinneke Stout, Smuttlabs Strawberry Short Weisse, & White IPA), another 1/3 from up the road some Maine (Banded Horn Norweald Stout, Rising Tides Zephyr & Polaris, Allagash White, Foundation Eddy, Oxbow Loretta, UFF Dry Cidah), and the other 1/3 a mix of craft near (Stillwater Cellar Door & Classique) & far (Sierra Nevada Wild Hop IPA, Stone Enjoy By 122614), and import (Cuvee des Jacobin Rouge, Corsendonk Christmas Ale, Schneider Weisse Aventinus, Weihenstephaner Original Lager). I drank the Oxbow Loretta & Tributary Winter Saison ‘cause when in Maine…

+2 handfuls of bottles; American craft (Oxbow La Griseta, Allagash Midnight Brett, Cisco Monomoy Kriek, Stillwater Lower Dens), and import fun (Tilquin Gueuze, Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze, Timothy Taylor Landlord Pale Ale). There is no secret Cantillon here, shhhh, so just forget I said anything about it, okay? And a dozen wines by the glass and nearly a dozen and a half by the bottle if that’s your thing.

I don't love the whole ‘opening at 3:30 daily' thing they do specifically to punk me, but this place is the total Kittery jam; I can see why it gets the mad props it do. Friendly folks, great food & drink, excellent vibe, I mean, okay, the music, they threw on an early Cat Stevens record, very cool, and then some early Tina Turner, not as cool, but still, they’re ripping vinyl (Do you have old Pink Floyd, please? Hell, can I bring my own next time?) I really dig this place.

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Photo of ricknelson
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.75

What a strange place. Just happened to spot this while searching online for pubs near Tributary Brewing in Kittery Maine. Checked it out and found a diamond in the rough so to speak. Plenty of great brews to choose from, and a tap handle display that will amaze you. All are hand made and they have nothing to do with the brews they are tapping. The lunch menu is brief and interesting. We opted for Poutine; which is french fries, gravy, cheese curds topped with shredded chicken.
Atmosphere is great. They have a vintage LP turntable on which they spin a selected albums, start to finish. On this occasion it was Sam Cooke and then Thelonious Monk. Knowledgable barkeeps and friendly staff. Will definitely return to try their dinner menu. which looks outstanding. Thank you Black Birch for a nice surprise to end a great day of Tributary and Smuttynose breweries.

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Photo of Cmain
4.9/5  rDev +8.9%

I can't say much that hasn't already been said, this is one of my favorite restaurants anywhere, period. The beer list is always top notch, the best in the area. I have never had a bad meal here either, the menu is inventive and reasonably priced.

They don't take reservations, but I have never had to wait terribly long to get a table. Definitely recommend, anyone who I have taken here has loved it.

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Photo of Seacoastbrewer
5/5  rDev +11.1%

A true 5 score. Food is fabulous and draft list is excellent as well.

You will always (in my experience) find Oxbow on draft. They rotate thru various Shelton offerings. I have not seen any current draft lists online, however you will find something good there.

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Photo of sreichgott
4.5/5  rDev 0%

Great food, a short but excellent list that's focused on local brews, simple decor, and great service. Hard to beat this place. And our two young kids loved it too. Get there early or you're gonna have to wait. But the wait is worth it.

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Photo of Sycodrummer
3.86/5  rDev -14.2%
vibe: 3.25 | quality: 4 | service: 3.75 | selection: 4 | food: 4

Went to the Black Birch at the suggestion of my wife last weekend for dinner. No reservations accepted so a wait of an hour or more is the norm on the weekends. They took our name and promptly offered to get us drinks while we waited. After passing up on a seat at the "communal table" we got a table for two shortly thereafter.

Initial service was slow to get to our table but then very prompt throughout the meal. Menu is diverse and very reasonably priced. Beer selection was modest but exceptionally well chosen and they were quick to provide different sizes that on the menu (i.e. I only wanted a half pint with dinner and (unlike Boston) it cost half of the pint price).

All in all good food, good beer, good service that was worth the wait. I'll be back.

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Photo of mjstacker
5/5  rDev +11.1%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 5

My perfect review isn't a mistake. A perfect modern American bar/restaurant. The three owners actual work as hosts/bartenders and serve you each and every day. The food is as high end as you can get in southern Maine, and that shouldn't sound like a criticism. Prices are pennies on the dollar compared to Massachusetts establishments half-an-hour away. Amazing selection of 25 or-so draft beers including (when i was there on 8/23/2013) the impossible to find Oxbow Brewery. I indulged in a few Farm house Ales and one unique Grizacca. Can't say it enough, amazing, i'll go back over and over.

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Photo of ElGallo
4.85/5  rDev +7.8%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.75

What sets The Black Birch apart from pretty much every other beer bar I've ever visited is the fact this place knocks it out of the park for both beer geeks and foodees. The staff works very hard to keep fresh, rare, limited, and unique beers rotating through their 20 or so taps, and the menu options appeal to all tastes but are light years beyond typical pub fare. Their format is mostly small plates, so dishes are great for sharing. The poutine with duck confit is one of my favorites. The atmosphere is very communal, warm, and hip. The whole place maybe seats 40 people max. Lots of reclaimed wood in the interior design, and the constantly rotating vinyl is a nice touch that appeals to all patrons and not just hipsters. There is really no other place like The Black Birch in the seacoast. A must visit if you're in the area.

Important things to note:
1. They do not take reservations, this is a small space, and they are very popular. Even if you show up right when they open there's likely to be a line. Be prepared to wait for 30-60 minutes to be seated for food. The staff is quick to get you a drink once you've given your name, and there is a small waiting area in the back where you can sit and enjoy a drink and chat with folks while waiting for a table or seat at the bar. There is a bier garden too, but I haven't seen it yet.
2. Check Facebook for beer list updates. They usually post once or twice a week, but most beers turn over quickly, and they value their beer and their customers (i.e., they won't leave an IPA on tap for four months [like that would actually happen, but you get the point])
3. Seating is community style, so you will likely end up rubbing elbows with strangers during your meal. Not a big deal, really, but worth knowing if you're the shy type or looking for a private romantic date night. However, I would consider this place ideal for a date night/first date/blind date - such a fun, busy, cozy vibe that you'll never run low on things to talk about or people to talk to.

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Photo of libeer4182
4.76/5  rDev +5.8%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.75 | selection: 5 | food: 4.75

The number of quality establishments serving craft beer in the Portsmouth area continues to grow, but I have to give the title of best beer bar in the area to an establishment over the bridge in Kittery, Maine.

The atmosphere is fantastic. Housed in an old post office building they share with an art gallery (which is connected via a hallway in the back), they've done a great job making the space cozy. On the left side is a bar with roughly 15 stools, behind which they have 24 custom tap handles and an old record player which provides music. On the right side are roughly 10 tables which can be pushed together for large groups. The kitchen is open to the restaurant in a small space in the back right corner.

The service is excellent here as well. Very friendly, attentive bartenders with a vast knowledge of the hard-to-find beers they have on draft. Always willing to strike up a conversation about beer. In the one time I've waited for a table on a Saturday night, someone came out and took drink orders from those of us waiting in line so we could have a beer while we waited.

Selection is wide and ever-changing - 24 drafts ranging from European offerings to local New England (mostly Maine) breweries. Quite simply, the list of available beers in Maine dwarfs what is available in New Hampshire, so their taplist is going to routinely blow away anything you can find across the river.

Food has been excellent every time. Everything is fresh and for the most part locally grown. I once ordered a bolognese and the bartender told me the cherry tomatoes in it came from his father's garden. The menu also changes regularly so it's nice to be able to try something different every time I'm in. The menu leans more towards small plates so I find it's best to get a few things and share.

Prices are very reasonable for the area. I'll often stop in before my wife's shows in the summertime (she does improv in Portsmouth) and get out of there for $20-$25 (including two beers).

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Photo of rbowser
3.95/5  rDev -12.2%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

The Black Birch is a small beer bar / kitchen in downtown Kittery, which is about .5 miles from downtown Portsmouth, NH. You use to be able to walk, but with the bridge gone, it is now about a 2 mile drive.

They have 24 taps, with a small bar seating maybe 10, with another 10 tables. It is small enough that if you are just stopping in for a quick drink it is not recommended. You are unlikely to find a stool at the bar. This really is a place to eat and drink when you have some time. They just opened up a beer garden out back so that may help with crowding.

Their taps tend towards Northern European beers and east coast options, with little from the rest of the United States. This disappointed my wife who is a West Coast IPA fan. For instance their hoppy beers are often British (Meantime, ThornBridge), Dutch ( Koningshoeven), with maybe an East Coast one from Weybacher or Southern Tier. As these are mostly copies / influenced by West Coast path finding, I find this omission noteworthy and perhaps reflect a specific choice in selection.

They tend to also have lots of classic style examples such as weihenstephan Lager, Saison Dupont, Piraat, Scheinder Aventious, Sinebrychoff Porter, on tap which are all good but not super exciting to a beer geek. Good to introduce people to many styles but not really a selection a hard core beer person will find something new or unusual.

Food is decent, a upscale gastro pub seems to be the goal. Most people sit down and eat here. It keeps restaurant hours, really just open for dinner (4-10) and closed on Sundays/Mondays.

Music is owner selected via turntable, kind of cool, but seems to limit the range of music too often to when vinyl was king (not the hip new vinyl selections).

Recommended. Think of it for decent casual dinner with some gastro pub offerings. In Kittery you will also avoid crowds that could be present in Portsmouth. One of the best beer places in the area. Give it a try.

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Photo of lordofthewiens
4.3/5  rDev -4.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

As mentioned, this is half of an old post office in Kittery, ME. It's small, seating about a dozen at the bar, and 25-30 in the restaurant area. Somewhat minimalist decor: wood, earth tones. Not too noisy, even when busy. My favorite touch: no TVs. Instead they have a nice sound system with vinyl records. I almost fell off the seat when the bartender pulled out an old Chuck Mangione album to play!

Twenty five beers on tap. Very nice tap list, reasonably priced. Nice eclectic touch with the tap handles. Some of the favorites were a pistol, hammer, crank, the hilt of a sword, a guitar neck, a lobster claw, and a piece of a lobster trap.

I liked this place for its beer selection and the fact that people actually conversed with each other, rather than stared at a TV screen. The next time I visit, I'll have to try what looks like a great menu of food.

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Photo of SevaTse
4.85/5  rDev +7.8%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 5

Amazing new gem- enough of a reason for me to open that gosh darned Memorial Bridge back up lol
We visited on a soft opening day. The establishment is located in the right half(if you enter) of an old (1960s style) US post office. The other half is occupied by an art gallery(I asked the owner, and they will be cojoined- NEAT!).
They have done a good amount of remodeling. What gave away the old post office use is the outside of the building, the shipping dock, and the high ceiling, but otherwise they have taken many a step to make it look very cozy and ambient. The bar is on the left side of the room, the dining room is to the right of the entrance, the kitchen counter(with a large opening for all to see the chefs in action) is in the back, towards right.
The prices for the food and the beer are very reasonable, and the selection of beer trumps any place in NH(well, maybe except the Portsmouth Brewery, due to the exclusivity of their offerings). They had around 15 items on tap, and the line had empty spots, thus they're set up to add more, from what I can gather.
Really worth a trip, especially if you're coming from Portsmouth. Just remember that if you're downtown and your GPS is not up-to-date, you have to take the route 1 by-pass.

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The Black Birch in Kittery, ME
Place rating: 4.5 out of 5 with 24 ratings