At the unparalleled restaurant Lion’s Pride (which will be getting its own post), Reed tried a few beers from nearby Oxbow Brewing Company which is only a few months old and, it turns out, just a couple of guys making beer in the woods of Maine. Their slogan is “Loud Beer from a Quiet Place” – classic. They brew farmhouse ales, which I understand to be Belgian and pale ale styles mixed together to the limits of their imagination, using saison yeasts and lots of hops. We visited on a late October day, just after the region’s first snowstorm of the season, and found the guys working away in the brewery, which is currently an unfinished building (on the outside at least, inside the full set up of tanks, barrels and other equipment are churning away) along a rural road in Newcastle, Maine.
A brewery kitty greeted us (or perhaps she was just judging us, you can never tell with cats) as we walked by a surprisingly large pile of labelled kegs. I didn’t expect the scale of distribution Oxbow has considering they’ve only being open a few months. Perhaps because of the business plan itself, the geographic differences in Maine versus Southern California or maybe because no other local brewery is doing what they do – it seems these guys really get around. Hopefully all the way to the other corner of the country soon enough!
We walked in while they were conducting an experiment, mixing their Freestyle #1, a super saison (which as far as I can tell means they added as many hops as possible during the brewing process), and Freestyle #2, a smoked chocolate stout. It’s good to be a brewer on days where this is what constitutes work. As you can probably guess, it was a bit too hoppy for my usual tastes but by this time we’d been beer-tasting for days and I had declared myself a beer snob less than 48 hours earlier (that story coming soon). Reed and the head brewer chatted for awhile and then we filled up a few growlers to take to a Halloween party and left. In Massachusetts there is no ridiculous law (I’m looking at you California) that limits growlers being filled only with the type of beer printed on the glass. I was told that the only growler Oxbow won’t fill is a dirty one, so that’s a nice perk.
|Beer to go!|
While we were traveling back east, so was Greg Koch, co-founder of Stone and I guess technically my husband’s boss, who was promoting his book. I imagine he was being whisked around and didn’t have as much time as he would probably like to check out local breweries and beer bars. So I like to think of us as filling that role, San Diego craft beer ambassadors – bravely traveling to the far reaches of this great country and bringing news of the many worthy shrines to craft beer back home with us. Reed has been sharing highlights with co-workers and friends no doubt, and I do it via this blog. Luckily for us both, I break out a pen and paper almost every time we order a beer because, especially in New England it seems, you can never have just one and details can be hazy by morning. Anyway, the point is that Oxbow Brewing Company is definitely on par with the better end of breweries we have in San Diego (I include in this list Stone, Green Flash, Alesmith, among others) and I cannot wait to see what they become. People within a 100 mile radius of them are lucky, and hopefully the rest of us will be soon enough when Oxbow gets recognized for the quality and inventiveness they possess. I think they’re a perfect candidate for a collaboration with Stone – wouldn’t an “opposite corners of the country” collaboration be great? Maybe get a Washington and Florida brewery in on it, just for fun. Reed and I can take on the daunting task of finding good candidates in those states too and report back.