By Eric Neilson, Our Maine Beer Guy
“Loud Beer from a Quiet Place” is a fitting tagline for Newcastle, Maine’s Oxbow Brewing Company. Nestled in the woods of scenic Midcoast Maine, this small farmhouse brewery has been pushing out world class Belgian-inspired ales with an American twist since 2011. In just five years, Oxbow beers have gone from being virtually unknown to now being served at some of the most heralded beer bars in New York City and Washington D.C. A handful of the world’s top breweries have collaborated with Oxbow on releases, including a recently unveiled sour brown ale brewed at Birrificio del Ducato in Italy and aged in freshly dumped Brunello barrels, aptly called “Oud Brunello.”
In short, these guys are on fire.
To understand how Oxbow has become so successful in such a short period of time, it’s important to start from the beginning. Brewmaster Tim Adams and his team came out of the gates in the Summer of 2011 with a stellar product in their FPA (Farmhouse Pale Ale), a table saison hopped not too dissimilarly from an American-style IPA. It didn’t take long until the beer made its way an hour south to Portland, the state’s biggest city. Being one of the most beer-centric communities on the East Coast, Portland served as the perfect launching grounds for Oxbow’s flagship, which soon found its way into nearly every upscale dining establishment in the city.
While only an hour away, centralizing all operations in Newcastle eventually began to come with a host of challenges for Adams and the others who were making the drive each day, which led to the opening of Oxbow Blending and Bottling in Portland (brewing still takes place at the Newcastle facility). Equal parts social hub, tasting room and traditional bar (think shots of Old Overholt for $5), it’s just as likely to see someone from Midcoast Maine randomly shucking oysters in the corner at the Blendery as it is to catch a screening of any number of cult films. It’s also the place to be if you want to get your hands on one of Oxbow’s coveted bottle releases.
Though the vast majority of the suds brewed at Oxbow end up getting kegged, their bottle releases are what really separate them from other American breweries with a penchant for using Belgian yeast in their beers. Rotating highlights include Sasuga (a rice saison fermented with Brettanomyces), Liquid Swords (an annual “grand cru” of the brewery’s finest barrels) and Arboreal (an American Sour Ale that is both fermented and aged in bourbon barrels). If you’re lucky, you may even be able to get your hands on a bottle of Saison Dell’Aragosta—a gose-inspired saison brewed with live Maine lobsters and sea salt.
With recent press pouring in from as far away as Germany, it’s no secret that beer geeks the world over are taking note of what the folks at Oxbow are up to and attempting to get their hands on any of the brewery’s coveted bottle releases. It’s too early to tell what the future will hold, but with the momentum Oxbow has behind it at the moment, one can only assume that the growth seen since 2011 is just the beginning. Oxbow brewing company: rustic farmhouse ales from the woods of maine.
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