Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Oxbow Beer Farmhouse Ale Brewery

Just before New Years Day, we traveled to Newcastle, Maine to make our first ever visit to the Oxbow Beer brewery, tasting room, and farm. Tasting room managers and bartenders Celeste and Rocky set up the rounds and showed us around, in the fresh Maine snow.

Oxbow was founded in 2011 as an American Farmhouse Ale brewery... on a farm! The brewery has a garden, growing fruits -- raspberries, strawberries, and cherries -- to use in some of their brews, they keep bees and use the honey for other beers, and they have a couple of Guinea Fowl, which lay eggs and are known for eating ticks -- not a bad bird to have around in the Maine woods. On the day we visited, one of the Guinea hens flew the coop and roosted in a nearby tree. They've also had some livestock, including pigs, which live happily eating spent grain, until they become food themselves.
Entrance to the brewery/brew house. B.R. and Celeste.
The relatively small 7-barrel brew house churns out some impressive ales. Their flagship beer, Farmhouse Pale Ale, is a classic, rustic, Farmhouse Saison, utilizing pilsner malt, some wheat malt, as well as unmalted grains. American hops add a hint of a citrus note, setting it apart from its Belgian/French ancestors. Oxbow uses a unique mash bill carefully crafted to suit their particular flavor profile, adding in some local grains to the mix. 
The back of the brewery.
The brewery's water source is a natural spring well, yielding extremely soft water. It also has a distinct sulphur note in the nose when you fill a glass directly from the tap. The sulphur doesn't come across in the flavor -- just a hint. But it's certainly one of the many components that sets Oxbow beers apart from any others, according to founder and brewer Tim Adams.

Oxbow's unique water.

Something else that's quite special about the operation is how the brewery and the aging/blending/packaging facilities are 50 miles apart. The 800 square foot brew house is situated on 18 acres of woods and farmland, and the 10,000 square foot barrel aging, blending, and packaging plant is in downtown Portland, Maine.
Beer is transported from Newcastle to the brewery's blending and packing facility in Portland, ME.
Beer is brewed in Newcastle, then transferred into 7 bbl stainless steel grundy tanks and shipped in a box truck an hour and change south. In the Portland Blending and Bottling facility, the beer is conditioned, some of it in stainless, some of it in barrels, before being bottled or kegged. The bottled beer can age from six to thirty-six months in wood before spending another three plus months conditioning in the bottle.

They've transported beer in the grundy tanks at every stage of the post-boil, from still wort to carbonated beer. They've even gone directly from the post-boil chilled wort directly into oak barrels before trucking them to the Portland location.

You'll learn more about the brewery in this three part podcast. There is also more information and pictures on our visit to the brewery and blending room in Part 2 and Part 3 of the Oxbow blogpost.

The pond can be viewed from the brew house window.
The 7 barrel brewhouse.

The 7 barrel coolship, looking more like a coldship.
Fruit garden behind the brewery in the off season.
Guinea Fowl coop. Notice the bird on the roof.
Guinea hen flew the coop.
Entrance to tasting room.
Cozy tasting room.
Celeste, Rocky, and B.R. at the tasting room bar.

Dizzy the brewery cat with Celeste.
Bottles on offer at the tasting room.

Bee hives behind the brewery.
The pond behind the brewery where hockey is alleged to be played.
Tim Adams of Oxbow in the Portland, ME office.
The plumber's dog
The plumber was there to install a plate chiller. The dog was there be a chill player.
The tasting room at twilight.
View of the tasting room from the guest house, which can be rented year round by visitors.
A walk through the woods surrounding the brewery.


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