New England Brewery Series: Oxbow Brewing Company (Newcastle, ME)

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Last Saturday my girlfriend and I had the pleasure of visiting Oxbow Brewing Company in New Castle, Maine with our friend.  The first thing you notice about Oxbow as you pull into their driveway is that they are kind of off the map, and tucked into a beautiful shady patch of woods.  The tasting room’s buidling greets you as you drive into the brewery’s parking lot, and to one side is a small overhanging area outside with wooden tables for outdoor seating all around it.  Behind all of this is the barn that serves as the brewhouse.  The tasting room is a rustic wooden looking building that looks very inviting and is chock-full of character.  The inside is just as rustic as the outside, with wooden grains appearing everywhere to give the room a “hunting lodge feel.”  Down a short flight of stairs from the main level of the tasting room is the barrel room and additional tables for seating, which is awesome as it allows guests to get right up and personal with beautiful barrels full of beer.  On the walls of the taproom are tons of brewing memorabilia from an old Orval sign to rows of old cans of beer and even posters of Oxbow events.  This taproom has character.

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On the beer end of things, this brewery does not disappoint.  They had five offerings on tap on the day that I visited, and I can confidently say that I would enjoy drinking any one of them at any given moment.  The brewery’s tap handles are beautiful glass-like contraptions that proudly display the brewery’ logo, an owl flying through a stylized “o,” and are quite fancy looking to boot.  They clash wonderfully with the raw and rustic feel of the Oxbow brewery and taproom.

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The first beer up on the tap-list was Loretta, an 4% grissette ale, which is essentially a blonde farmhouse ale made with spelt.  Loretta was hazy yellow and tasted of crisp, gritty wheat grains.  The lady pouring the taps said that grisette used to be the drink of coal miners, and I can completely see it being a beer to quaff back after a hard day’s work as it was quite refreshing and tasty.  The next beer on tap was Freestyle No. 14 of their “Freestyle Series” of one-off beers.  This beer was a hoppy, blonde saison brewed exclusively with German Hersbrucker hops, which helped to give a nice, crisp lemongrass flavor to the beer while still holding a grittier, cereal feel from the malts and the yeast.  This beer was also delicious, and a refreshingly different take on a hoppy beer.  Next we had one of Oxbow’s mainstay beers, the Farmhouse Pale Ale or FPA.  This beer also had what must be the characteristic grit of Oxbow beers, which I really dig.  Nice mellow malt with some rustic twinges and a healthy citric hoppy bite with just a touch of pine.  This beer was supremely drinkable and tasty.

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After that was the Freestyle No. 15, which was described as an extra hoppy session ale, which made me skeptical to it before it even touched my lips.  There have been a lot of ISA’S (India Session Ales) coming out lately, and most of them have been kind of disappointing.  Oxbow, however, did a something brilliant with their hoppy session ale, and gave it a woody flavor from the hops, alongside slight pine, citrus, and the Oxbow grit, which made a tasty refreshing beer with plenty of flavor to go around.  It also displayed a nice amount of malt character, which is something that many ISA’s completely lack.  This beer impressed me.

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The final beer on tap for the day was only being offered in samples, which is too bad, because if they offered it in growlers I would have bought some.  Funkhaus is the beer, and it is described as a “farmhouse IPA with tropical hop notes enhanced by Brettanomyces.”  The description alone had me intrigued, and when I tried the beer it did not disappoint.  The tropical hops were a little underplayed to the funky brett flavor in this beer, but they were certainly there.  I actually don’t know the proper flavors to describe this beer.  It was like a tropical mushroom, I guess.  It was delicious, funky, completely original, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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At the end of the day, I left Oxbow with a bottle of Sasuga, a brett fermented rice ale that they were only offering in bottles (expect a review soon) and an Oxbow tulip glass displaying their awesome brewery logo.  I loved the brewery’s location, décor, and its seating areas, and I am sad that I missed out on a brewery tour (I was quickly passing through and couldn’t stay) but I loved everything about the brewery, and I regret that I didn’t have enough money to purchase a growler of everything.  The beers were rustic and unique, and I thoroughly enjoyed them.  The brewery is a bit of a hike from where I live, but I hope to visit them again as I am still thinking about their beers and how much I enjoyed them.  If you are ever traveling through Maine you should definitely check them out.

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