by Sanne Kure-Jensen
Co-owner Tim Adams, Director of Brewing Operations at Oxbow Brewing Company says their brewery only brews with well water at their farm in Newcastle, ME. Local yeasts and bacteria influence many of their beers. Local fruit and honey will influence future beers. As the company motto states, Oxbow makes “loud beer from a quiet place.”
Their marketing targets craft beers aficionados and as well as newbies, inviting them to enjoy Oxbow’s funky saison beers. With sales continuing to grow across the Northeast, Baltimore and Philadelphia, as well as in selected cities in northern Europe, their increasing production demanded more and larger equipment — the demand overflowed the brewers’ rural barn in just two years. In 2014, Adams and Co-founder, Geoff Masland added a second production site, a 10,000-square foot warehouse in Portland’s east end industrial park. The Portland site, which is about an hour from their brewing barn, handles the brewery’s barrel aging, blending and bottling. The barn now hosts additional large steel tanks, allowing them to increase production capacity for draught beers.
Oxbow’s signature Farmhouse Saison Ale is a blending of Belgian and American Saison styles with plenty of American Centennial hops. Occasionally the brewers will age a batch of the flagship Farmhouse Pale Ale in oak barrels for a year and release this special beer in bottles under the name Barrel Aged Farmhouse Pale Ale. The Funkhaus IPA is enhanced with Brettanomyces – a wild yeast common in Belgian-style beers. This yeast enhances fruity complexity of the beer.
Brewers blend older and newer batches to taste. Adams and his right hand man, Mike Fava, are less concerned with slight variation between batches, as long as each beer is well balanced. The oak barrels come from bourbon, whiskey or brandy distilleries as well as grape or fruit wineries. A barrel’s past life and the duration of aging will deliver a unique flavor profile to the resulting beers. For one of their beers they move it from a bourbon barrel to a wine barrel to layer multiple flavors into a batch. Bottle conditioning will follow to completely smooth out flavors before release.
“Farmhouse” style beers allow brewers maximum recipe freedom. Some of Oxbow’s beers are made using a “Coolship” or open shallow tray to cool their wort overnight using outside air. To avoid competing with nearby restaurants pouring Oxbow’s signature Farmhouse Ales and IPAs, Oxbow’s Portland Tasting Room does not serve these beers. Instead, two different house beers are offered in there. The Domestic is a blonde ale brewed entirely with American hops. The Continental beer is similar but used only European hops. Customers can taste the difference between European and American hops. Customers can also purchase Growlers, Howlers, six-packs and cases of all beers poured.
Adams likes dry, refreshing, hoppy blonde beers. The brewery revived a nearly lost style called Grisette, a low alcohol beer once favored by Belgian coal miners. They offer Grizacca, a refreshing, citrusy, dry hopped American Grisette. The Oxbow team planted a fruit orchard and they raise bees at the farm. They plan to incorporate the farm’s cherries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, elderberries and honey into future beers and meads.
Oxbow has a broad offering with Farmhouse, seasonal and freestyle (brewed just once) beers. Seasonal or small batch beers vary each year and have included stouts, saisons, session ales, Bière de Garde and Grizacca.
Terroir matters to Oxbow Brewing Company
by Sanne Kure-Jensen