The drive to Oxbow Brewing was almost as fun as actually getting there and tasting the beer, though I admit, their beer is pretty awesome. The young brewery, founded in 2011 in the Lincoln County town of Newcastle, is in the boonies a bit — far, but not too far. Taking the scenic route from Bangor, I found myself driving down winding roads in Waldo and Lincoln counties as my GPS took me away from I-95 and into rolling hills and farmlands.
Tucked down a dirt driveway off Jones Wood Road, Oxbow is located on an 18-acre farm owned by Geoff and Dash Masland, who with head brewer Tim Adams started the craft brewery a year and a half ago with the intent of making farmhouse ales using exclusively saison yeast. Adams, a native of Yarmouth, got his start with beer at a young age — as a teenager, he lived in Japan, where the drinking laws are much more relaxed. By age 16, he was bartending, and discovering the virtues of really good beer.
“I came back to Colorado to go to school, and Colorado has an incredible craft beer scene, so that really solidified my interest in it,” said Adams. “Finally, I decided to move back to my home state of Maine, where of course we’ve got a wonderful craft beer scene, as well … and that’s when Geoff and I started Oxbow.”
Since August 2011, Oxbow has brewed a huge variety of beers. There are two beers they always brew — Farmhouse Pale Ale and Space Cowboy Country Ale — and, as of February 2013, 21 other beers brewed seasonally and in limited quantities. These include the beers such as Sasuga, a dry, brightly flavored beer made with rice, to the Freestyle series, now in its 13th incarnation, a series of special brews made in (usually) one-time only batches available only for a few months. They’ve ranged from No. 7, a big, bold Belgian stout that came out in July 2012, to the current offering, No. 13, a dry-hopped blonde saison.
“It’s our interpretation of Belgian farmhouse-style ales, so that means we’re using a yeast called saison,” said Adams. “It’s a funky type of yeast strain that ferments warm. It has a ravenous appetite for sugar so it gives us a very dry beer. It’s actually derived from red wine yeast. We love it. We’re the only brewery in Maine that uses saison yeast exclusively.”
The laid-back vibe that permeates the place translates into their beers — offbeat, sometimes funky, and easy to drink. In the winter, Oxbow hosts pond hockey tournaments against fellow Maine brewers. In the summer and fall, they have outdoor beer fests, complete with music and food trucks. Year-round, beer enthusiasts can visit and sample whatever they’ve got available in their tap room, open from 2 to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays.
Oxbow isn’t available in stores, but it is available in a number of bars and restaurants statewide, including Novare Res, Pai Men Miyake and Nosh in Portland; Lion’s Pride and Tao in Brunswick; the Newcastle Public House; Nocturnem Drafthaus in Bangor and many others. Growlers are available at the tap room. Coming up, there’s an Oxbow beer dinner set for Sunday, March 10 at Duckfat in Portland, featuring two seatings at 5 and 8 p.m., with five courses paired with five beers for $90 per person, all-inclusive, with a custom-made beer goblet.
“It feels good to be making farmhouse beers in a rural, farmhouse setting,” said Adams. “We love doing what we do.”