Geoff Masland, left, and Tim Adams of Oxbow Brewing Co.NEWCASTLE — The first thing you’ve got to know about Oxbow Brewing is that you can get there from here. You may not think so, at first. You may even declare, after a certain amount of driving around and calling the brewery for more directions and so forth, that it can’t be done. But it can.
“Everybody’s GPS puts them about a quarter mile away all over the place,” said Geoff Masland, who co-founded Oxbow with Tim Adams a scant six months ago. “We are at the epicenter of a navigational nightmare.”
The second thing you should know about Oxbow Brewing is, they’re making some seriously good beers, stuff that’s been highly rated by people on RateBeer.com and BeerAdvocate.com and elsewhere: highly desirable, really impressive, very good beer.
And the third thing you need to know about Oxbow is, you need to get there. Because on Friday afternoons starting around 2 o’clock, Tim Adams and Geoff Masland will fill you a growler of some of the finest, freshest beer you will ever taste, and talk beer with you until the cows come home – or at least until closing time, which in this case means 6 p.m.
“We consider ourselves what we call an American Farmhouse Brewery,” said Masland, who is identified as “Director of Business Operations & Assistant Brewer” on the company’s web site. “We brew with a farmhouse yeast strain that’s known from being used in Belgium and France. There’s a lot of similarities between what we’re doing here and what farmhouse breweries are doing over there. We throw in the ‘American,’ because we’re using some American brewing techniques -- big, bold flavors and stuff. In my opinion, they make some of the best beers in the world. But as of the last few years, Americans are making the best beers in the world.”
The Brewery itself is a work in progress.Which is true. And Oxbow is clearly making some of the best beer on the planet.
If you’ve missed Oxbow heretofore, you shouldn’t be surprised. They’ve only been in business for six months. But this in itself is surprising, in a way, since Oxbow Brewing’s Farmhouse Pale Ale has been served in some very impressive establishments in this state for months. (My own introduction to Farmhouse Pale Ale came three months ago, at El Camino in Brunswick. I was floored by its hazy, biscuity goodness, its great mouthfeel and bullet-proof carbonation: A real winner, eminently sessionable.)
So you might just stop and ask yourself this question: How many beer companies go from startup to taking a monster bite out of the draft beer scene in just three months?
I’m not sure it’s ever been done.
Tim Adams, center, Head Brewer & Director of Brewing Operations at Oxbow Brewing Co., serves customers on a Friday afternoon. The person on the left, identified as "Chris," was Oxbow Brewery's first customer, and purchased three growlers the day it opened.“We started well before anyone knew about us,” said Masland. “We’ve been brewing test batches in here, 10 gallons at a time. While we were writing the business plan and raising money, we were brewing furiously in here…We really didn’t want to draw attention to ourselves until we knew our beer tastes good, and we were ready to get out and about. We didn’t send out any press releases. It was really fun, because other people have been going over the top, marketing wise. But people have come to us, and it’s been nice.
“We’re passionate about getting this beer into places like El Camino that have a certain level of food preparation and business philosophy,” said Masland. “We’re not trying to get this beer into every restaurant in the state. We selected 25 places, our favorite places in the state, from Primo in Rockland, down to Portland. And we said, ‘These are the places we want to be in, and that will get us going business wise.’ And we had our beer in all those places within 90 days.”
A pretty impressive achievement, which Masland tries to play down.
Tim & Geoff's original brewing setup. They’ve come a long way in six months. “Truth to be told,” he said, “there’s not a lot to do out here in the woods but work, so our work days were 16 to 18 hours a day. So we’re able to make a lot of beer out here, and we’re self-distributors. We drive around delivering it, and when you take that level of customer service, and you’ve got the right product, you can really open some doors.”
All of which keeps Masland and Adams on the road or in the brewery most of the week, so they really look forward to Friday afternoons, when they can slow down and meet their customers.
“We’re really enjoying it,” said Masland. “It’s fun to have locals come up and buy a growler of beer and try ‘em out…We have three beers on tap. Our Farmhouse Pale Ale is what you’ve had at El Camino, that’s the one beer we’ve made throughout the last six months. It’s our bread-and-butter, meat-and-potatoes. The vast majority of what we brew…Then we have what we call our ‘Freestyle’ series, kind of seasonal and creative beers that we want to drink ourselves. Right now we’ve got Black Saison on tap, which is similar to a Belgian stout. And we’ve got a beer called the Sasuga Saison, and that’s a Japanese-American saison, made with toasted, flaked rice.
“All of our growlers are $15 the first time, and then if you bring it back to refill, it’s only $10.” [A growler is a 64-ounce, screw-top bottle reminiscent of a moonshine jug -- in this setting, very reminiscent of a moonshine jug.]
So now all you have to do is get there. Oxbow Brewing Co. is located at 274 Jones Woods Road in Newcastle, and if you need directions, you can look at the map on their web site (www.OxbowBeer.com), or call 315-5962.