Maine has this odd beer scene that at one pole is the Northeast innovator of older days, and also a reactionary to what Vermont is currently producing. You have the consistent top notch work from Allagash, but you also have the likes of upstarts Bissell Bros and Austin Street brew company doing their own mixolydian riffs on the hoppy farmhousey doric scales from Vermont.
Oxbow shines best when it focuses in its realm of clear influence: shredding the high neck with saison solos. Their barrel aged pale ale was prison shanking unsuspecting palates in the shower and their draft lineups often don’t make it past state lines. Let’s take a look at some of their recent offerings to see what them ‘Bow boys be brewin.
Oxbow Grizacca Grisette 5.2% abv
I love liter sized grumblers but this is one instance where a two liter needs to be the mandatory format. The 33oz feels more like a comforting back massage without the full table shower. It is intensely clean and drillable, the hop profile steps aside and lets the lemony rustic cultures impart a dry lemon aspect that pulls tight head spins on the cardboard. It is simple and doesn’t have any real grist or heft to the mouthfeel which would be nice if you had a touch of that creamy wheat character but, as it stands it is a lemon orange carbonated Gatorade that you can drill during your shift at CiCi’s pizza. No one expects you to be sober at that job anyway.
With the barrel aged pale ale, oxbow proved that they were competent Brewers and blenders in the Wallonian realm. This beer drags their catalog backwards into obscured mediocrity. It is by no means bad, but chances are you have some 10bbls local upstart doing this same shit.
It is wiped out, watery, not especially complex, bitter and herbaceous, with a mild tart sweet tarts aspect to the finish. You can live your entire life, miss this, and your wife will still have an Ashleymadison account. This beer changes nothing and is of little circumstance.
Alright time to romp into a strange salty realm not unlike a Craigslist casual encounter. This is a clean, Low abv saison brewed with maine lobsters. That is about as Maine as you can get just short of a used Stephen King condom filled with autumn leaves. If you have tried Jester King snorkel, you basically have already had this shit. It is insanely drinkable and the touch of salinity only lends to chain combos, cascading your palate into the sky with no recourse.
These beers made with exotic proteins make headlines but the vast majority of snails, oysters, bulls testicles, whatever, are just unfermentable solids that contribute calcium profile, some alkaline and salt. That’s about it. Drop an alka seltzer into a Stone saison if you need to approximate this bubbly crisp experience.
In sum this lobster pot is incredibly delicious and refreshing, get your CLAWS in one before it TAILS it out of here.
For all their mastery of the traditional saison game, Oxbow has piss running down its leg when it comes to Biere De Gardes. This french style eludes so many breweries and it is even harder to define the realm of good and bad beyond pointing to “acetic bad” and “Sans culottes good.” This Amber affair doesn’t have the red wine vinegar trappings of some amateur shit, they knew what they were doing, it just didn’t turn out that well.
First and foremost, the body is too watery, splishy splashy, lacking that candy caramel complexity and red delicious you probably are craving. Secondly I am assuming oxbow has a hard ass water profile because it is lightly copper and metallic.
To approximate this experience, get some BFM Abbaye du St Bin Chien, add water to it, let it sit for an hour. Or just ask OEC for one of their jankest barrels.
Oxbow is clipping along with some hits, some mediocre whiffs, but no clear failures. That’s more than some breweries can say at this juncture.