By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,261)
“We are thrilled to be on the list with such other great breweries in New England.” said Greg Jasqur, General Manager of Oxbow Brewing Company, in its facility on Washington Avenue this afternoon. Jasqur was referring to the company’s recent nomination by “Boston” magazine as the sixth top brewery in New England out of twenty-one. The recognition was featured in the April issue of the magazine. Allagash Brewing Company took second place with a Vermont based brewery, Hill Farmstead Brewery, coming in first in the survey.
In introductory remarks to the article, magazine editor Carly Carioli writes: “And while northern New England is fast becoming as known for its craft-beer scene as say, Napa Valley is for its wine, there’s still great beer within Uber-hailing distance.” Come to Portland, anyway!
The Brewery, with an unpretenuous entrance, is in the process of getting a lounge license for one section of its Washington Street property. That will permit Oxbow to sell guest beers, plus wine and snacks according to Jasqur. Currently it is a tasting room, but the space is large and could accommodate many more patrons that it now serves. Last November Oxbow opened at its Munjoy Hill site. The Newcastle, Maine based Brewery was looking for a space that was not rural as its current location is; (the locals call the area Cow Shit Corner)! No joking. It was hard to take needed deliveries as well as to distribute beer in Maine from that rural location. “The logistics up there were a problem,” said Fava. The Brewery also needed much more warehouse space; for barrel aging and bottling. Fortuitously, this space provided that and room for a retail space as well. That’s where the new lounge license will be an asset to the overall company when it comes.
The Washington Avenue location is where the beer is barrel aged and the bottling is done according to Mike Fava. It takes from 8 months to 3 years to barrel age beer – depending on the beer style. “I think there has always been a lot of mystique about brewing beer. The knowledge wasn’t out there because there weren’t enough breweries. But that has changed,” said Fava. Oxbow bottling is done by hand. “It’s a tradition we believe in,” said the affable Fava. Last year Oxbow produced 1,200 barrels, with 31 gallons to a barrel, according to Fava. A drop in the barrel, perhaps, but it’s making a big splash. From Philadelphia originally, he started brewing beer at home. Then he was mentored by a Master Brewer in Philly. He came to work in Maine for Oxbow last summer.
Bottling day happens about once a month at the Portland facility. All four brewers are involved in the process which takes a full day. It is very labor intensive day. The run each time is between 500-3,000 bottles a day. It’s a very exciting day because Oxbow gets a chance to show the public just how good its product is.
“This is less of a competitive business and there is more camaraderie involved than you’d think. We all want each other to be successful,” said Fava. “It’s very much an open door policy around here.”
Congratulations to owners Tom Adams, (a Munjoy Hill resident), and Jeff Nasland on this impressive recognition from “Boston.”