When it comes to breweries in Portland, Maine, Allagash is likely the first that comes to mind. There’s another outfit in town that’s also focused on Belgian-style ales that should also be on your radar. I’m referring to Oxbow Brewery, a two-location operation that brews beer in a renovated barn in Newcastle, Maine. That’s a pretty solid place to be making Saisons and Farmhouse Ales, if you ask me. Oxbow also has a blending and bottling facility in Portland proper, but both locations have a taproom for thirsty visitors.
If you can’t make the trek to Maine, Oxbow’s American versions of those Belgian styles are available in restaurants and watering holes in Vermont, Massachusetts, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, DC. One of those brews is Crossfade: a blend of hoppy Saisons brewed with Brettanomyces. I’ve been pretty honest about my current Saison kick, so the lineup from Oxbow has more than a few options that fit the habit. They even brewed a Gose-inspired Saison with Maine lobsters and sea salt. How’s that for some local flavors?
Crossfade pours a golden straw color with a thick white pillowy head on top. It doesn’t take long for that head to fade completely though, leaving a slight ring around the outside of the glass and only the faintest layer in the center. You get a nice punch of hops in the nose along with some lemony citrus notes and a bit of that trademark Brett funk. The aroma of the hops is the dominant smell, but they don’t overpower the taste of the beer.
Flavors of hops, Brett and more lemon hit my palette when I took the first few sips. The overall taste is pretty true to the nose, although the hops blend well with the rest of the flavors and don’t dominate the way they did when I first took a whiff. Crossfade is light and easy drinking at 5%, which makes it a great option for the heat of the summer when something heavier won’t do the trick. There’s still a ton of flavor here though, a complexity that lower ABV beers can sometimes fail to achieve.
If you’ve yet to venture into Saisons or Farmhouse Ales, this would serve as a nice introduction for someone who prefers Pale Ales, IPAs or hoppier styles. The big aroma of hops in the nose and those flavors throughout make this a solid option if you’re not a fan of the traditional funk, spice and earthiness that Saisons tend to carry. You definitely still get the Brett here, but it’s balanced nicely with the hops and other ingredients so that not one thing outshines the others. Saison fans will be quite pleased as well, especially with the range of flavors this 5% offering showcases.
Brewery: Oxbow Brewery
City: Newcastle/Portland, Maine
Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Availability: 500mL bottles
Billy is the host of The Brewcast, a beer podcast that never records on a regular schedule. You can follow his drinking habit @beardbrews on Twitter.