Home brewing in Connecticut Discussions - CT Beer Trail

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Beer-Traveling in Skowhegan Maine

It's been a long (and somewhat tedious) Thanksgiving weekend, in the secluded backwoods of Maine with my wife's family.  I managed to escape from the in-laws and found my way out to Oak Pond Brewing Co. this evening.  I dragged the family out last Christmas to try and find the brewery, but our GPS led us on a wild goose chase and we gave up...

This year I went out on my own, I figured less overhead was better for such an expedition.  And this year, the GPS lied to me again.  I found myself in the middle of the same pitch black dirt road in the middle of nowhere.  But this time, I had the luxury of not having the in-laws in tow.  I dialed up the brewery on my cell and they gave me a little directional guidance.

Apparently I wasn't the first out of town craft beer lover to be lead astray by a fibbing GPS.  Even after getting some verbal directions I drove right past them.  I had to call again.  The brewery is in an old barn, in the middle of nowhere, very hard to find in the pitch black.  I had about 45 minutes to find the place before they closed, but it all worked out.


Complete darkness, minus one small red door with a small light on it...  Easy to miss...


I'll take what's behind door number one...



Behind the red door was a water heater, a tractor (see below) and another door...



In case you doubted this was a real barn, note the tractor...

When I finally found the place, I was a little apprehensive...  No one greeted me at the first door, and no one greeted me at the second.  I poked my head in and called out, "hello?"  The owner, Don Chandler was busy cleaning out some of the equipment used to filter the brewery's latest batch of Oktoberfest.  We made some small talk about my homebrewing, and he called for his wife Nancy, who gave me the tour.


The tour was brief, no more than 10 minutes.  There wasn't much to see if you took it all at face value, a barn with the usual stainless steel brewery setup.  But if you looked deeper you saw quite a bit.  Oak Pond Brewing's staff consisted of Dan, Nancy and their son, who's name escapes me.  (Note: The son was kind enough to guide me in over numerous phone calls, despite my dependency on a faulty GPS devices.)  


  Obligatory photo taken of myself in front of the taps and brewing setup...




A small brewery, where all the work is done by hand by the owners...


When I looked at the small brewery floor, I saw a close knit family dedicated to the family business.  A family who works 7 days a week, a real labor of love.  Nancy stressed their dedication to producing consistent and quality brews.  The family wasn't looking to get rich off their craft, they only wanted to make a quality product and make a living doing it.  Nancy confessed she also works part time as a physical therapist to provide healthcare for the family.  

Dan and Nancy purchased the brewery when Dan was out of work in 2003, as Nancy says, "No one wants to hire a 60 year old."  So they took a chance and purchased Oak Pond.  Their first year or so was an exercise in trial and error.  Nancy confessed their White Fox Ale IPA was originally less hoppy.  During their first year of operations, Nancy misread the recipe, and doubled the hops by mistake.  The results were better than the original, so the recipe was forever changed.  




Nancy was generous with the six OPB beer on tap...

Nancy let me sample everything OPB had to offer, inlucing the OPB Nut Brown Ale, White Fox Ale, DoorYard Ale, Oktoberfest, Storyteller Doppelbock, and the Laughing Loon Lager.


I picked up a bottle of the White Fox Ale and the Storyteller Doppelbock for the road.
I'll sample them again once I get home and write up reviews for each.


Empire Grill, from the film Empire Falls, in downtown Skowhegan

After I completed the tour and made my purchases, I drove through the center of Skowhegan on my way back to the in-laws house.  I decided to stop and share a couple of pints with the locals.  Interesting side note: the film Empire Falls was filmed there.  The diner from the movie, Empire Grill, is on this street.  I may try and grab breakfast there tomorrow... 



The downtown area reminded me of the town from the TV show "Northern Exposure."

I checked out a couple watering holes, one appeared to be out of business, the other completely empty, the third was tucked behind the maid drag in an alley overlooking the river and an old mill.  The Old Mill Pub.  As close to "the Brick" from "Northern Exposure" as I was going to get here.  

The bar was tiny, and there was only one empty seat between a young couple and two middle aged guys chatting it up.  I sat down and ordered a locally brewed Maine beer.  While they did carry the very local OPB beers on tap, I went for an old favorite, Allagash White, which they served up in a Pabst Blue Ribbon glass with no head.  No really, check out the photo...



The Pub served up some good local brews, but it was still a dive.  
This photo sums it up, a good beer, a bad glass...


I had a great conversation with some locals and a nice couple from Cape Cod who owned a cabin in the area.  The surrounding towns (including the town my in-laws live in) lost power, so they were killing time, waiting it out.  Some good talk was topped off with another local brew, some sort of seasonal Sebago brew that does not appear on the Sebago home page.  Tasty...

It was great, I got to experience the local beer culture in a place many would assume none existed in.  Real home town folks, brewing and enjoying real local brews in a local joint, quite frankly in the middle of nowhere...  Good stuff...

6 comments:

  1. Wish we had something like this in Vancouver

    ReplyDelete
  2. What's that? The brewery, the pub, or the former TV series diner?

    ReplyDelete
  3. The brewery is so cool. I wouldn't imagine them being there as well. I might get lost too.

    ReplyDelete

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