I’ve definitely said it multiple times on this here blog, but there was a small part of me that was hanging for the end of the summer and the arrival of the cooler months.
Not because I enjoy shorter days, ice on the ground and seasonal affective disorder, but because I couldn’t afford to keep going to fantastic beer events every weekend and draining my bank account (not to mention all those extra calories/chins).
The aforementioned cooler months are most certainly here, as evidenced by how deep in my drawers my shorts are buried, and the amount of fall foliage around the place.
But that doesn’t mean the fun has stopped; oh no. And I have Oxbow Beer’s Goods From The Woods festival to thank for that.
Ever since I started publicizing my love for the Maine beer scene, one of my coworkers has been asking me on a semi-regular basis whether I’d been out to Oxbow yet. My answer was always “not yet,” and that’s my own stupid fault.
I first crossed paths with Oxbow’s product at an event called Noshbow, a block party in Portland co-hosted by the brewery and a bar called Nosh. Geddit? It’s a portmanteau. Anyway, I quite enjoyed their Farmhouse pale ale, and endeavored to seek out more of Oxbow’s goodness when and where I could.
When my birthday rolled around, my inquisitive coworker sent me a text to let me know she’d snagged me a ticket to Goods From The Woods, a one-day party in (you guessed it) the woods surrounding Oxbow’s brewery operation in Newcastle, about 40 miles from Augusta.
Needless to say, I was pretty excited about this, and the day couldn’t come soon enough. The tickets were limited, so I quickly grabbed one for Bonnie while they were still available, and last Saturday we headed east to see what it was all about.
We’d had near-constant rain in the week leading up, but Saturday was the perfect New England fall day. Blue skies, sun shining, cool temperatures, the works. The only concern was mud, and lots of it, but luckily Mainers are prepared for these sorts of conditions.
Bonnie and I donned our L.L. Bean boots and plaid shirts – the unofficial uniform of Vacationland – and trekked out towards Newcastle and the famous “Cowshit Corner,” a place that actually has its own web reality TV show.
Once we arrived at the designated parking area, we boarded a bus for the short trip down to Oxbow. The gates opened at noon, and we got there around 12:30 p.m. to find a solid, but not awful, line at the ticket counter.
We had our names crossed off and were given a list of available beers and a commemorative glass from which to drink them. Better than using our hands, I reckon.
After buying beer tickets ($2.50 a pop, and you need either two or three per beer), and agonizing over whether I’d bought enough or not, we grabbed a beer each (I feel like I started with the Harvest American pale ale, but things got kinda hazy around 3 p.m.) and went to wander around the property.
There was a ton of open space surrounding a pond in the middle of the field, with bars on two sides and one in the farmhouse where we’d started. At the far end of the pond was a large wall where three graffiti artists were doing their thing, and a bee-hive where a beekeeper (maybe?) was talking about bees (I guess? I didn’t stop to listen.)
Beyond that was a trail into the woods, which was an explosion of fall colors. There was talk that hidden in the woods somewhere was a hidden keg, from which enterprising visitors could pour themselves a freebie, but by the time we got there and ran into my coworkers Chelsea and Paul, it was reported to be dry. Oh well.
In the line for another beer, we bumped into one of Bonnie’s friends, as well as Casey, one of the managers from the Liberal Cup, and his wife. So between them, Chelsea and Paul, Paul’s dad (whom I’d been drunk with before…) and another friend, there was a pretty solid crew of people I actually knew.
I’d come correct and ready for mud, with a cheap tarp to act as a picnic blanket, so we spread that out to sit down and eat. The usual food truck suspects had turned out to provide grub for the masses, and it was all excellent as usual. I snagged a carnitas quesadilla, since I can never go past Hella Good Tacos (see: Portland Brew Festival), Bonnie got sausage and chicken gumbo, and we went halvsies.
I could try to piece together each beer I consumed and give a blow-by-blow account of the afternoon, but that’d be a) a little boring and b) a struggle.
But what I will say is that it was a fantastic event that couldn’t be more Maine. The setting was sensational, with all the fall foliage set off by a blue sky and bright sunshine. The crowd was friendly, mellow, and for all intents and purposes it looked like a plaid-and-Bean-boots convention. The food didn’t miss, and each vendor was still feeding people long into the afternoon, so kudos there to Small Axe, Hella Good Tacos, Harvest Moon Pizza, Otter Cove Farm, Bread & Butter Catering and Standard Gastropub.
And of course, the centerpiece of the day was the beer. Oxbow released 1,000 bottles of its Arboreal wild ale – two per attendee – but instead of throwing down $17 for one of those, I opted for more beer tickets and continued the party long into the afternoon.
Highlights included: watching a quirky (potential swinger) couple whom we’d met in the woods, dancing to the DJ, watching the woman from said couple spilling most of a beer on Bonnie’s friend Francois’ crotch, and joining a crush of people pouring freebies from an Oxbow employee in a wetsuit and scuba mask with a keg on his back. I
‘d say the only two downsides to the afternoon were missing out on a glass of the bright-green Oxtoplasm, and the lack of more live music after the first band finished up shortly after we’d arrived. The DJ was good, but it seemed more like background noise than entertainment. Oh well.
Once 5 p.m. rolled around, people started to head off in dribs and drabs, but Bonnie and I lingered by the campfire (and got a free top-up from a growler belonging to a guy from Lively Brewing Co. in Brunswick; thanks, guy!) until we were warned that the last bus back to Cowshit Corner was leaving. We hot-footed it outta there so we didn’t have to walk the whole half-mile back to the car, because we’re
So if you’re reading this in Maine – or somewhere else in northern New England – then I’d strongly encourage you not to miss out on next year’s edition of Goods From The Woods. Great beer, great surroundings, killer food and great beer. What’s not to like?