Thursday, March 13, 2008

New England, July 2005: Part 3 - Oak Pond Brewing

Having packed up all our camping gear the night before, Dave and I got up, left his wife and their 100 year old farmhouse behind and headed west on I-95. (Yes, it was actually I-95 South but it goes west in this part of the state, trust me.)

About an hour into the trip, we stopped by a general store in Skowhegan to pick up a few provisions. We grabbed some snacks and some breakfast and then something in the cooler caught my eye. It was a bomber labeled "Oak Pond Brewing Dooryard Ale". The reason it caught my eye is that I had lived in Maine for over four years and prided myself as knowing a bit about all the in-state breweries. However, this brewery had seemed to escape my attention. I grabbed the bomber figuring it was time to sample some of Oak Pond's offerings.

The clerk who checked us out commented on how much he liked Dooryard Ale and after chatting about it for a a minute, we learned that Oak Pond Brewing was right there in Skowhegan and virtually around the corner. After learning that, we decided we couldn't leave town without at least stopping by.

We pulled the car into the "dooryard" at Oak Pond and the brewery was indeed open for business. Oak Pond resides in what once was a chicken barn. It started up in 1999 but the current owner has only been there since 2003. The owner, Don (Chandler, as I later found out), was manning the operation that morning, showing people around the brewery and selling growlers and bottles of his ales and lagers. Did I say lager? Maine brewers don't make lagers. There was an Oktoberfest for sale and I asked Don if it was indeed a lager or simply an Oktoberfest-style ale. Don reported that it was indeed a lager beer. A pleasant surprise as, at that time, Oak Pond was the only brewery in Maine producing a lager. (As of 2008, I believe this is still the case).

Don let us try some samples of some of the beers he had on tap. Of all the brews sampled, it was the Nut Brown Ale that grabbed me. Nutty, malty and smooth as velvet. I bought a growler to go. Dave took to the Oktoberfest and picked up a bomber of that. With that, we had a pretty nice haul to drink around the campfire that night.

Oak Pond Brewing is one of those hidden gems that I love finding when I'm travelling. They do not make "extreme" beers (although they do make a seasonal Doppelbock) and the average beer snob would dismiss their beers as "boring". That's their loss. Oak Pond makes well-crafted, sessionable beers and is truly local. I would imagine that most of Don's sales come from Skowhegan and within a 60 mile radius of the brewery. He's your neighbor...who just happens to make some damn good beer. That's one of the many things I miss about living in Maine.

Anyway, we paid for the beer, got back in the car and started our drive north, up through the Appalachian Mountains toward The Forks.

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