When I was young, and searching for something I’d lost, my mom would suggest that I stop looking for it. “It is only when you stop that you’ll realize where it is,” she’d say. Most of the time she was right. My glasses, books or keys would suddenly show up somewhere obvious as soon as I stopped turning over couch cushions in panic.
When I went looking for Oxbow Brewing Company’s birthday ale – known as Freestyle #30 – I somehow forgot that piece of advice. Knowing that it had been released in March for co-founder and head brewer Tim Adam’s 30th birthday, I was now looking for something that it was possible I wouldn’t find. It didn’t look good. Slow to hear about it, by the time I knew to start looking, it was already mostly too late. Traces of #30’s tantalized me wherever I went. I saw curled fliers from release parties long past, saw hours old and days old Untappd check-ins, spied it’s name on beer lists with ink barely dry from the strikethrough, faded characters in chalk – all of which declaring that I’d come a day, an hour, or a minute too late to try it.
So after a long day at work and after I’d given up looking, I stopped in to the Lion’s Pride in Brunswick to console myself with – for me, at least – the best Belgian Frites in New England. When I lifted my head to look above the beautiful glass tap handles to the beer list, there it was: Freestyle #30.
Beautiful, isn’t it?
A nice copper color, the aroma on this is of apples and cedar and hops. I think the apple-like aroma I got is from some of the funkiness, and there are definitely some citrus notes in there too. It isn’t that type of funky that characterizes delicate Saisons, but rather there’s some stronger mysterious qualities here.
Officially described as an ale “brewed with Belgian candi sugar” and “mixed culture fermentation” that was “aged on Maine cedar” I had a feeling this beer was not going to be like others I’d tasted. Oxbow brewed this in collaboration with Sam Fritz, beer director at the Meridian Pint and Greg Jasgur, beer director at Pizzeria Paradiso, both located in Washington D.C., with the two collaborators visiting during one of the late winter blizzards to brew in Maine. The cedar was provided by a local boat builder.
As for the taste, that’s where it gets difficult. This is an almost indescribable beer, though I enjoyed it thoroughly. It has some vinegar like funkiness, but with an earthy rather than sweet backbone. It is perplexingly light bodied, finishes clean, but contains all kinds of earthy spiciness and citrus that make it incredibly hard to pin down. I’m really not used to many light-bodied beers that have wood involved in them (in this case, cedar, a flavor I’m even less familiar with). Lest I have made #30 sound unappetizing, let me assure you that it’s quite enticing to drink, and it plays with your head a little bit each sip. Definitely fun and unique.
So, next time I’m looking for beer, I’m just going to stop looking, and wait for something fun to appear right under my nose. Cheers!