8 team members, a cherry red VW Beetle, 6 brewery visits, pig wrangling at the Oxbow Farmhouse, and an awesome VIP tour of Allagash. Could a winter weekend be any better?

downtown-portland-maine Four grown men were in that Beetle.

Friday: The Drive

We left early on a Friday morning, half in one car (Rex's high school Audi station wagon), the other half in an unexpected rental (pictured above).

It's about 6 hours from Brooklyn to the Oxbow Farmhouse. It took us about 12 because of our many important stops:

Maine Beer Copmany Safety glasses and all during our tour at Maine Beer Co.

A little after 9:00, we finally (speaking as one of the drivers) made it to the farmhouse. We unpacked, settled in, and sat down to drinking some of our many Bissell cans. We talked, we walked the property, and enjoyed the silence of the woods. It was a nice respite.

Saturday: Pig Wrasslin'

Saturday morning 7/8 of us slept off the beers from the night before (Joe, permanently overachieving, went for a run). We eventually made breakfast and then 5 of us got out for a walk in the woods. It was a perfectly clear 15 degrees. Not that bad for a Minnesota boy like me, but definitely a stretch for some of us (looking at you, South Florida Zack).

The property dripped with self-sustenance. Mountain biking trails cut from the woods, fruit trees the Oxbow crew uses in some of their beers, guinea hens pecking around for seeds, chickens squawking all day long. It really is a farmstead, and we enjoyed walking, talking, tossing a frisbee, and just enjoying the crisp air.

About 20 minutes in we happened upon the following scene: 3 dudes, 3 pigs, one rickety ramp running from the ground up to a trailer, one rickety trailer with walls of plywood, and one old pickup truck.

“You guys wanna help wrangle some pigs?” the ringleader asked.

Now that's a false choice.

Zack, Rex, Eric, and I joined the wrangling squad while Will documented.

Our task was simple: move said pigs up said rickety ramp and into said rickety trailer to be pulled away by said pickup truck. For all you vegetarians out there, we won't tell you where the pigs were headed.

We screwed around a little bit, trying to coax the pigs into the trailer with just food, but after we got the first one up there it was no go. Way too much squealing for the others to come near. Too much commotion, too many human bodies.

So Zack, our resident hunter, proposed an idea: what about the Purdo Special?

“What the hell is the Purdo Special?” you may be asking.

Well, here it is:

Lay a noose on the ground, drawing the opening out very wide. Pile up some food on the ground, inside the large noose opening. Coax the pig over to the pile of food. While the pig is throughly enjoying his/her snack, close the noose.

It's a pretty simple, though physically exhausting, process from there.

Two pigs down, one to go.

The final pig was the biggest and most skiddish. The Purdo Special wasn't going to work again.

So we got seriously, muddily, pig sloppily involved:

Oxbow Brewing Pig Wrestling The team helps out with wrangling.

Long story short: we got the job done. (If you want to hear/see more about this experience, shoot me an email at dylan@beermenus.com—we wanted to remain relatively appropriate.)

Turns out the bearded lead instigator was Tim, founder of Oxbow. One of the other guys, Lyle, was about to open the taproom.

After the nerve-wracking wrangling, this was perfect: if there was ever a time for a beer, it was now. We walked, talked, looked around the brewery, and chilled on the porch of the farmhouse while drinking a few Oxbow beers, as well as one of Will's cloudy IPA homebrews. A wonderful afternoon.

The rest of the day wasn't too shabby, either:

  • Morse's Sauerkraut for some great bottled European beers and dense German food
  • Team meeting, brought to you by Bissell's Lux and Substance
  • Pallet fire, built next to the farmhouse pond, with help from copious amounts of lighter fluid
  • Glow in the dark Bocce Ball on the frozen farmhouse pond
  • Pork Roast dinner (thanks to Chef Zack)

Sunday: VIPs at Allagash

Legends have been told about the back bar, the foeders you can tackle, the baths you can take in the coolship (first one in America!). And here we were, about to take the tour. Yeah baby.

It was awesome. Our host, Lindsay, was amazing, and led our groggy selves through a super interesting tour. (Apologies, Lindsay, if we seemed dead to the world.)

Allagash Brewing Fermenters
Huge new fermenters at Allagash.

The equipment was great (especially the badass pilot system) and so were the beers, but the thing that resonated with us the most, the thing that made us happiest for visiting Allagash, was their adherence to their values.

2016 brought about a lot of acquisitions in the craft beer world. Brands and breweries many of us thought would never sell did exactly that. Honestly, it's been a bit of a bizarro world learning how to think about this.

Looking at the situation objectively, Allagash fits the profile of the “target” breweries for the larger conglomerates to scoop up. Proven track record of success. Extremely popular flagship. National footprint. Legit brewing credentials.

But they haven't sold. They haven't changed who they are. They haven't abandoned their independent core. Rob Tod started Allagash almost 30 years ago and even after all this time he's still at the helm. And though there's a lot more capacity than there once was, the folks at Allagash are still bottle-conditioning their famous Allagash White, and they're still brewing up pilot batches that will one day find their way to the mainstream. They're still themselves.

As an evergreen startup, that's a commitment we identify with. We feel it best reflects the craft beer community, a community none of us want to see fade.

Looking Back

It wasn't until a week or so later that one of our co-founders, Will, perfectly described the trip. During our visit to the “private” bar at Allagash I noticed there was a dartboard. Lindsay was pouring us some coolship beers and telling us a little more about how and why Allagash came to build the first coolship in the United States.

But I couldn't resist throwing a dart or two. I opened up the mini doors on the dartboard, grabbed three darts, and stepped back the requisite distance. I heard Lindsay talking, and everybody drinking, and I took aim. I pulled the first dart back and fired.

Bullseye. As Will said, “that bullseye embodied the entire weekend.” He's right. Everything went perfectly.

Except the damn Beetle. My legs are still unfolding.

About The Author

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Dylan runs Marketing and Messaging at BeerMenus. He was born in the Midwest, got a super helpful degree in English from the University of Notre Dame, and traveled the world (and Wisconsin) in search of good beer, finally winding up in New York, a city with which he's got an ambivalent relationship.