7 Fox Hollow Road Unit B | Oxford, CT 06478
OEC Brewing stands for Ordinem Ecentrici Coctores, which loosely translates to Order of the Eccentric Boilers, aka the Eccentric Brewers. The brewery is located in Oxford, Connecticut.
Founded by Ben Neidhart and Jie Yu, the brewery opened in June 2014, however they have been barrel aging and blending beers as part of the Zymatore Project since 2011.
They describe the Zymatore Project as their “endeavor to create liquids of unheard flavors and aromas that destroy the boundaries of beer, wine, mead, cider, and spirits through barrel aging and blending international products with the original producer’s consent.”
OEC is influenced by the brewing traditions from Northern Germany across to Belgium and combine them with modern brewing techniques.
As you turn off of Jacks Hill Road, you’ll find OEC Brewing at the end of Fox Hollow Road. The first building of the campus is owned by Beverage United International (B. United), a beverage importer. The buildings give the appearance of a farmstead.
Continue to the back of the campus, and OEC’s brewery and taproom are located inside what appears to be a large red barn overlooking the Larkin State Park Trail and Jacks Brook. The grounds include fruits, herbs, and botanicals, many of which are used in OEC beers.
Fruits growing in the area include grapes, raspberries, sour cherries, currants, gooseberries, peaches, rhubarb, and strawberries. A greenhouse near the brewery houses sage, thyme, ginger, cilantro, and rosemary.
Reclaimed wood is used throughout the taproom from the walls to the bar and the tables and even the shelves holding the bottles of beer. The walls are a beautiful grey color, while the chairs and stools add a pop of color.
While the taproom itself is quite beautiful, the brewing system is what will capture your attention.
The brewhouse was built in Bamberg, Germany by Kaspar Schulz, one of the oldest brewing equipment manufacturers. The system took 12 months to build and combines modern and old world brewing technology.
The 15 hectoliter system arrived in Oxford, Connecticut in March 2014. The system includes a mash/brew kettle and lauter tun, allowing the brewers to use methods such as decoctions and turbid mashing.
After the boil, the hot wort goes to a copper coolship for initial cooling. The time spent here depends on the beer style. Some wilder ales will be left in the coolship overnight before heading to fermentation.
After the coolship, the wort moves to the beaudelot cooler, where the liquid trickles down cooled copper tubing. This step not only cools the wort, but also aerates the liquid.
The two main fermenters are rectangular open containers (one steel and one concrete). Using open vessels will promote more ester development from the yeast. These vessels are located in a room immediately to your left upon entering the building.
In addition to a German ale and German lager strain of yeast, OEC also harvests their own yeast strains from both the fruits grown on the property and out of the spent barrels from the Zymatore Project.
Read more about the brewing process at OEC Brewing from this article by Anthony Pellino.
There were 8 beers available on tap during our visit (four each at 42º and 55º). Beers can be purchased in 12-ounce pours or a flight of eight 4-ounce pours. There are also 2 guest taps.
The beers on tap during our visit included… (if these descriptions don’t make you want to jump in the car now and go to OEC, I don’t know what will!)
- Exilior (Blend #1) – 3.9% ABV Berliner Style Weisse brewed using a traditional 3 part decoction using the thin part of the mash in each decoction. The hops are added and boiled during the decoction process. Unboiled, the beer then sits in the coolship overnight. The next day it is transferred to the tank and pitched with some house yeast making this a semi spontaneous fermented ale. It is then matured in wine barrels for at least 6 months. Batch #1 was matured in a mix of Syrah and Chardonnay barrels.
- Albus – 4.7% ABV historic interpretation of a white ale brewed with ginger root, chamomile, and lemon balm. Mixed fermentation with saccharomyces and lactobacillus.
- Nepenthes – 5.5% ABV rye saison with sage and lavender from OEC’s horticultural area added to the coolship. It is lagered in Gin/Pinot Noir barrels for 3 months and then dry-herbed with more fresh sage and lavender.
- Artista Zynergia: Gosatequin (Blend #2) – 5.0% ABV blended new age Gose style ale produced in cooperation with Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof (Leipzig, Germany). It is spiced with coriander, pink peppercorns, and a touch of salt. It is a blend of 40% 1 year old oak aged ale in Pinot Noir/Gin barrels, Tequila barrels, and 60% young sour ale lagered in oak barrels.
Note: Artist Zynergia is the OEC Brewing international blending project where they brew a portion of the final product, while another producer (in this case Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof) brews a portion at their facility and ships it to Connecticut. OEC then ages and blends the liquids.
- Salsus (Blend #1) – 5.0% ABV interpretation of a rustic Gose. It is triple decocted and brewed using wheat, spelt, and barley malts. A touch of French Grey Sea Salt is used along with coriander and pink peppercorns. Unboiled, the beer then sits in the coolship overnight. It is then lagered in oak barrels for at least 3 months.
- Brunneis (Blend #2) – 8.5% ABV interpretation of a Flemish Oud Bruin. Blend #2 was matured in 5 different barrels that used to house bourbon, whiskey, syrah wine, and sherry. It is deep brown in color with a touch of carbonation. Reminiscent of dark fruits, raisins, and plums, it has a balance between acidity and maltiness that is enhanced by a slight smokiness on the nose.
- Zymatore Hitachino Nipponia – 12.0% ABV B.United/OEC barrel aging project using Hitachino Nipponia – a Japanese beer brewed using a forgotten strain of Japanese barley along with the historic Sorachi Ace hops. This beer was aged in Ransom Spirits Gin/Pinot Noir barrels (1 aging of gin and 3 agings of Pinot Noir) for 24 months.
- Grandis Hydromelita (Blend #2) – 12.0% ABV blended braggot from various ales matured in oak barrels from several months to three years plus South African Coffee Mead that was matured in wine barrels.
OEC also has a special series known as Experimentalis, which uses fruit grown on the OEC Brewing property and aging in oak barrels. These beers often sell out quickly, gone within a few hours on release days.
The current guest drafts included Heck’s Dry 2013 Vintage Cidre and Gamma Ray APA.
I don’t think I could choose a favorite beer during my visit. Each beer was unique, complex, and intriguing. I also picked up several bottles to go, which I look forward to enjoying with family and friends.
Check OEC’s Facebook page or website for current hours, but they are typically open Wednesdays from 4 to 8 PM and Saturdays from noon to 7 PM. There is frequently a food truck on site, but you are also free to bring in your own food.
Growlers can be filled to go, however there is a four growler limit per person per trip through the line. They will fill any clean, screw-top growler as long as it fits in the growler filling machine. Be sure to bring your own screw-top.
The drive up to OEC Brewing will be worth it upon first sip. I promise.