An Exclusive Look @ The New OEC Brewing in Oxford (Ordinem Ecentrici Coctores)

James Gribbon

You read it here first back in April, and now CTbites is bringing you an absolutely exclusive first look at OEC Brewing, days before the grand opening party this Saturday. The party, by the way, is open to everyone, and will take place at 7 Fox Hollow Rd., Oxford, CT, from noon to 5p.m. We have the tap and bottle list for the event below. 

As a reminder, OEC stands for Ordinem Ecentrici Coctores, a bit of muddled Latin roughly translating to the "Order of Eccentric Boilers," and is the work of Ben Neidhart and Jie Yu. Ben designed the name, logo, and all associated labels and artwork as a bit of a spoof on medieval guilds and secret societies, and framed examples of this art can be found decorating the walls of OEC's combined brewery and tasting room.  

The Grounds

OEC shares a rather bucolic campus with beverage importer B.United, although the two are unaffiliated. All the buildings have been designed to give the appearance of a farmstead, with operations taking place inside what appear to be immense, modern barns. The grounds around the facilities have been cultivated recently by the Neidhart family with fruits, herbs and other botanicals which will, as Ben told me "either end up in the beers or on our plates."

Terraces of year-old grapevines line the driveway leading to OEC, and growing in the surrounding areas cleared from the otherwise enveloping woods are raspberries, sour cherries, currants, gooseberries, peaches, rhubarb and strawberries. A small greenhouse is nearly overflowing with sage, sweet&spicy thyme, ginger root, coriander/cilantro, rosemary... even lime trees and a pineapple plant.I guess you could call it "farm to cocktail table."

The theme extends to inside the tasting room, which is walled and paneled in reclaimed wood, largely sourced from Urban Miner in Hamden. The wood on the facing of the bar is yellow pine once used to build a house Milford. Proper receptacles are important to maintain and release the aromas in a good beer, and OEC has a large case full of imported glassware and mugs, which is surrounded by heavy logs which came from a barn in Massachusetts. The tap boxes are reclaimed pine, the cocktail table bases are old barrels. The wooden paddles on which flights of beer will be served have been crafted from barrels formerly used in B.United's exotic Zymatore barrel aging project - left unstained, they retain faint, savory aromas from their previous lives.

The Beers

OEC have just announced the lineup of beers which will be on offer for the opening party, starting with six on tap (three each at 42º and 55º):

- Phantasma - an old style German porter, brewed with wheat, oats, molasses and licorice root (8.5%ABV)

- Phantasma sour blend 1 - sour edition. Blended with 60% oak aged ale, and 40% young ale (9.5%)

- Exilis Berliner Weisse - a coolshipped & semi-spontaneously fermented light ale (3.8%)

- Tempus blend 1 -  a blended, sour saison brewed with spices, and blended 40% oak aged and 60% young (5.9%)

- Amara - a lightly sour Polish Grodziskie, with wheat malts smoked in OEC's new smokehouse over chips of old Zymatore barrels, served from a wooden gravity keg (5.5%)

- Zymatore Isaac, aged in a Ransom Spirits gin/pinot noir barrel (5%)

These will be available to taste at the brewery, or to take home in OEC's 800mL, swing-top growlers. Guest bottles will also be available, including Etienne Dupont Bouché Brut de Normandie Organic Cidre, Aecht Schlenkerla Märzen, Thornbridge Kipling, and Loverbeer BeerBera.

The Brewery

OEC uses a very traditional decoction setup for brewing their beers, and the two large kettles are a dominating presence in the tap room from the second the visitor walks through the doors. The method is similar to those used for brewing nearly all beers in Germany, pilsners in the Czech Republic, and pilsner clones in America. Simply put, the mash (the malts/grains) and the resultant wort (the unfermented liquid which will become the beer) is boiled and re-boiled several times in the same kettles to convert the starches and sugars in stages, and achieve a deeper, richer flavor - a process not entirely unrelated to the Maillard reaction in toasted bread. 

Once the boiling is complete, the wort is sent to lose some heat in a large coolship - basically a gigantic copper pan -  where hops can also be added for taste and aroma. Yeast, grown and developed in-house by OEC from their own cultures, plus wild varieties found in barrels or in their orchard, is added at this time, and some of the beers, like Exilis, are left overnight to gather native yeast from the air and spontaneously ferment. 

Some varieties are left in the coolship for less than an hour, and are piped over a device called a Baudelot Cooler (which looks like a sort of Victorian-era radiator) before being sent to the fermentation room to spend time in stainless steel or, get this, cement fermentation tanks where they will become delicious, life-saving beer. The Baudelot cooler also helps to aerate the wort, which helps the yeast cultures propagate before fermentation.

Ordinem Ecentrici Coctores is a welcome addition to the Connecticut beer scene. You may want to join them as they welcome you into their home on June 7.