Brewery Name: OEC Brewing
Type of Brewery: Retail Brewery
Location: 7 Fox Hollow Road, Oxford, CT 06478. It’s a little off the beaten path, down a long and winding road past a few scattered office buildings and up a small hill. You may think you’ve gone too far, but you haven’t. You’ll see their name painted on a rock at the base of a long driveway. Just go up the drive and you’ll see their building and parking lot.
Facebook: OEC Brewing
Background: When you think of New England sours, OEC is the first brewery that comes to mind. These guys are the best. The top of the top. The cream of the crop. The undisputed champions of beers that made your taste buds scream and your lips pucker. If you like sours, chances are you’ve heard of OEC. Oh, and for the curious: OEC stands for Ordinem Ecentrici Coctores, which translates to "Order of the Eccentric Boilers."
Growlers: Yes. You can purchase growlers there (and at a very reasonable price) or bring your own. OEC prefers to fill pop-top growlers rather than screw-top because of the process through which they inject CO2 into each beer. Because of the added CO2, OEC’s growlers keep much longer than growlers from many other breweries. According to the brewers, an unopened OEC growler can last several months before declining in quality. It’s worth noting that not every beer is available for growler fills. When I visited, there were just two options for fills, with the remainder able to be purchased in bottles.
The Beers: OEC had eight beers on tap when I wandered in, and, of course, I had to try all eight of them. Normally I wouldn’t bat an eye at tasting eight different beers, but sours are a bit of a different animal, and a part of me was nervous about pouring that much acid into my system at once. I shouldn’t have been. Each and every one of these beers was delicious, well balanced, and left me wanting more.
Vibe: This place is awesome. Getting here is a bit of an experience as Oxford, CT isn’t...well, it isn’t particularly close to anything. About two hours outside New York City and 45 minutes or so from the shore of the Long Island Sound, OEC is nestled into the lush, beautiful countryside of Connecticut. To get there, you’ll pass through some small towns, drive along some narrow, winding roads, and ultimately make your way through a generously spaced neighborhood of commercial buildings before you find OEC nestled atop a small, wooded hillside.
The facility itself looks almost homey. Some tanks are visible and the people walking out the front door dollying pallets of beer to their cars are hard to miss. But overall, it doesn’t necessarily look the way you might expect one of the most celebrated breweries in New England to look.
That all changes when you open the front door (which, I would like to note, is so tall and beautifully crafted that it almost feels like entering a castle). Take one step into the interior of the building and you’ll see a handful of brewing tanks to your right, just behind a small row of tables. Go up a small set of stairs and the area opens up in a big way. Looming before you is a huge tasting room, filled with various types of seating, and a door to a small porch outside where you can sit and sip your beer in sunny weather (sadly, it was raining when I arrived).
I sat at the bar myself, where I had to laugh a little every time someone new sidled up to order a drink. Each new person was greeted with some variation of “hi, welcome to OEC! You know all of our beers are sour, right?” I can only imagine how many surprised (and probably negative) reactions they’ve received in the past from people expecting a more standard brew. As much as I love sours, I fully understand that they are an acquired taste, and it’s probably best to make sure people know what they’re getting into.
I ordered all eight beers that OEC had on tap, and sat there for probably a little over an hour, sipping each one in turn. Sours are delicious, but, as much as I love tart beer, I figured it was best to give myself a little time to adjust to the acidic assault on my stomach. I only say this because, although I spent a lot of time at the bar, I never felt like I was being hustled out the door or pressured to leave. The staff could not have been friendlier, and I enjoyed talking to the women running the house. The patrons were friendly as well, and I had the chance to talk to a few different people as they came up to order drinks. If it weren’t for the fact that I had to get back in my car and drive home, I would have been happy to order another drink and spend even more time there.
Dogs: Yes, you can bring your dog to OEC Brewing. A little while after I arrived, someone came in and sat just behind the bar with the most adorable black lab puppy I’ve ever seen in my life. A few minutes later a family with three tiny children came in and sat at the bar. The kids playing with the puppy pretty much put my beer drinking experience on cute overload.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$$$$. Look, there are no two ways about it: these are pricey beers. Even the tasters aren't cheap--the eight-beer sample flight I ordered cost me $25. But the fact is, you get what you pay for. You’re not going to find a place that puts more care into the brewing process. Hell, you’re not going to find a place that puts more care into the bottling process. Or the growler filling process. Every step of the way, OEC is dedicated to putting the best possible product in front of their customers. That translates to higher prices, but it’s something you’ll have to make peace with. Beer this good doesn’t happen by accident, and you’re paying premium prices for a premium product. Bottles generally run in the $13 to $20 range, though some occasionally run low and others occasionally run high.
It’s also worth noting that you can purchase bottles online and pick them up in the taproom. Although the taproom itself is only open one day a week, you can also pick up your purchases during normal 9-5 hours on weekdays (although you should reach out to give them a heads-up 24 hours before). OEC will store your purchases for you until the end of the calendar year, giving you plenty of time to make it to the taproom for pickup. That said, they also charge a $1.50 storage fee per bottle. This is more than reasonable, but it is something you should be aware of.
Did Shane Buy Yet ANOTHER glass? You bet I did! As always, if a brewery I like sells a style of glass that I don’t have, I am literally powerless to resist buying it. This time, it was a stemmed sour glass with a slightly fluted body.
Food: Not really. There are some snacky options like chips or a soft pretzel, but OEC isn’t equipped with a full kitchen for food service. That said, from what I saw it looks like they are fine with you bringing outside food in. I saw a couple of pizza floating around on the tables inside.
Final Thoughts: If you like sours, you absolutely have to visit OEC. I’ll put it in the simplest possible terms: they are the best. They know what they’re doing. They had a half dozen or so different styles of sour beer on tap when I visited, and each one was better than the last. They aren’t just experts on goses. They aren’t just experts on weisses. They aren’t just experts on lambics. They’re expects on all of those styles and more. OEC has my highest possible recommendation. For lovers of sour beer, this is a can’t miss place.
Drink With Us
Three friends. Three corners of the country. One passion for beer.
Heady Topper. Focal Banger. What Could Be Better than a Trip to The Alchemist?
The Hills Are Alive (with Incredible Beer) at von Trapp Brewing
Get Out of the City and Into Woods Beer Co.