My interests collide every once in awhile. I’ve mentioned my unnatural compulsion to visit breweries several times before so an overlap shouldn’t come as a surprise to regular readers. This time, an industry publication mentioned a beer dinner where courses were paired with beverages from Oxbow Beer in Maine. A brewery named for an oxbow — how intriguing — I do have a thing for oxbows. I wondered if I could find that aforementioned oxbow.
Where’s the Oxbow in Newcastle, Maine, USA?
That led me to ponder the possibility of other geo-oddity-themed breweries which I conveniently decided to call geo-brewities. I turned to the Brewers Association, an organization representing "small and independent American brewers" for a complete list. They referenced 2,722 brewing facilities in the United States at the end of 2013, an increase of nearly 400 establishments in a single year.
I dug into the list — even though it was dated 2012 and had since grown — since I figured I’d still find plenty of suitable examples. I’ll mention a few favorites uncovered while noting that many more had to be cut from my review because of space limitations. Also, I examined only names. I’ll let others judge taste and quality. That matters in the real world. It didn’t matter for this exercise.
Then I returned to Oxbow Beer and found an article in The Lincoln County News
The brewery is run out of a converted barn at Masland’s home on Rt. 215 in Newcastle. Oxbow’s beer, their name, their logo – an owl carrying a keg – and their motto – loud beer from a quiet place – are all inspired by the rural location.
This led me to wonder whether the brewery name reflected an actual oxbow lake. It may have been named for a genuine oxbow, like what a farmer would hang around the neck of an ox to pull a plow. I’d already become completely cross-eyed reviewing a couple of thousand brewery names by that point, with commensurate emotional investment, so I continued with my quest for geo-brewities. After all, this effort could form the backbone of a brewery-related geo-oddity driving tour someday, ignoring the obvious distances involved. That’s how I rationalized it.
Stateline Brewery, South Lake Tahoe, California, USA
Twelve Mile Circle loves borders and the notion of Stateline Brewery in South Lake Tahoe, California seemed promising. Their logo even incorporated the California-Nevada border within its design. Only a single building, an Embassy Suites Hotel, stood between Stateline Brewing and the actual state line. Impressive.
Then I spotted Latitude 33 Brewing Company in San Diego, California (map). Did someone mention latitude? Why yes, that’s another common 12MC topic. I was about to bust them when I measured the actual geographic placement of 33° North and it fell about ten miles south of the brewery (which was at 33° 8′ 10.46″ or thereabouts). However the brewers already knew that and posted their perspective, preventing geo-geek nitpickers such as myself from bothering them.
The obvious answer is, of course, that the 33rd parallel runs smack dab through the heart of San Diego County, and our brewing facility is just a hair north of being directly on the line. But there’s actually more to it than that. If you look back through the history books you’ll find the 33rd latitude has been right there in some of the world’s most significant events… Distilled to one word, Latitude 33 is “Adventure”
Good save, Latitude 33. Good save.
Confluence Brewing, Des Moines, Iowa, USA
Confluences don’t have a separate tag on 12MC although they have appeared as a regularly recurring topic. I prepared myself to be disappointed by the explanation offered by Confluence Brewing from Des Moines, Iowa, when it noted, "The brewery is itself a confluence of John and Ken’s love for Iowa and craft beer." Looking at its location a little more closely, the brewery can’t be more than maybe a mile-or-so from the confluence of the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers. That was a pivotal spot in the city’s history. The State Historical Society of Iowa said, "The City of Des Moines developed from a small frontier fort at the confluence… ", and thus the city would not have existed without them. I’ll bet the river confluence inspired the name of the brewery at least a little even if I couldn’t find it stated explicitly.
I’ve also noted elevations on a number of occasions. Breweries seemed enamored of elevation too, albeit choosing names that tended to favor specific landmarks, mountains or peaks. Only one bucked the trend in a fascinating way, Elevation 66 Brewing in El Cerrito, California (map). The Examiner said Elevation 66 was "named after El Cerrito’s altitude" That may be true for the city overall or perhaps at some key location, however, I dropped the brewery coordinates into an altitude finder and it listed 8.759 metres / 28.738 feet. What’s a few feet amongst friends? I still applauded the effort.
Dry County Brewing, Spruce Pine, North Carolina, USA
I focus often on counties and Dry County Brewing Company sounded rather paradoxical. How could one brew in a dry county? Wikipedia came to the rescue: "Mitchell County was one of the three dry counties in North Carolina, along with Graham and Yancey, but in March, 2009, after much controversy, the Town of Spruce Pine approved beer, wine, and ABC store sales." It didn’t take long for a brewery to fill that void either — it looked like Dry County opened in late 2010 or early 2011 — nestled safely within a wet enclave, and circled entirely by an otherwise prohibitionist county.
Roads and associated infrastructure? Of course I talk about those. Bridge and Tunnel Brewery in Queens (Maspeth), New York, may not have been named for a specific bridge or a specific tunnel. The name seemed to refer to the whole set of them in New York City: "because it’s the bridges and tunnels that unite this city, not divide it." Nonetheless the nearest bridge and tunnel into Manhattan were probably the Queensboro Bridge and the Midtown Tunnel. The NYC contingent of 12MC readers would have better insight into that calculation. This was a nanobrewery, even smaller than a microbrewery, that produced only 1.5 barrels (47.25 gallons / 179 litres) in each batch. I couldn’t find a location other than that generic Maspeth placement though (map). I guessed maybe the brewery was so small that it didn’t have a permanent facility.
Breweries with Coincidental Connections to Specific 12MC articles
I could also make a case to add any of the following breweries to a beer and geo-oddity driving tour. Each had a tenuous serendipitous alignment with an article published previously on Twelve Mile Circle.
- Smuttynose Brewing in Portsmouth New Hampshire was named for one of the Isles of Shoals
- Three Notch’d Brewing in Charlottesville, Virginia was inspired by one of the roads featured in Three Notches
- Center of the Universe Brewing placed the universal center in Ashland, Virginia, while 12MC marked it at Wallace, Idaho.
- Boundary Bay Brewery in Bellingham, Washington recognized the body of water where an artificial line through it created the Point Roberts exclave
Now I’m thirsty. Cheers!