If you’ve ever visited Offshore Ale Co. in Oak Bluffs, you’ve probably wondered what lies in the mysterious depths of the building beyond the dining room. Looking into the rafters, beyond the flags and buoys and wooden canoes, you might have glimpsed a series of metallic drums. Or, peering through the windows behind the bar, you likely noticed a chalkboard previewing what was fermenting.
You could look, but only from a distance, and you certainly couldn’t touch. Those balconies and back rooms were closed to the public. Until now.
For the first time this summer, Offshore is offering public tours of their facilities, allowing visitors a firsthand look at how their award-winning craft beers are brought to life.
“There was a high demand for [tours],” assistant brewer Jay Bergantim said. Upon request, Offshore would occasionally show private groups around, but the increasing inquiries led them to make the tours “more organized.”
Good call. The summer has scarcely begun, it’s the middle of the afternoon on a weekday, and I’m part of a full tour (there’s a capacity of eight). Mr. Bergantim leads us up a narrow stairwell opposite the kitchen, and into the second-floor bar.
First thing’s first: we need drinks. For the cost of the tour, we get four samples, including the East Chop Lighthouse Ale, the Menemsha Creek Pale Ale, the Beach Road Nut Brown Ale, and the Lazy Frog IPA. He explains the idiosyncrasies of each as we taste them, and invites us to smell, feel, even eat, some of the barleys, which are passed around in jars. We also hear the story behind each brew. The newest, (and my favorite) the Lazy Frog IPA, is named after the Circuit Avenue shop responsible for maintaining the local disc golf course, and a portion of its proceeds will benefit that task.
After he poured our last sample, we head downstairs to check out some of the brewing equipment. We’re allowed to climb up and look inside the huge copper mash tun, where the starches in the barley are converted to sugar, and the boiling kettle, where hops are added. After this, we traverse the balcony above the dining room, to see the fermentation tanks bubbling away. The ales spend weeks in those tanks before they are finally sent downstairs for thirsty patrons to enjoy.
As for us, we’re sent off with a $5 voucher to Offshore, so we can try what’s on draught, take a growler home, or stick around for dinner. It sure does taste good without all that mystery in it.
Tours are offered Sunday through Friday from 2 to 3 pm, and Saturdays from 12 noon to 3:30 pm. $10 includes tour and tasting (45 minutes), $5 for tour only (30 minutes). Reservations are strongly recommended, and participants must be 21+. Call 508-693-2626 for more information.