Monday, November 5, 2007

Oskar Blues "Old Chub" Scottish Style Ale

Right. What Brandon said.

So back when I was a barely employed lab geek and bike mechanic living in Boulder, I used to ride a few trails up and around Lyons. At some point on the drive I stared to notice the Oskar Blues Brewery, but didn't stop in for years, much to my regret.

So about a week back, our British pal Big Chris' wife gave birth to their first child. Given the occasion and Chris' Scottish heritage, I thought I'd whip up a batch of strong Scottish ale to celebrate the occasion. This was a problem, Since the only Sottish beer I've ever had was a McEwans, and that was back when my alcohol consumption could only be described as heroic. That I could taste any of it then, and could even remember it now, is dodgy.

So I needed a benchmark, something so I could pull together some sort of recipe for Big Chris and the family. I've had Oskar Blues "Dale's Pales Ale" in the past (and found it pretty tasty) and know that they produced a traditional Scottish ale, Old Chub (gotta get the story on that name). What better a way to figure out how to make a good Scottish ale, than to drink a bunch of it?

So, three (or four) cans in, heres my take. And yes, I did say cans: Oskar Blues cans their beers, rather than bottles them (more on that later).

All in all, a good beer. Its strong (8%) which is always a plus. On the can, Oskar Blues lists chocolate and caramel malts as their major and ingredients, and it shows. The beer is dark, almost stout dark, with a nice rich flavor. Its on the bitter side without being very hoppy, which is probably the result of using smoked malts.

Smoked malts, you say? Whats that? Smoked malts result from taking regular malted barely and smoking it over a peat fire. Using this stuff can be tricky, because it doesn't take much to make your beer taste like a good scotch, only weaker and not so refreshing after a day of yard work. Old Chub nails it: the beer gets a little bit of the bitterness and dryness and bit of smoked flavor, without making it taste like it was filtered through a campfire. In all, tasty stuff.

Now, back to the issue of canned beer. I've only had two other other canned microbrews: Oskar Blues' Dales Pale Ale, and Ska Brewery's Ska Special E.S.B. I won't pretend to be impartial to Ska Beers Ska Special E.S.B. (me and Ska's beers go way back) but while both are good brews, I wouldn't say the can added or subtracted anything from the beer itself. That is, except the price - a sixer of cans of any of these beers (in 12.oz cans) is the same as a sixer of 16 oz. bottles. Thats a problem: if you're paying the same for 25% less beer, you expect the beer to be 25% more awesome.

In the case of all three of these beers, thats just not the case. They're good, damn good, but unless you're looking for a specific beer, canned microbrews are tough to justify. Your best bet? Go to Lyons, hit Oskar Blues, and get Old Chub straight from the source while digging into their menu (a mix of tasty cajun goodness) and catching few live shows.

Summary review, Old Chub:
3 thumbs up, 6 stars.

No comments: