Grin and Beer It: Your Weekend Craft Primer - Oskar Blues Brewery

Grin and Beer It: Your Weekend Craft Primer - Oskar Blues Brewery

Would you like that in the can? No, no, I'll take it right here.

Actually, that's not even a question you'll have to worry about when dealing with Oskar Blues Brewery. That's because the Lyons, Colorado brewery (they've also recently expanded to Brevard, NC, which is best known as Reed Hunt's hometown and for being a filming location for The Hunger Games) and doesn't use bottles. In fact, they were the first US craft brewer to can its own beer, all the way back in 2002.

I'm not sure when it started, but there's a pervasive sense that beverages from a bottle taste better than those from a can. And while I am steadfast in my belief that this is true of Pepsi and other non-malt beverages, there's a subtle shift the beer industry toward canning over bottling.

Among the things that can ruin a good beer are light, oxygen, and Anheuser-Busch ownership. Okay, that last one's not really true...or is it? A can has less oxygen than a bottle and lets in no light whatsoever, plus it gets cold faster and stays cold longer than its glass counterpart.

Plus, cans are better for the environment, right tree-huggers? And you can take off the little tabs and collect them for Ronald McDonald House, not to mention playing the little game where you see how many bends it takes to snap off, the corresponding letter to which is the first in your true love's name.

Still, there's a stigma surrounding those little aluminum cylinders that takes a while to break, at least for me. And that's probably why it took me so long to come around on Oskar Blues, even though Dale's Pale Ale, Mama's Little Yella Pils, and Old Chub, a Scottish strong ale, were showing up with increasing frequency at grocery and liquor stores in my area.

But I was trolling the beer section at my local Marsh after picking up a rotisserie chicken, all the while battling a 5-year-old who was in mid-tantrum, when I decided to give OB a go. I picked up a sixer of Dale's and made my way through the rest of the store explaining to my son why he would not be having any ice cream later.

Needless to say, I was a little wound up when we got home, so I chucked one can in the icebox so as to get it to temp a little faster. My first impression was a very floral, citrusy hop aroma, which I'd expected based on the description:

This voluminously hopped mutha delivers a hoppy nose and assertive-but-balanced flavors of pale malts and citrusy floral hops from start to finish. Oskar Blues launched its canning ops in 2002, brewing and hand-canning Dale’s Pale Ale in the Lyons, ColoRADo, brewpub. America’s first-craft-canned mountain Pale is a hearty critically acclaimed trailblazer that changed the way craft beer fiends perceive portable beer.

The color was nice and bright and the initial flavor was very crisp, with a little malty sweetness noticeable hop bitterness. The aftertaste, however, left a bit to be desired in my humble opinion. In searching for an apt comparison, the only thing that came to mind was another CO product, but a macro: Coors Light.

Mind you, I'm not saying that the flavors of the two beers are similar in the least, but the lingering earthiness in the DPA is what reminded me of the Silver Bullet (which I've long maintained tastes a little like dirt). I'm not sure whether it was the water profile or the hops, but something there didn't really strike my fancy initially.

Since most breweries aren't going to tell you their exact recipes, I turned to the world of home brewing to see if I could find something in the hop profile that might explain what I was tasting. According to the clone recipe I found, Northern Brewer hops provide the primary bittering component, with Columbus, Cascade, and Centennial contributing the flavor and aroma.

NB hops are known to add woody/earthy flavor and aroma, and Columbus has some woodiness to it as well. And Centennial, while it has a strong citrus aroma, is a hybrid whose genetic composition contains a couple other varieties with earthy notes.

I should note that this first beer was one that I had put in the freezer to chill, while the subsequent pair I consumed had only been in the fridge and were not as fully chilled. Those two seemed to have a less-prevalent earthy aftertaste, though that could also have been a result of the fact that they were my second and third beers.

Whatever the reason, my unease quickly abated and I really enjoyed my first experience with Oskar Blues. I've really got to get down on some MLYP (brewed without the corn or rice of the big-batch Pilsners) and Old Chub (It's like Sputnik!), if only for their awesome names. I'm neither a big pilsner fan nor a malt-head, but I can enjoy any good beer.

And that's the great thing about Oskar Blues: they've got you covered no matter where your beer predilections lie. So whether you're looking for a strong and malty, floral and hoppy, or clean and sessionable, they've got you covered. Do yourself a favor and pick up a couple six-packs the next time you're out.

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Filed under: Craft Beer


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    Do you guys do the Beer Sampling Events they run at Union Station every six months? If not I highly recommend it. Take public transportation or get a DD though. Great times. I make the trip down from Milwaukee for each one.

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    In reply to Michael Canter:

    I've not done that before, but have participated in several different samplings and they're always awesome.

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    There is one coming up in August called Bacon, Beer & Sports. I will be there. I think it is August 23rd.

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