Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Oskar Blues - Old Chub Scotch Ale Review

Oskar Blues Old Chub scotch ale

Brewery: Oskar Blues (CO)
Style: Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy
ABV: 8%
Grade: A-

I'm still surprised how many people are skeptical of beer in cans. Didn't they ever get around to around to trying anything from Oskar Blues... like, years ago? But even today, after ol' Oskar has been doing it for what seems like forever, it's rare to see another beer like Old Chub or Ten Fidy in cans. Imperial stouts arguably make more sense in bottles (who wants to set aside a can for aging?) but Old Chub, a hefty 8% ABV wee heavy, makes its case for canhood by being a great outdoors beer. Just like Oskar Blue's Deviant Dale's IPA, Old Chub is perfect for drinking on top of a mountain.

A great Scotch ale  / wee heavy must pull off an interesting trick, in my opinion: the style is potentially unbalanced by nature; a malty, boozy beer relying on heavy caramel malt flavors, yet barely hopped. The trick is too capture those big malt flavors without creating pancake syrup — as you know, I can't stand beer that is overly sweet or cloying. Wee heavies should have a smooth malt character, and yes, a healthy bit of sweetness, but finish relatively clean, and drink smooth. One element that helps bring some balance back is smoked malt. Not every brewery adds smoked malt to their Scotch ales, and those that do keep it subtle — just a tickle in the background, a reminder of that earthy "Scotch" character. 

Old Chub almost nails that balance. I say 'almost' because Old Chub is still a touch rich in the finish — though within a perfectly acceptable range for the style. The smoke character, however, is fully nailed — just present enough to provide complexity, just subtle enough to make you look for it. Don't think of this as a smoked beer; it's smoky in the way that whiskey is. And I should mention—it's whiskey without the burn; the 8% ABV goes completely unnoticed. The overall flavor is a strong, complex marriage of sweet caramel and roasted malts, with subtle hints of chocolate and coffee and some candy-cherry character. It's rich and warm and satisfying, if you're just at home sitting around, but it's easy-drinking and gutsy enough to give you a little kick, too, if you're drinking this in the woods. This is a deep, rewarding beer, and its qualities are amplified tenfold while on top of a mountain. 

Availability: 12 ounce can. Year-round.

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