They say…

Des de Moor
Best beer and travel writing award 2015, 2011 -- British Guild of Beer Writers Awards
Accredited Beer Sommelier
Writer of "Probably the best book about beer in London" - Londonist
"A necessity if you're a beer geek travelling to London town" - Beer Advocate
"A joy to read" - Roger Protz
"Very authoritative" - Tim Webb.
"One of the top beer writers in the UK" - Mark Dredge.
"A beer guru" - Popbitch.
Des de Moor

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Oskar Blues Old Chub Scotch Ale

ABV: 8%
Origin: Longmont, Colorado, USA
Website: www.oskarblues.com

2012’s annual British Guild of Beer Writers reception on the eve of the Great British Beer Festival could almost have been tailor made to antagonise some of the more purist supporters of the festival itself – for its theme was not only American craft beer, but American craft beer in cans. Held downstairs at Covent Garden’s Porterhouse, it was sponsored by US trade organisation the Brewers Association, and featured 17 beers from half a dozen brewers.

A few CAMRA stalwarts could be seen among the crowd enjoying the offerings like everyone else. And quite right too, as the received wisdom about canned beer has long become technologically outdated. Modern cans don’t taint the flavour of the beer, but they do protect it, being more airtight and better at blocking potentially damaging ultraviolet light than even brown bottles.

The claim that they’re more environmentally friendly is debatable, as the raw material extraction is more damaging and the manufacture more energy intensive than glass bottles, particularly if the latter are recycled, but they’re unarguably a lot lighter to transport and more efficient to store. Some brewers – for example New Belgium and Sierra Nevada – are now even conditioning in cans, though the examples served at the Porterhouse were all filtered.

The wide range of styles and strengths on offer at the event – from brewers including 21st Amendment, Caldera, Maui and Ska – included some excellent beers and any issues with the less impressive examples were clearly not attributable to the packaging. Of all those I tried, my particular favourite was Oskar Blues’ strong, soft and comforting Old Chub.

Oskar Blues claims to be the first US craft brewer to can its own beer. The main plant is now in Longmont, Colorado but the brewery was originally launched in 1998 in the cellar of Dave Katechis’ restaurant in Lyons. When it started packaging beer in 2002 it went straight to cans, never bottles. The first beer to receive the treatment was the strong and hoppy but well balanced Dale’s Pale Ale, still its flagship. But Old Chub has also turned the heads of critics and beer judges.

Subtitled “Scotch Ale”, Old Chub clearly takes its cue from strong 90/- wee heavies, but there’s some beechwood smoked malt in there alongside the pale and crystal. Presumably the brewer was aiming to reference whisky – except that whisky malt was never a feature of traditional Scottish beer styles, and smoking malt over beechwood is more the habit of Bamberg brewers than Speyside distillers.

No matter, as the resulting beer is nonetheless delicious. It’s a warm red colour, with a thick beige head and a rich and creamy aroma. The smoked malt isn’t at all intrusive – instead there are notes of red wine, chocolate, peppery spice and meringue.

A soft, sweet and slightly vinous palate has plenty of cakey malt and marzipan but steers clear of cloying, with toasty and spirity notes and even a hint of mint. A lightly toasty and very satisfying finish lingers with fruit and malt flavours and a sweetly alcoholic touch. Definitely a “book at bedtime” beer.

1 comment to Oskar Blues Old Chub Scotch Ale

  • I think in paragraph 3, you mean reused rather than recycled. The UK situation where perfectly serviceable bottles are smashed for remelting, rather than simply washing them as in Germany and Benelux, is absolutely appalling.

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