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Beer Reviews

Old Chub

Oskar Blues Brewery
Lyons, CO
USA
http://www.oskarblues.com

Style: Scottish Ale
ABV: 8.0%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (World class.)


Comments:
I have to be totally honest at the outset (as opposed to the rest of the review, when I lie like a senior member of the Bush administration). Nigel, like most people, would not be inclined to purchase a six-pack of random cans marked “Old Chub” were he not aware of their origin. The seemingly mysterious green, red, and black cans with “Old Chub” written in big, old-timey script on a mountain background might leave the typical beer drinker puzzled; after all, the only chubs that I know of are stinky little fish. “What the hell is this” or “this looks and sounds awful” are the most likely responses from the ignorant drinker, or even the dorkiest of Dorks (Nigel quote at beer store a few months back: “what the fuck is this??”).

Case in point: as I’ve stated in the past, Nigel is fascinated with canned craft beer. I think the “rediscovery” of cans has the potential to add another interesting quirk to the already quirky craft industry. But, as I stated in my Ten FIDY review from Oskar Blues, I had long passed over the canned selections from this fine Colorado brewery. Perhaps it’s the prevalent belief that “cheap” beer comes in ugly cans and “fine” beer comes in fancy bottles, a belief that has long been ingrained in many American minds. Whatever the reason, had I not discovered a single can of Ten FIDY mixed among some of the finest imperial stouts and barley wines at my favorite fine beer retailer, I would probably still be passing over Oskar Blues and their funky, tasty, canned brews.

And that, my friends, would be a shame. I can say unequivocally having now tried Old Chub, Ten FIDY, and Dale’s Pale Ale, that this brewery is absolutely fantastic. Oskar Blues distributes four brews nationally (the three I’ve tried in addition to the imperial IPA Gordon), and all are world-class. Any brewer who has widely distributed beers that fall into the categories of imperial stout (10 percent ABV), imperial IPA (8.7 percent), Scottish ale (8 percent), and a ballsy American pale ale (6.5 percent) is surely a friend of Nigel.

I researched extensively (read: a brief Google search) to find a possible meaning behind the name Old Chub, but my exhaustive research produced no answers. What I did enjoy, however, is the easily overlooked phrases at the top of the can, just below the lip: “High Altitude. High Attitude. High Land. High Ya. No Rice.” Brilliant! For those of you who don’t get it, this is a clear stab at our friends at Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch, who inexplicably believe that beer can be brewed with rice outside of the Bangladeshi slums. Throwing jabs at A-B … yet another reason to love Oskar Blues!

Old Chub pours with a slight creamy head that quickly dissipates into nominal lace, leaving some stickiness on the side of the glass. This looks exactly like what you expect from a Scottish ale: a deep, dark brown hue with prolific sedimentation and a yeast ring on the bottom of the glass. The only thing somewhat disappointing is the aroma. I was expecting boatloads of sweet, roasted, mouth-watering malt but instead was greeted with an initial bite of alcohol. Though alcohol provides the initial zip, malt comes through with a vengeance eventually, providing an aromatic mix of caramel, chocolate, molasses, roasted nuts, and smoked peat. I’d say the smokiness is a bit stronger than the sweetness, but again … be forewarned that the zip of alcohol will bite you in the ass right away.

The taste is great, and the first thing I noticed is the smokiness that typically dominates American versions of Scottish ales is a bit tempered here (though its presence is still felt). Old Chub has a complex assortment of malty goodness, with dark chocolate leading the parade. A good amount of sweet, sugary malt comes through next, led by caramel, molasses, toffee, and dark brown sugar. Roasted nuttiness and smoked peat takes the bronze on the flavor podium, providing a nice, smoky backbone. But wait, there’s more! For one easy payment of $19.95, Oskar Blues will throw in a tasty bonus in the way of dark fruit (raisin and fig), as well as an unexpectedly pleasant kiss of hops. The 8 percent alcohol is well hidden, though it does make its presence felt at various times, particularly as the beer warms (the sweetness also increases with the temperature … I’d suggest a 50 degree serving temp). Full bodied and relatively smooth on the palate, Old Chub does have a few minor rough spots during the session, as well as a powerful aftertaste, but all in all is a phenomenal beer.

While some may accuse Nigel of having a man-crush on Oskar Blues, I can only say to them that I’m comfortable with who I am, and I’m sure any craft beer connoisseur will agree with me. This brewery has thus far blown me away, and Old Chub is easily one of the best Scottish ales I’ve ever sampled. Don’t let the odd looking cans discourage you from giving this a shot. Any lover of dark beer will go ape shit (I’ve long wanted to use that in a review) over Old Chub, just as they will for Ten FIDY. Old Chub comes packaged in six-pack form and retails for a reasonable $8-9, so there’s no reason for anyone to pass it up.

Cheers!

Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on July 22, 2008.
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