Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
Something very exciting, for me at least, occurred recently, North Bar in Leeds tapped a keg of Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale. Those that know me will already know that Dale's is one of my all time favourite beverages and keen readers will also know that I got absolutely arseholed drinking my body weight in it when I went to a gig at Red Rocks Amphitheatre earlier this year. Sadly North Bar is a few hundred miles away from my London dwelling but I wasn’t too perplexed by this because I had some cans of both Dale's Pale Ale and Deviant Dale's IPA which I brought back from my last trip to the USA stashed away.
Can I drink it? Yes I can.
I was lucky enough to visit the Tasty Weasel last time I was in Colorado which is the affectionate moniker given to the brewery tap room. I was amazed at the scale of the Oskar Blues operation and as I watched those cans fly off the production line I hoped that one day some of those cans would cross the Atlantic and find their way into the UK. Oskar Blues have an in your face marketing attitude not unlike Brewdog but it’s safe to say that OB were on the scene long before Punk IPA was even a pipe dream. Oskar Blues were the first American craft brewery (in America, ‘craft’ usually refers to a brewery's production size) to start canning their beer way back in 2002, in fact they beat fellow Colorado brewery Ska to the punch by just a few months. Oskar Blues beer is only available in can or via keg but as both these methods are excellent for preserving freshness I think they’d be a welcome addition to the US exports already available on these shores. For now though, they seem to be happy to continue expanding their US enterprise and with venues such as Red Rocks and even Frontier Airlines now stocking their brews, I don’t blame them one bit.
So let’s start with the beer that put this brewery on the map, Dale's Pale Ale. I first drank Dale's over two years ago on my first trip to the States, back then it was far too bitter for my tastes but these days I just can’t get enough of it. There is so much flavour crammed into this little 12 ounce receptacle that you actually get a little rush of the hop aromas when you crack open the can. Dale's pours light amber in colour and manages to produce a nice off white one finger head which hangs around thanks to the lively carbonation. Aromas of melon and mandarin rush up your nostrils but even these two scents are dominated by the huge grapefruit blast that Dale's produces, pink grapefruit is one of my favourite fruits and this brew packs it in spades.
When you take your first sip, Dale's Pale Ale is subtly fruity, zingy and downright refreshing but it’s as you swallow that you get an enormous rush of bitter grapefruit that tries to suck your mouth dry but just leaves a little lingering bitterness. Each sip of Dale's makes you want to take another, you don’t notice the 6.5% ABV at all as you relentlessly quaff away. Quite simply, for me Dale's Pale Ale is one of the best.
I’ve had Deviant Dale's IPA before, the imperial or double version of DPA, in fact when I first had it on tap in the Mayor of Old Town, Fort Collins such was it’s resinous quality that I described it as ‘an IPA you could paint your house with.’ Painting your house with beer would be a foolish idea, firstly it’s a waste of good beer and secondly your house will soon smell like the tables in a Sam Smiths pub, stale digestive biscuits and rotting cabbage, no painting your house with beer would not be a good idea at all. Deviant Dale's pours a darker shade of amber than your regular Dale's and is altogether more viscous, it still produces a rocky one centimetre head but this too is a darker shade of beige indicating the higher proportion of malts required to balance this juggernaut of a beer.
On the nose the grapefruit and melon notes are still there but these are joined by an almost floral pine resin scent and huge mango aromas, in fact it’s almost like smelling raw, fresh hops. In the mouth this huge American IPA is thick and a little bit cloying but once your brain starts to interpret the flavours it’s like drinking the sticky juice from the bottom of a bowl of tropical fruit salad. Despite it being resinous and little bit overbearing, this is a beer you should stick with. This is the third or fourth time I am trying this beer and it gets better with every mouthful, at first it was a challenge and now it is an absolute delight. The 8% alcohol content is hidden beautifully and despite it’s high level of bitterness there is enough sweet, biscuity malt to support the massive wave of citrus and tropical fruits that are packed into each sip of this beer.
Overall I think I still prefer Dale's Pale Ale to it's bigger brother, partly because I think it’s a better beer but only just, the other part is that it was one of the first really bitter beers that I ever tried. It now, to me, tastes totally different to the first time I took a sip of this sumptuous brew but as I've tried hundreds of beers over the last couple of years and started writing about them it's always remained head and shoulders above most of the competition. The other wonderful thing about beer in cans, bar it’s freshness, is the ease in which it packs into a suitcase (pro tip, cans fit in shoes), it’s also much easier to ship overseas so come on Oskar Blues, lets see Dale's Pale Ale on British shores sooner rather than later.