Words and photos by Burt Hoovis
It would not be an exaggeration to declare that, as a brand, Oskar Blues is the beer most embedded in American mountain bike culture. Founder Dale Katechis’ love of mountain biking and the outdoors has been intertwined with his beer business since its beginning in 1997 in Lyons, Colorado. This symbiosis has been evident in the company’s growth. When deciding on a package for their flagship Dale’s Pale Ale in 2002, the immediate choice was cans. After all, what better beer vehicle for an adventure than an easily carried-in and hauled-out can? Oskar Blues proved that the modern version of the venerable but downtrodden container really was a fine choice for craft beers, and the decision was the spark for an industry-wide revolution in packaging. In less than a decade, 50 other craft brewers would be offering their products in cans.
But the influence of mountain biking didn’t stop there. When the economics of increased sales to the eastern United States drove a 2012 expansion of production, Katechis’ choice for a new brewery was Brevard, North Carolina. Sure, distribution strategy and cost drivers are super important for any business, but if there aren’t great trails to ride after work, what’s the point? And what about those REEB bikes you see on the trail and those REEB cycling ranches? Well, those are just a couple of Katechis’ little side projects to help keep the spare time interesting.
Oh, yeah — the beer: While Dale’s Pale Ale remains the flagship of the brand, seven other varieties are produced year round, along with seasonals and small-production batches. I’m a sucker for well-executed session ales that allow consumption of multiples without overt loss of motor or decision-making skills. The Pinner Throwback IPA is my favorite of the bunch. It’s a dry-hopped, mellow brew reminiscent of a pilsner. Oskar Blues is quiet about the malt and hop varieties used in the brew, but the color and flavor suggest a lightly roasted caramel with a piney and pleasant hop flavor that doesn’t bombard. Interestingly, the beer’s name and packaging (“Can I Be Blunt?”) are a thinly veiled reference to a hop aroma that’s been compared to marijuana. Personally, I think the connection is overstated, but you can judge for yourself after emptying a few cans.
IBU: 35 ABV: 4.9 percent