The origin of Oskar Blues, the name of Colorado’s canniest craft brewery, is shrouded in mystery. Some say the handle was inspired by a pair of hounds founder Dale Katechis and his brother, Chris, had growing up: Oskar and Blue. Some say Oskar Blue was a man Dale met while biking across Europe. Others say that in 1980, Dale bought the original transcript to his favorite movie, The Blues Brothers, and discovered that a third brother — Oskar Blues, of course — later had been written out of the script.
All three stories are probably made up, but as with most myths, truth can be found amid the fiction. In this case, that truth is that the guys at Oskar Blues like to have fun with names. You may remember from a previous article the double-meaning behind the FIDY in the brewery’s imperial stout, Ten FIDY. Mama’s Little Yella Pils is just perfect. And then there’s Gubna.
Gubna is a brash, bitter imperial IPA Oskar Blues launched in 2010. Originally a year-round release, the brew became more limited in 2013, joining its polar opposite, Ten FIDY, in seasonal availability. At more than 100 IBUs and 10 percent ABV, it’s one of the thorniest and most inebriating beers available in a can.
Gubna is also a man. Chris Katechis, the aforementioned sibling of OB founder Dale, is known as “The Gubna” for the same reason the brewery he works for is called Oskar Blues — that is to say, it’s impossible to get a straight answer. What is known is that he’s a fan of the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide, and his influence extends farther than Gubna’s name — the shade of red on each can of the double IPA is as close to Alabama crimson as Dale, an Auburn grad, would let him get.
When Gubna (the beer) first hit shelves, it was dry-hopped with a hop variety called Summit that can impart distinct aromas of onions and garlic — tasty in Italian food, sure, but certainly not for everyone when found in beer. So the next batch was made with the more approachable Amarillo hop, and brewers found they liked the idea of changing up things up to make use of new, exciting varieties. Now the beer’s recipe changes each year.
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Gubna 5.0 — this year’s edition — is mash-hopped with whole-leaf Galena hops, kettle-hopped with Columbus and Sorachi Ace, then finished with more Galena in the whirlpool. It’s also dry-hopped with irresponsible amounts of El Dorado, Comet, and Chinook hops. In English, that means different hop varieties are added at every stage in the brewing process, creating a complex, layered aroma and flavor.
Golden as a slice of American cheese, perfectly translucent, and topped with bubbles white and dense as a bundle of cotton, Gubna 2015 is gorgeous when poured in a snifter. The additions of El Dorado, an intensely tropical-flavored hop, are apparent in the fruity-sweet nose, which smells like a brunch-time fruit plate, blending ripe strawberry and cantaloupe with grass-sprinkled honey. The melon-like quality reappears in the flavor, but with a resinous, sugary addition: grapefruit peel, mango, candied lemon, and dill. Malt flavor — lent by a grist containing North American Pale malt, Munich malt, and malted rye — is faint but present, carrying the fruit-forward blend on a plate of shortbread to a velvet-smooth finish. Paired with the creamy body — this stuff is like whipped cream — and gentle carbonation, the beer doesn’t so much leave the palate as dissolve into it. Hits of peppery spice, however, remind that this is an intensely bitter IPA with sharp pinches to the tongue.
This year’s Gubna is a vastly different beer than when it first hit the scene — and a much better one. It’s available in cans and on draft across the Valley, but only until July, so say ‘ello to Gubna while you can.