Let's talk for a moment about cans. See, from years of being exposed to canned beer that just happens to be the cheapest, blandest stuff on the market, we've been conditioned to think that cans denote low quality. Beer geeks, usually resolute in their opposition of snobbishness, will snobbishly decline canned beer based on aesthetics or misconceptions about the beer within.
The truth, however, is that the can is the height of beer technology. They're more stackable and far less breakable than bottles, making them easier to transport and cheaper to ship. They're easier to recycle, making them better for the environment. They're allowed places bottles aren't, making them perfect for drinking poolside, or at the golf course, or at the top of a mountain. Most importantly, cans offer perfect protection from light and oxygen, the enemies of fresh beer.
Holding these truths to be self-evident, Oskar Blues Brewery in Lyons, Colorado began canning its beers in November 2002, becoming the first American craft brewery to do so. They started with Dale's Pale Ale (a bitingly bitter brew named for OB founder Dale Katechis) and carried on until they had six regular release brews, all served in 12-ounce cans. Now, a decade later, there's been a deviation.
Deviant Dale's is OB's first brew served in a 16-ounce tallboy. The extra volume was probably necessary to contain the monster they've turned Dale's into -- this beer is both boozier (8 percent ABV) and hoppier (boasting four hop additions, plus a final wallop of Columbus dry-hopping). In the 2011 Great American Beer Festival, the brew took home silver in the American India Pale Ale category, which, with 176 entries, was the most hotly contested class of the year.
Tinted tawny orange with flawless clarity, Deviant Dale's looks just as good when poured into a glass. The head, built with hop resins, is as dense and sticky as whipped cream. Tan in color, it decorates the sides of the glass with webs of lace. The aroma -- as you would expect from massive dry-hopping -- is pungent. Composed of lemon and grapefruit peel, rose water, pine, a hint of mango, and a dash of onions, it's a resinous mixture.
A little more of the sticky icky emerges in the flavor. Pine resin, candied grapefruit, and Juicyfruit come from the hops, while caramel and a subtle biscuit note rise up to balance them. The regular Dale's is a little astringent to my palate, so it's nice to see that a good amount of malt has been added here. Oskar Blues says that this brews boasts 85 IBUs, but it doesn't seem like it. The bitterness isn't too biting; there's more hop flavor than hop bite. Carbonation is fairly low -- just a gentle tingle that galvanizes the smooth medium body. Balanced from start to finish, the brew remains incredibly drinkable for its strength.
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Deviant Dale's may be an aberration, but the turn this beer has taken away from its roots is a good thing. Increases in flavor, body, and alcohol have made it, paradoxically, a more balanced and drinkable beer. Grab yourself a tall boy and get to drinking.
The unique blend of hops in Deviant Dales seems to work particularly well with Asian dishes. Try the beer alongside Pad Thai, allowing its powerful hops -- which almost seem to have a spicy heat of their own -- to compliment the chili pepper and other veggies in the dish.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited guide to beer.