Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale

There are such difficult decisions on what beers to drink for the purpose of this blog. This month, I literally found myself in front of a cooler in a liquor store flipping a coin. After a lengthy perusal of the selection, I narrowed my choices to two beers both packaged in cans. Heads it would be the well-known and highly-regarded Dale's Pale Ale. Tails, the lesser-known but locally grown Uncommon Brewers Baltic Porter. So, at 9am on a Saturday in a Beverly Hills liquor store, I threw that coin up in the air and looked like a douche when it landed in my hand and I nodded my head in agreement with...myself.
The Beer:
So when fate dictated that I go with Dale's Pale Ale for my monthly drinking exercise, I was actually pretty excited. I've been on a beer can kick lately and Oskar Blues was one of the first in the craft beer business to embrace the American tradition of packaging alcohol in aluminum. While I've had several of their other offerings before, surprisingly, I had yet to ever try the flagship beer of this brewery. Dale's Pale Ale is a fairly well known, well established, and easily attainable beer nowadays. Along with beers such as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Stone Arrogant Bastard, and New Belgium Fat Tire, it represents what many consider to be a "gateway" beverage into the world of craft brewing. And like those beers, it offers a fairly straight-forward taste profile. The hops and malt are well balanced for a pale ale with just the right blend of sweetness over the bittering hop bite. Personally though, I felt as though the beer itself was a bit too heavy. Perhaps it could have been the Greek dinner I had. Or the cookies I chose to eat for lunch that day. But, after just one drink my mouth felt heavy and my stomach full. I knew that I needed to push through at least two more cans, but honestly, before I began drinking I was sure that it'd be a night where I reached my blogging limit of four. Everything tasted just fine from the can, but the overall weight of the beer sat heavily in me and stood in stark contrast with my experiences of other pale ales such as the aforementioned Sierra Nevada Pale. Thankfully, I was watching my dear friends from Bon Temps battle witches on TV to help push me through the night.
The Buzz:
As previously stated, Dale's Pale is likely as good a choice as any to introduce people to who only drink Bud, Miller, and Coors. You can find it almost everywhere and it won't break your bank. Being packaged in a can further cements that notion, as its much easier for someone to bring a 12-pack of Dale's to the beach or park and throw one over to the guy who just ran out of Bud Light. Sure, he may not immediately like your brash attempt to cultivate his palate, but one mention that this can has 50% more alcohol than his previous swill will very likely encourage the gent to finish his can and politely ask for another. At 6.5%, this is one of the more potent American Pale Ales I've had. Yet, it also falls into my personal "sweet spot" of alcoholic content. It's that range where I will often feel a great buzz that slowly comes on and stays just long enough to put me to bed. I'm not hit too hard causing me to stop my drinking abruptly, nor am I left completely unaffected and reaching for beer after beer feeling like I'm wasting my time and money. Like a perfectly thrown dart, this one landed in my bullseye (umm, that sounds way dirtier upon re-reading this). After struggling through the first two beers, my buzz caught up with me and encouraged me to crack open the third. Still relatively sober though, this one took a bit longer to finish. I was pretty full after finally finishing the second episode of Vampire Threesomes (aka True Blood), but also when finally finishing beer #3, I was pleasantly buzzed. So naturally, despite the fact that I was exhausted and my episodes of True Blood were over, I figured I'd at least start the fourth beer while I watched a few late night fights. Thank god those fights ended with quick submissions and record knockouts, because after only a quarter of a pint, I was done. Thank you very much Oskar Blues, but I'll pour you out and call it a night!
The Hangover:
Due to the difficulty I found in trying to finish the fourth beer of Dale's Pale Ale, combined with the fact that the first three felt much heavier than their abv indicated, I was certain that the morning was not going to be kind to me. Surprisingly though, I woke up fairly early and was only suffering from a case of intense dehydration. There was no mistaking that I had one too many beers the night before (or even perhaps two too many?), but there was also no indication that this beer triggered any allergic or severe reactions otherwise. Stomach was ok, headache was fine. I was able to do rather extensive yard work in the 80+ degree weather. And yet, I wasn't ever completely in the clear either. The cloud of alcohol hung over me for the entire day and night. A mild pounding in my head couldn't be quelled with aspirin, coffee, or water. The large mexican dinner I made only satisfied my hunger and not my discomfort. Essentially, I drank too much. Not so much that I was sick, but enough that I probably could have done without opening that fourth beer.

The Verdict:
Ultimately, Dale's Pale Ale is a pretty great beer on it's own. When adding in factors like availability, portability, and price, it becomes even more remarkable. However, that said, I don't think it quite surpasses pale ales from breweries like Sierra Nevada, Stone, or even Dogfish Head for that matter. The difference in my opinion is the hop to malt balance. Dale's opts to go for a sweeter pale ale, resulting in a heavier beer. The others maintain a higher hop profile that keeps things crisp and light. But all things considered, I'd probably still choose Dale's Pale Ale to introduce to someone not familiar with craft beer. If only because the image of throwing someone a can is way cooler in my mind, than hitting them in the head with a bottle. Cans rule!
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