I’ve never been to Scotland, but it’s one of those places on my bucket list. Maybe it playing and drinking with a pipe band when I was in college. Maybe it was Mel Gibson with blue face paint crying, “Freedom!” in what was surely one of my favorite movies growing up. There’s something about Scotland.
I imagine the rocky crags, the fortified castles, the deep green glens shrouded in fog, with the mist laying heavily down upon a dark, cloaked figure akin to one of Tolkien’s Rangers. There’s just some kind of mystique there, in my mind perhaps, that makes Scotland somewhere I want to be.
Of course, there’s also the beer. Tearing into a Scotch Ale, also known as a “Wee Heavy” for its prodigious alcohol content, one can imagine sitting in the corner of an old musty pub with a pint (call it a pint-and-a-half even) of the dark, rich stuff. Only in this case, this Wee Heavy hails from this country, under the moniker Old Chub Scotch Ale.
Oskar Blues Brewery thankfully does it right. Out of the can, Old Chub's dark, opaque body features a deep, brownish-copper color with a thick, creamy foam on top. She’s beautiful to behold, which is a shame because the can, though certainly environmentally friendly, doesn’t do the beer itself any favors by hiding the richness of the color.
The beer has a sweet nose followed by complex maltiness and underlying alcohol. It lands heavy and thick on the palate, not in an overbearing sense but rather in a substantive way. It’s like a warm flannel blanket on a cold windy evening, which for Scotland, makes all the sense in the world.
Time to hunker down in your bunker, don the slippers and flannel, and pour a nice, dark brew.”
The flavors are robust with complex malts, nuts, and caramel. The chocolaty sweetness takes the edge off while a slight effervescence near the end rounds out the taste with just an underlying hint of bitterness. Despite its 8% alcohol by volume, Old Chub goes down awfully smoothly, which is reason to be cautious if you’re tearing into a six pack, but in my case makes for a pleasant one off beer night.
I remember drinking alongside those pipers one night after playing a gig in college. Those blokes could drink. Impervious to alcohol content, they took the best we could muster and still drank us under the table. If I remember correctly, one of our band ended up relieving himself in his roommate’s luggage. That’s what you get when you go up against a Scot.
You won’t be embarrassed by this beer. Though it comes from Austin, it’s not inconceivable to close your eyes and feel like you’re in Aberdeen when you drink it. It’s got substance and style. I actually wonder if it would taste and look better coming out of a tap, because the nondescript can might make you fly right by it in the store.
Don’t make that mistake though. This is a good beer. It’s a top notch representation of the Scotch Ale brand taken to a new level. The brewers themselves brag on its “recklessly bodacious amount of malted barley and specialty grains … [which make it] powerful, head-turning trip for malt heads and folks who think they don’t dig dark beer.”
It’s winter time. The snow, sleet, and ice are here. Time to hunker down in your bunker, don the slippers and flannel, and pour a nice, dark brew. Hops, malt, and smoky delight await. I suppose it’s not quite like being in Scotland, but if you squint, turn on Braveheart, and pop open an Old Chub, it just might take you back to the Highlands.