When you first crack open this beer and pour it into a pint glass, you’re greeted with a smell not unlike deeply inhaling a jar full of weed at a Colorado dispensary.
Even though Oskar Blues is based in Longmont, Colorado (along with North Carolina and Texas), it’s cannabis-free. The cannabis-like aroma from this coffee IPA comes from the fact that cannabis and hops are in the same family of plants, called cannabaceae. And also because there are plenty of Simcoe hops in this, as evidenced by its 70 IBUs.
If you take a few sips and let the beer sit, the hops aromas mellow out and the cold brew coffee begins to shine. The flavor profile follows a similar pattern, with a burst of citrusy hops ceding to coffee notes.
Before we get back to the Hotbox beer, it helps to have some context. It’s called Hotbox not because of any weed connotations, even though Urban Dictionary defines a hotbox as an “air-tight [sic] room or vehicle that contains one or more pot-smokers [sic] smoking one or more joints.”
When the coffee flavors finally sneak out from behind the piney hop notes, they’re delicious.”
The beer is called Hotbox because Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis is good at everything. He’s started the bike company REEB Cycles (they’re beautiful), the burger shop CHUBurger (they’re delicious), and in 2015, Hotbox Coffee Roasters. Katechis began roasting coffee in the back of the Longmont brewery for fun, and decided to start a company.
His coffee is delicious, too. I know this because while in OB’s taproom one day, I was poured a sample of its cold brew coffee. I drink cold brew year-round, and this was top notch. In fact, you can buy his (booze free!) nitro cold brew coffee cans in Colorado supermarkets. You can also buy the company’s single origin cold brew coffee cans online. I can recommend its coffee wholeheartedly.
But knowing all this leaves me wanting more from this beer.
Maybe my problem isn’t with the beer, it’s with the style. I love coffee and I love IPAs, but I don’t get enough of hops or coffee in this. Or in any coffee IPA I’ve tried, for that matter.
Granted, when the coffee flavors finally sneak out from behind the piney hop notes, they’re delicious. Hotbox uses Ethiopian beans. The beer promises blueberry notes, and it subtly delivers on that claim.
And that’s the problem. I’m a bit of a coffee beer connoisseur, and my favorites are always bold java stouts that hit you over the head with rich, malty, creamy flavors. Think classic coffee beers like Great Divide Espresso Yeti, Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout, and Cigar City Cubano-Style Espresso. You don’t have to wait for the coffee to show up to the party in any of those beers. It announces itself.
If I can extend this metaphor a little longer (and I believe I can), Hotbox Coffee IPA stands quietly in the corner of the party waiting for you to notice it. You’re not mad when you see it in your house, but the beer isn’t the life of the party, either.